From being unaccountable to suffering from severe mental disorder and (possibly) back once again to being unaccountable

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From 1965, the Swedish penal law does not require accountability as a condition for criminal responsibility. Instead, severely mentally disordered offenders are sentenced to forensic psychiatric care. The process that led to the present legislation had its origins in a critique of the concept of accountability that was first launched 50 years earlier by the founding father of Swedish forensic psychiatry, Olof Kinberg. The concept severe mental disorder is part of the Criminal Code as well as the Compulsory Mental Act. The medical conditions for being sentenced to forensic psychiatric care are supposed to be the same as those for being admitted to involuntary psychiatric care. What these conditions are is not regulated in any law. For the guidance of the courts and others, there is a collection of examples in the government bill drafting the legislation in question. On the basis of these examples the content of the concept of severe mental disorder is chiselled out. However, the purposes of imposing penal law sanction and admitting someone to psychiatric care are not the same, and therefore the content of the concept severe mental disorder is bound to differ accordingly. Severe mental disorder is a legal concept that masks as a psychiatric one. In its applications in penal law, the court determines its content. But for the forensic psychiatrist it is more natural to interpret the term as a medical one. This creates a tension that has led to several controversies in recent criminal cases in Sweden. The best way to alleviate the situation is to discard the concept of severe mental disorder from criminal law. This will allow for a better separation of the roles of the psychiatrist and the court.
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Archival date: 2016-01-24
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