Chalk and Cheese – the faculty of forensic psychiatry

Chalk and Cheese – the faculty of forensic psychiatry

May 8, 2014

I have always had some concerns about the concept of the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry as it brings together two fundamentally different groups, those who do civil forensic psychiatry and those who work in the criminal field. We have virtually nothing to say to each other and apart from our involvement with courts we have fundamentally different tasks. Even with court appearances we attend different courts. Nevertheless the move to a Faculty seemed to serve a useful function as it gave us a greater voice within the College and I was prepared to paper over the obvious fissures between as long as we acknowledged each other and gave the other group some respect.

The Victorian Branch committee has representatives from both the civil and criminal area and we have run a state seminar and a national conference and have made sure that both sides had fairly equal representation. At the Darwin meeting in July 2013 I was surprised to hear that the only training contemplated with regard to civil forensic psychiatry is that given to trainees in the criminal area and there was no thought given to training those who do or planning to do civil forensic psychiatry. I wrote about this previously, see my post dated 3 May 2013.

Apart from training provided by Nigel Strauss on myself (a reminder that the next training weekend is on 31 May and 1 June 2014) there are no other options for training in civil forensic psychiatry that I am aware of.

I was aware that the next binational conference was to be in Hong Kong in August 2014 (incidentally a terrible time to be in Hong Kong from the point of view of climate) and was planning to go. The theme “Is There Anything Forensic Psychiatrists Don’t Know about Sex?” lead me to to assuming that there would be some sessions with regard to assessing victims of sexual abuse especially in light of the Royal commission and issues with regard to allegations of sexual abuse in the Family Court area. I have just seen the program however. I invite you to look at the program yourself. I was annoyed to see that there is no part of the program involved with civil forensic psychiatry. We have been shut out, I don’t think this has been malicious I think they just forgot that we exist.

It is clear that the term Forensic Psychiatrist in the theme refers to psychiatrists working in the criminal area.

Since psychiatrist working in the civil forensic area constitute a significant number of members of the faculty I’m astonished by this slap in the face. I feel this has been a complete takeover and that we have been treated with contempt.

Maybe we need to stop messing around with the notion of united Faculty and make a clear distinction between civil forensic psychiatry and criminal forensic psychiatry in the Faculty and go our separate ways.

I would be interested in your thoughts, possibly I am overreacting.


Chalk and Cheese – the faculty of forensic psychiatry: 3 comments

  1. armprobbo7 Says:

    I agree entirely. I was thinking of going to the Hong Kong meeting, having enjoyed the last one a couple of years ago, but the exclusion of civil forensic psychiatry from the program decided me not to go. I do not think a split is the answer; but those who arrange the conferences must recognise that there are two sides to the faculty, otherwise a split is inevitable.

  2. Michael Epstein Says:

    Since writing the above I was reminded that there were no offers of papers from civil forensic psychiatrists for this conference. nevertheless, I think the organising committee should have solicited some appropriate papers.

    I agree with the above comment that a split is not the answer, there needs to be some awareness however of our differing focus.

  3. nick ford Says:

    There has been a push to make every bit of psychiatry a faculty; psychotherapy, liaison, geriatrics etc. The trouble with civil forensic psychiatry is that it belongs somewhere between liaison and forensic. albeit to do it justice you also need to be an expert clinician in terms of assessment [for obvious reason] and treatment [ you need to be able to work out what ahs a good prognosis and what doesn’t and then relate that to the environment of litigation]. It’s quite a tangle really…but in my view a synthesis of everything a psychiatrist needs to know. It does deserve a higher profile in training than it gets.

Leave a Comment