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Report Writing


even where the results are in records available to the lawyers or court, or where they are in reports written for the court. In regard to the latter, any report arising from prosecution instructions will automatically be made available to the court. However, if a report has been commissioned by the defence, then it will be for that side to decide whether it should be used, and this can cause difficulties for an expert who has seen the report and considers its contents to be of medical relevance. S/he will have to decide whether the findings can honestly be ignored in coming to a medical opinion, or not. If not then the situation of a head-on clash between the medical and legal paradigms is exposed, and this will present the doctor with an ethical dilemma.


Te author needs to bear in mind that the court will be aware of the other information that he has seen – specifically, prosecution witness statements, police interviews, and other expert reports. Why then bother to include anything at all from these documents? Tere are two main reasons: first, ‘showing your working’, in that the court needs to see the building blocks upon which your opinion is founded, as well as to be made aware that you have taken account of information which goes somewhat against your opinion; second, if asked, perhaps several months after seeing the defendant, to give oral evidence, it is far quicker and easier to review the other evidence that you thought relevant at the time you produced the report, by reading your report, rather than by having to re-read the prosecution bundle. Tat is, the ‘architecture’ of your report will not only be immediately evident to others, it will be so to you.


Nonetheless, it is likely that the court will not thank an author who includes pages of additional information without there being any rationale for much of it to be rehearsed. Extract only those elements of the prosecution witness statements, for example, that were relevant to you in reaching your view on the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offence, or at some other pertinent time.


As regards prior medical records, it can be hard to summarise these but, alongside other reports, they will contain additional data of possible relevance to your own opinion and such extracts must either be rehearsed verbatim or summarised. It is the data that is crucial, rather the prior diagnoses made, although the latter may also be relevant.


Te author needs to be alive to the suggestion of selective editing and, by so doing, altering the meaning of the records.


Opinion


Reports are produced in order to inform in relation to specific legal questions posed. So, should only an opinion on these issues be expressed?


Many will find an advantage in initially summarising and formulating the case from a psychiatric viewpoint – that is, providing an opinion on the ‘psychiatric’ (as distinct from legal) issues in the case – including allowing the court to see the author’s ‘workings’, and particularly how they arrived at their view of the defendant’s mental condition, and of his/her mental state on a particular occasion. A subsequent section of the opinion can then deal with ‘legal implications’ – that is, not expressing a view on any legal ‘ultimate issue’, but describing how the defendant’s mental state on a particular occasion can reasonably be seen to ‘translate’ into the legal test at hand (see Chapter 2), which should


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