The faculty of forensic psychiatry is both a misnomer and a marriage of convenience. It is time to call a spade a spade and for a divorce to take place (see my detailed comments)
The faculty of forensic psychiatry is an attempt to combine two quite disparate groups, psychiatrist who work with offenders in the criminal justice system and psychiatrist who do civil assessments. Their only point of contact if that they provide reports to courts and other Tribunals.
I have worked in both areas, in the criminal justice system and as a psychiatrist doing civil assessments. I was the only psychiatrist at the Fairlea women’s prison in Melbourne for five years and have been a member of the Victorian Forensic Leave Panel for 20 years. I have also assessed many prisoners.
I have also done more than 20,000 civil assessments and I have been a co-author of the psychiatric assessment guide used in Victoria and South Australia.
I believe that this gives me some experience and insight into the issues that have arisen with the development of the Faculty. There is now no doubt in my mind that this marriage of these unlikely partners has proven to be a failure. It is clear that the committee of the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry has little interest in those who do civil assessment. This is manifested by the training programs, the content of conferences and by the College website description of the faculty highlighting its fundamental purpose.
Forensic psychiatry is a psychiatric subspecialty relating to the law and the assessment of mental health in the criminal justice system
My attempts to remedy these issues have proven to be a failure. Psychiatrist who do civil assessments have no opportunity for any systematic training. No academic department has focused on providing civil assessment training, the faculty has provided a grab bag of criteria that may lead to membership of the Faculty. It continues to be a struggle for civil assessment psychiatrist to gain a foothold in conferences. Despite this situation there are a significant number who do civil assessment and have a desperate need for some systematic training and an opportunity to meet in a collegiate fashion and write about and discuss issues relevant to this area.
I believe the time has come for the inevitable divorce to take place. let the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry go it own way and fulfil its self defined core task, assessment of mental health in the criminal justice system
Let those of us who are involved in civil assessments establish ourselves as a legitimate subspecialty. We should form a special interest group, the college only recognises specialist interest groups that exist in each state.. We will need some publicity to gain members. Such a group should include those who do civil assessments together with those who work in the area of occupational psychiatry as these two significantly overlap. By freeing ourselves of the burden of the Faculty of Forensic Psychiatry we will have the opportunity to run our own conferences, to obtain college funding, to develop our own training programs and, it may be that some academic department become interested in providing appropriate training courses when they realise that these are likely to generate significant fees.