Psychiatric and psychological evidence in the Supreme Court of Iceland-2001 to 2007

Gisli H. Gudjonsson, Jon Fridrik Sigurdsson, Bryndis Sveinsdottir, Helga Arnardottir, Thorsteinn A. Jonsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Little is known about expert psychiatric and psychological evidence in appeal cases. Aims: To review the frequency, nature and impact of expert psychiatric and psychological evidence in the Supreme Court in Iceland over a 7-year period where all appeals in Iceland are heard. Method: All cases listed on the Supreme Court's Website between 2001 and 2007 were identified. The judgements were carefully screened for relevant information. Details of the nature of the criminal offences for the sample were obtained from official records. Results: 3367 cases were identified. Psychiatric and psychological evidence was considered in 213 (6.3%) cases (2.7% and 4.2% for the two disciplines, respectively), with only 10% cases involving reports from both disciplines. Psychiatrists focused primarily on assessing violent offenders, diminished responsibility issues, restraining orders, and mental state examinations and diagnosis, whereas psychologists were more commonly involved in custody disputes and credibility assessments of victims of sexual offending. No oral expert evidence was heard in the Supreme Court. Psychiatric and psychological evidence was typically that previously presented in the District Courts. Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive study to investigate the contribution of forensic psychiatry and psychology in appeal cases. Psychiatrists and psychologists have complementary skills for the assessment of court referrals. Their evidence and recommendations in appeal cases in Iceland are accepted by the Supreme Court in the great majority (78%) of cases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-287
Number of pages5
JournalNordic Journal of Psychiatry
Volume64
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

Other keywords

  • Court decision
  • Expert evidence
  • Forensic psychiatry
  • Forensic psychology

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