Singapore is moving towards a change in the way that psychiatrists are recruited to help with criminal trials. Among 50 changes being proposed by the Ministry of Law is a new panel of psychiatrists, which is to be administered by the court.

The Panel Application Process

According to the Ministry of law, the new panel would be a court-administered group. Each psychiatrist hoping to be part of the panel must have two character references, provided by specific members of the Singapore Academy of Medicine. In addition, the psychiatrists on the panel must have either worked or trained in the field of forensic psychiatry.

The Possibility of Removal

When a Singapore psychiatrist is admitted to the panel, he or she may remain on the panel for two years. However, the psychiatrist may be removed from the panel if “a number” of court judgments comment repeatedly on that particular psychiatrist’s competence or objectivity. If the psychiatrist’s quality or independence as an expert witness is called into question multiple times, the individual will be taken off the panel and be refused re-application for at least three years.

The Intention for Improvement

The aim of the new regulations is to ensure that psychiatrists give evidence that is objective, carefully gathered from a competent assessment of the case and the accused. According to the Ministry of Law, judges and others have voiced concerns about the objectivity and competency of some Singapore psychiatrists in the past.

As an added benefit, the Ministry of Law hopes that the use of a panel of psychiatrists could move court proceedings along more quickly. Defence teams won’t have to find a private psychiatrist, and the reports by the panel psychiatrists may not be challenged as often by the prosecution.

Problems with the Plan

However, many experts are warning about potential problems with this new plan. If the panel of psychiatrists is too small, the members will be overworked and may arrive at erroneous conclusions. The lack of members could actually slow down court processes instead of speeding them up.

Currently, defence lawyers can quickly and conveniently gain the help of a private Singapore psychiatrist and obtain a medical report in less than 30 days. Psychiatrists from the Institute of Mental Health are usually too busy, and may take 3-4 months to complete an assessment and produce a report.

There is talk of calling in foreign experts as well, since the panel idea seems to “limit the choice of experts for both the prosecution and defence,” according to Kumaralingam Amirthalingam, a professor of law at the University of Singapore. In addition, lawyers and court experts are concerned that a series of negative comments could affect a psychiatrist’s delivery of an “honest expert opinion,” for fear of being removed from the panel.

Private Psychiatry in Singapore

For now, private practices remain a lawyer’s best and quickest source for professional help when it comes to the mental health of a client. At Adelphi Psych Medicine, the expertly trained psychiatrists on the team are experienced in a variety of areas, including aiding the courts in criminal cases in the past, and we will be proud to continue promoting objectivity, understanding, and accuracy.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Today, 28, July 2017