Forensic Psychiatry

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at the National Forensic Mental Health Service

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine which is concerned with the understanding, assessment, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Forensic psychiatry is a specialised branch of psychiatry which deals with the assessment and treatment of mentally disordered offenders in the criminal justice system, secure hospitals and the community. Forensic Psychiatrists are expert in the interface between law and mental health, in risk assessment and management, in working with criminal justice agencies, and in the relationship between mental illness and harmful or offending behaviour.

All Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists are qualified medical practitioners, who have achieved a postgraduate qualification in psychiatry to become members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland. Following a period of further training, of four to five years, they are registered on the specialist register with the Medical Council of Ireland. Some Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists at the NFMHS have spent a period training abroad in the UK and Australia.

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists treat patients in prisons nationally, in the Central Mental Hospital, in the community, or a combination of these. The Consultant Psychiatrist leads a multidisciplinary team in delivering an individual care plan for each patient. In addition, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists provide assessment and advice to Community Mental Health Services on the risk management of patients across the country, who, as a result of their mental illness are engaging in harmful behaviour.

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists prepare psychiatric court reports and attend Court to give an expert opinion on issues such as a defendant’s capacity to participate in their trial, or the role of mental illness in an alleged offence. They are also asked to advise on mental health and risk issues that might be taken into consideration in sentencing by the Court and to make recommendations for further care and treatment of the mentally disordered offender.

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists have a significant commitment to training with the basic and higher trainees in psychiatry from all over the country, availing of six-month placements in the Service. Medical students have the opportunity to spend time with the Service as part of their education in psychiatry. The Service additionally provides opportunities for overseas trainees to spend time learning about the practice of forensic psychiatry in Ireland.

All Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists contribute directly to the clinical governance of the Service, that is the structures and processes in place to safeguard high standards of practice, to continually improve quality in the delivery of care, and to ensure satisfaction of patients.

The NFMHS has established a high profile internationally for excellence in research and development of Forensic Mental Health Services, and Consultant Forensic Psychiatrists are involved in service evaluation and research projects aimed at monitoring and improving treatment and outcomes for patients and carers.

The NFMHS includes specialist psychiatrists in forensic mental health intellectual and developmental disabilities (F-MHIDD) and Forensic Child and Adolescent Mental Health (F-CAMH).

Teaching, Training, Research and Development

As a national tier three and tier four highly specialised service, the National Forensic Mental Health Service has an essential role in relation to teaching and training in all mental health disciplines.

These include:

  • undergraduate and postgraduate medicine/psychiatry
  • nursing
  • clinical psychology
  • occupational therapy
  • mental health social work.

There are close ties with Trinity College Dublin and with all relevant training schools and universities. This reflects an essential national role as the source of research and development, teaching and training in this area of specialist practice.

Structured professional judgement tools for use by clinicians in forensic mental health practice (the DUNDRUM toolkit) are now in use in many countries, including translations into French and Dutch/Flemish.

The National Forensic Mental Health Service aspires to university hospital status.

The Central Mental Hospital, through its affiliation with the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, is recognised as one of the leading international centres for research and development in forensic psychiatry and forensic mental health.

Access the research completed by the Central Mental Hospital team.