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Mental Health Law and Criminal Justice


Module description

This module explains how mental health law operates in relation to mentally distressed offenders. You are introduced to the history of crime and insanity in England and Wales, to the history of the birth of the asylum (later the psychiatric hospital) as a special place to hold mentally disordered offenders, as well as to policing and court provisions for mentally distressed offenders. You will gain a critical perspective through the scrutiny of law, police and court practices as well as our prejudices around the mentally distressed individual.

Indicative module syllabus

  • Introduction: History of Crime and Insanity in Modern England
  • The Birth of the Asylum and Psychiatry
  • Contemporary Definition of Mental Disorder
  • Policing, Diversion and Mental Disorder
  • At the Police Station and the ‘Appropriate Adult' Scheme and Decision to Prosecute
  • Pre-Charge Diversion and Fitness to Trial in Crown Courts
  • Fitness to Trial and the ‘Trial of the Facts’
  • Special Verdict of Insanity
  • Orders Instead of Punishment

Learning objectives

By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the core principles that define mental health law within criminal justice
  • identify and effectively use the sources of mental health within criminal justice
  • identify key legal issues arising in this area
  • critically evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of the law and its enforcement mechanisms.

Recommended reading

  • P. Bartlett and R. Sandland (2014) Mental Health Law. Policy and Practice, Oxford University Press.
  • J. Peay (2011) Mental Health and Crime, Routledge.
  • L. O. Gostin (2010) Principles of Mental Health and Policy, Oxford.
  • H. Brenda (2010) Mental Health Law, Sweet & Maxwell. 
  • M. Foucault (2000) 'About the Concept of the "Dangerous Individual" in Nineteenth-Century Legal Psychiatry' in Michel Foucault Power vol.3, Penguin Press.
  • M. Foucault (2003) Abnormal, Picador.
  • M. Foucault (2006) History of Madness, Routledge.
  • N. Walker (1968) Crime and Insanity in England, Edinburgh University Press.
  • R. Porter (2006) Madmen: A Social History of Madhouses, Mad-Doctors and Lunatics, The History Press.