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Forensic Mental Health and Criminal Justice

Improve access to justice in criminal trials as you learn the best practices to deal with cases with mental health considerations.

3,774 enrolled on this course

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Forensic Mental Health and Criminal Justice

3,774 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 2 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Intermediate level

Find out more about how to join this course

Understand the relevance of mental health in the criminal justice system

Though it can severely impact access to a fair trial, there is very little discussion on the intersection of mental health of the accused and the criminal justice system. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness and expertise on issues of mental health in the legal community.

In this four-week course, through videos, quizzes and additional reading materials, you’ll explore the various stages where the mental health of the accused is an important consideration and its bearing on access to justice.

Learn how to overcome challenges in forensic mental health

You’ll identify the legal and forensic mental health aspects in three broad areas; fitness to stand trial, the defense of insanity, and the role of mental health in capital punishment cases.

This understanding will help you develop the conceptual foundations of forensic mental health before you explore the practical barriers in raising mental health considerations and litigating them successfully.

Apply your knowledge of criminal law and mental health to real cases

The course not only deals with the legal aspect but also discusses the importance of forensic mental health evaluations. You’ll gain an insight into forensic psychiatry assessments, best practices, and important concepts accessible to practitioners and students of law or forensic mental health.

You’ll then discover how you can apply your new skills and knowledge to actual cases, helping you develop a cohesive strategy to deal with cases with mental health considerations and improve access to justice.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds Project 39A at the National Law University, Delhi and Eleos Justice at Monash University, Australia bring to you an interactive course with experts from India, Australia and the UK on forensic mental health and criminal justice. I think we can all agree that prisons are the wrong place for many people in need of mental health treatment since the criminal justice system emphasizes deterrence and punishment rather than treatment and care. However, numerous studies across the world show that the prevalence of mental disorders in the criminal justice population is higher than in the general population. Machal Lalung was 23 years old when he was arrested, he was behind bars for 54 years, despite no specific charges being framed against him.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds In the United States, something like 50% of all state psychiatric hospital beds are taken up with accused people who are being restored to competence to stand trial after. Our 4-week course will deal with pertinent issues in the field of forensic mental health and criminal justice, such as- The essential principle being that no person should be tried for a crime unless they are in a position to defend themselves, and that includes being in a mental condition to defend themselves. What is the role of a forensic mental health expert?

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds My job is not to be the finder of fact and to determine whether or not something occurred, but my job is to determine what role, if any, mental disorder may have played in the offending. What is the defense of insanity and the role of the expert in its determination? While section 84 of the IPC replaces disease of the mind with unsoundness of mind, both the phrases have mostly been interpreted to mean mental illness or mental health concerns relevant to the death penalty. Why would I argue that these kind of experts are specifically needed in death penalty cases? Well, I would answer that question by posing another question Is it OK to sentence mentally disordered people to death?

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 seconds What are some of the challenges that a forensic psychiatrist raises? There are no validated tools for the assessment, and therefore no standard methodology used for reporting in the country. An initial barrier to the investigation of mental disorder has been undue suspicion about the offender’s motives. The offender might be malingering in order to be spared, but that fundamentally misunderstands the role of an expert To truly protect the right to a fair trial, mental health concerns must be addressed at every stage of the criminal justice process. The spectacle of a person being tried and severely punished for something they cannot understand or for actions for which they did not have the requisite guilty mind is unedifying, to say the least.

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What topics will you cover?

This 4 week course will cover the relevance of the accused person’s mental health within the criminal justice system and the various stages where it intersects with criminal law. The course will cover the legal and forensic mental health aspects in three broad areas- fitness to stand trial, the defense of insanity, and the role of mental health in capital punishment cases.

The course will cover Indian law and incorporate a comparative element by including discussions under Australian law and International law.

The modules will cover the conceptual foundations, existing procedures, clinical and judicial determination, and the barriers involved in litigating mental health concerns in criminal law. Each module is accompanied by a compendium of Indian law and comparative case law to aid the learning process.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply the conceptual and practical knowledge to actual cases and improve access to justice more meaningfully.
  • Demonstrate a clear understanding of the intersection of mental health and criminal law in specifically three areas- fitness to stand trial, the defense of insanity and mental health at the time of sentencing and execution in capital punishment cases.
  • Identify and overcome the challenges in raising and litigating a mental health consideration in court.
  • Synthesise legal and forensic knowledge to develop a cohesive strategy to deal with cases with mental health considerations.
  • Assess the mental condition of the accused/convict and improve the manner in which such assessment is presented both in a report and in the courtroom.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for practitioners and students in the field of law as well as in the field of mental health, particularly psychiatry and psychology. The course will also be beneficial for anyone interested in learning about ways in which persons with mental disability are treated within the framework of criminal law. It will be particularly beneficial for those in South Asia, although there are comparative law elements with experts from the UK and Australia.

Who will you learn with?

AK Soumya is a research associate with the Mental Health & Criminal Justice team at Project 39A, NLU Delhi. Before this, she worked in Disputes & Advisory at an all service law firm in Delhi.

Founder Member, Project 39A, National Law University Delhi; Head, Mental Health and Criminal Justice and Death Penalty Mitigation

Who developed the course?

Project 39A

Project 39A is a criminal justice initiative based out of National Law University, Delhi. Its areas of research include forensics, mental health, death penalty, legal aid, and torture. Project 39A engages with these issues within the criminal justice system through rigorous empirical research and legal intervention. Specifically, their work on forensics aims to promote the use of scientifically valid and reliable forensic evidence within the criminal justice system.

  • Established

  • Location

    Delhi, India

Monash University I ELEOS Justice

Eleos Justice is a collaboration between the Capital Punishment Justice Project and Faculty of Law at Monash University. Created with the aim to restrict and abolish the death penalty in the Asian region, it is involved in vital advocacy, evidence based research and teaching.

Eleos Justice provided support and resources to assist partners with developing this course.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 19 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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