It is extremely difficult to produce a decent book which covers medico-legal practice, given the need to cover authoritatively two complex professional disciplines in one go.
The authors of Forensic Psychiatry achieve this. Published in the format of a small handbook, the book deals with the legislative frameworks of all the mental health jurisdictions of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Quite remarkable, really.
There are some errors, though. An AMHP in the Mental Health Act 1983 is a ‘professional’, not a ‘practitioner’; the tribunal in Wales is separate from the one in England and retains the title: MHRT; and appeals against a deprivation of liberty under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 are to the Court of Protection rather than ‘the High Court’.
I would suggest that in any new edition, it is noted that the really significant change brought about with the creation of the Court of Protection is that it now has jurisdiction over health and welfare matters, whereas its predecessor was limited to finance. There is also a reference to a writ of habeas corpus in the past tense which suggests that it is no more, whereas it remains an avenue for those detained unlawfully. But these errors are minor and few.
Authors: Nigel Eastman, Gwen Adshead, Simone Fox, Richard Latham, Seán Whyte
Publisher: OUP (£44.99)
The authors assert that a medic who wishes to practise in this sub-specialty of psychiatry must know their law. That has to be right, for forensic psychiatrists work in the criminal courts and prisons, from which patients are admitted to hospital under their care.
Moreover, courts and the secretary of state for justice rely on their opinions with regard to the gateway to hospital, while the tribunal (less so, the Parole Board) requires their opinion on the criteria for further detention in hospital, including an assessment of risk.
As a non-medic, I cannot say whether the authors have created an authoritative text on psychiatry, but as a lawyer in this area, I can vouch for them.
Michael Kennedy is director and head of the mental health law team at Switalskis Solicitors