PhD Scientific Days 2021

Budapest, 7-8 July 2021

MH_I_P: Mental Health Sciences I. Posters

A pilot evaluation of judges’ preferences with respect to forensic psychiatry expertise in Hungary

Dr Ferenc Adam Szabo 1, Dr Balint Szuromi 2, Prof Peter Silfen 3, Dr Brigitta Baran 4, Dr Pal Czobor 5 – 1-5 Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary

Text of the abstract

The forensic psychiatry workgroup of our Department have committed themselves to attempting to serve the development of modern forensic psychiatry in Hungary. Before commencing extensive research planning in the field we carried out a study in order to find out what seem to be of special interest to Hungarian judges when forensic psychiatry experts are involved in legal proceedings in their courts.

Our aim was to delineate the preferences of Hungarian judges regarding forensic psychiatry experts and their written and oral opinions.

24 judges were selected from the same Budapest-based regional court. Participants – in two groups of 12 civil court and 12 criminal court judges – were asked to fill in our questionnaire that was comprised of items they could give answers to on 10-point scales or in estimated percentages.

The selected judges indicated that they had elicited in-person expert opinions from 28.9±31.4% (mean ± SD) of the forensic psychiatry experts they had assigned. Their oral statement in the court led to the clarification of relevant questions to an extent of 8.7±1.3 points on a 10-point scale. The judges seemed to have ordered inpatient assessments in 7.2±7.6% of the assignments, and in 22.8±34% of the cases they ordered them in order to have malingering ruled out. The judges in average attributed 69.5±27.8% to the probative force of the expert opinions. From the perspective of our planned nationwide study, it was also essential to find that judges regarded the importance of scientific findings (eg. medical imaging or psychological testing) as valuable as 7.3±1.9 on the 10-point scale.

We conclude that the selected judges, for the most part, were provided with the information they needed in the written expert opinions, as the oral statements of the forensic psychiatry experts were necessary in less than one-third of the cases. Nevertheless, their hearing led the judges to a substantially better understanding of the relevant matters. The expert opinions turned out to be of the most probative force of all forms of evidence. Both the low number of cases and the fact that scientific findings (eg. detection of concealed information with EEG) are of considerable interest to the judges seem to justify our planned nationwide research in the field.

Funding: None.

University and Doctoral School

Semmelweis University, Doctoral School of Mental Health Sciences