PIT5008 - Fundamentals of forensic psychiatry - 2019

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Postgraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.


Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences

Organisational Unit

School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health

Chief examiner(s)

Dr Fiona Best


Dr Fiona Best

Unit guides




Psychiatry-in-Training students are encouraged to take this unit in the semester of their clinical placement in Forensic Psychiatry training.

Must be enrolled in M6022 Master of Psychiatry stream


This unit will be undertaken in the second or third year of course.


Forensic Psychiatry is a sub-specialty field of psychiatry that stands at an interface between law, mental illness and abnormal human behaviour. It is related to criminology (the study of crime and criminals), and it has an interface between the law and psychiatry.

Typically, forensic services deal with assessing offenders with mental illness and provide expert opinion to the Courts on the aetiology, pathology and prognosis of offenders.

Forensic psychiatry expert opinion might be sought by the courts to comment on; fitness (the ability of a mentally disordered offender to stand trial); mental impairment defenses in the setting of criminal responsibility and the mentally disordered offender during the conduct of the offences and the likelihood of future risk of such behaviour.

Forensic services also provide treatment and rehabilitation of mentally disordered offenders and focus on safely reintegrating them back to the community, while also being acutely aware of any risks such individuals pose to the community. Forensic services are also involved in identifying, treating and managing mentally disordered offenders who enter the correctional system.

Thus, the role of the forensic psychiatrist is multifold and requires an understanding of mental illness in the setting of criminal offending, legislation governing such offenders, and risk assessment.

The role of this unit is to ensure that the student develops a basic understanding of forensic psychiatry and the role of the forensic psychiatrist.

The unit will also enable the student to understand the various approaches to violence risk assessment, the role of the expert witness, the multiple approaches to service delivery in prison settings, prison hospitals and the community, and finally the task of treatment and rehabilitation of the mentally ill offender.


Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Analyse the basic concepts of mental health law, the criminal justice system, prison psychiatry and the role of the forensic formulation.
  2. Examine the relationship between mental health issues and criminal offending.
  3. Examine risk assessment concepts to evaluate risk of violence. Demonstrate knowledge in the use of Structured Professional Judgment (SPJ) tools such as the HCR 20 and apply concepts of psychopathy and sex offending in Structured Professional Judgement, and develop appropriate management plans to contain risk.
  4. Examine the role of the expert witness, the legal framework especially regarding fitness to plead and mental impairment defence.
  5. Comprehend the various ethical issues involved in forensic mental health
  6. Synthesise concepts of rehabilitation of the mentally ill offender in the setting of risk management and use of recovery principles.


  • 4 x On-line commentary (500 words each) (30% total)
  • Applied Learning Exercise (2,000 words) (30%)
  • Written essay (2,000 words) (30%)
  • Presentation at Weekend Workshop (10%) (Hurdle)

Workload requirements

12 hours per week - online and self-directed.

This is primarily an online unit; plus two days of interactive workshops on-campus.

Detail: Students will be expected to log on each week to complete at least 12 hours of work consisting of online and self-directed work. Content will include use of a moodle workbook, discussion room exercises, set readings, case-based discussions, webinars and power-point lectures with voiceover. Students will be expected to undertake additional readings and dedicate time to the assessment tasks assigned to this unit. Two weekend interactive workshop experience (students will spend 9.00-5.00 on campus as part of their residential weekend) to demonstrate that application of theory to practice is also expected.

See also Unit timetable information

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study