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Handbooks Courses Units

LAW7207 - Psychiatry, psychology and law

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Law

Leader: Professor Bernadette McSherry


City (Melbourne) Second semester 2008 (On-campus block of classes)


  1. Civil law: examines the involvement of psychiatrists and psycologists in assessing mental conditions arising from personal injuries in tort law as well as mental competency for the purposes of guardianship and civil commitment legislation and in relation to consent to treatment.
  2. Psychiatrists' and psychologists' involvement in the criminal law: assessments for the purposes of law relating to fitness to stand trial, insanity, automatism, infanticide and sentencing.
  3. Evidentiary issues pertaining to psychiatrists and psychologists giving expert testimony in the courtroom; admissibility of expert evidence, the ultimate issue rule and use of psychological syndrome evidence.


Upon successful completion of the subject, students should possess a sophisticated understanding of

  1. the ways in which psychiatrists and psychologists may become involved in the civil law system;
  2. the ways in which the criminal law takes into account mental impairment;
  3. when and why psychologists and psychiatrists may be called to give evidence in the civil and criminal courts; and
  4. the use of psychological syndrome evidence and concepts of dangerousness in the court system. Students should also have improved their ability to
  5. engage in the theoretical analysis of policy and legal issues relating to the interplay between psychiatry, psychology and law;
  6. confidently participate in argument in the context of an interactive seminar;
  7. engage in research; and
  8. clearly and persuasively present ideas and arguments in written form.


Research assignment (3000 words): 40%
Class participation: 10%
Take home examination (3750 words): 50%

Contact hours

One 2-hour seminar per week

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