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Assessment and Reporting for Mental Condition Defences


Te defences of ‘diminished responsibility’ and ‘provocation’ can be pleaded ‘in tandem’, and so some aspects of a given body of expert psychiatric evidence can often be applied to both defences, within the terms of different legal relevance.


Amnesia


Amnesia is relevant to offences only where it might suggest that the defendant was in an abnormal mental state at the time of an offence.


Claimed amnesia may also be a way of trying to avoid either discussing or acknowledging an offence, or could arise from a mistaken belief that amnesia in itself would constitute a defence. Amnesia is not therefore a defence but might be relevant to any of the legal tests above. Amnesia might also contribute to any assessment of the reliability of a defendant (or witnesses). Mental health experts might be instructed on the following issues:


• Is the claimed amnesia genuine? • Does the amnesia relate to any underlying condition?


• Does the amnesia suggest the defendant lacked the capacity to form the requisite mens rea for the alleged offence?


• Does the amnesia suggest any mental condition which might come within the terms of another defence, or partial defences, for example, insanity, diminished responsibility, or


provocation?


• Is there any indication of a more generalized memory disorder? Clinical issues


All records must be available so that any evidence that the defendant has recalled details at other times, or to other people, can be considered. Te association between any physical trauma and amnesia should be considered. Tere may be specific memory testing if a more generalized memory disorder is suspected. Previous episodes of amnesia should be discussed (see Chapter 5 for more detailed discussion of the assessment of memory and amnesia)


It can be difficult to distinguish between dissociative amnesia (‘psychogenic amnesia’) and the effect on subsequent memory of a dissociative state occurring at the time of an offence (see also above).


Dissociative amnesia is often patchy, is associated with events of emotional significance and can gradually resolve.


Dissociation having occurred at the time of an offence, with subsequent claimed amnesia, might be suggested by additional factors:


• Evidence suggestive of depersonalisation or derealisation at the earlier time 93


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