Courts' misplaced confidence in psychiatric diagnoses

Int J Law Psychiatry. 2011 Sep-Oct;34(5):331-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2011.08.005. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


In considering psychiatric evidence, criminal justice systems make considerable use of labels from official psychiatric classificatory systems. There are legislated requirements for psychological and/or behavioural phenomena to be addressed in legal tests, however medico-legal use of the current categorical diagnostic frameworks which are increasingly complex is difficult to justify. The lack of validity in large domains of the present classificatory systems is now more openly acknowledged, prompting a critical rethink. Illustrative examples include post-traumatic stress disorder, various personality disorders, and dissociative identity disorder. It follows that the Courts' faith in the present categorical classifications (e.g., DSMIV and ICD10) is misplaced and may be ultimately unhelpful to the administration of justice.

MeSH terms

  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Expert Testimony*
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*