Skip to main content

The Impact of Legal Modes of Thought upon the Practice of Psychiatry

  • John Wood (a1)

Almost invariably, a professional man becomes the captive of his chosen profession. His training and his subsequent experience in practice leave an indelible mark. It is often said that married couples grow to look like each other, and in extreme cases like their dogs. So lawyers, accountants, bank managers, doctors and perhaps even psychiatrists appear to take on a stereotyped form. The cartoonist spots the uniform clothes, the rimless glasses or the mid-European accent, as the trade mark of the particular profession. But more crucially there is also the growth of stereotyped modes of thought, of common assumptions and traditional patterns of argument which are to a large extent subconscious and so more likely to pass unnoticed.

Hide All
1 There is an interesting, full study of M'Naughten (1977) Daniel McNaughten, His Trial and the Aftermath, (eds. West, Donald J. and Walk, Alexander). Gaskell (Royal College of Psychiatrists). Ashford: Headley Brothers
There is, for collectors of curiosities, a reported case on how to spell M'Naughten (sic)—see Pigney v. Pointers' Transport Services Ltd [1957] 1 W.L.R. 1121 a civil case of damages for negligence.
2 The concept was basically rejected in M'Naughton insanityAtt. Gen. for South Australia v. Brown [1960] A.C. 432, but accepted in diminished responsibility, R. v. Byrne [1960] 2 Q.B. 396.
3 For an excellent analysis of sentencing policy see Principles of Sentencing, D. A. Thomas, 2nd Ed. 1979.
4 Created Criminal Justice Act 1948, s.21—abolished Criminal Justice Act 1967, s.37 (1).
5 Created Criminal Justice Act 1967, s.37 (2).
6 Recent useful tables are to be found in the White Paper—Reform of Mental Health Legislation, Nov 1981, Cmnd 8405.
7 Psychiatry in Dissent, (1976). By Clare, Anthony, p 2. London: Tavistock
8 The Myth of Mental Illness, (1974). By Szasz, T. S.
9 Report of the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, Oct 1975, Cmnd 6244, Ch 5, Psychopaths. London: HMSO
10 Reported cases tend to be those of unusual difficulty, thus giving a false impression of normal working.
11 The Trial at Derby Assizes of Dr L. Arthur for murder of a baby born with Down's Syndrome—he was acquitted.
12 [1962] 1 W.L.R. 680. See also R. v. Turner [1975] Q.B. 824. There is a recent survey of the law in this—Psychiatric Evidence, Alex Samuels [1981] Crim L.R. 762.
13 The so called ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ case. The content and handling of the psychiatric evidence will repay careful analysis.
14 [1957] 1 Q.B. 399.
15 [1973] Q.B. 910.
16 W v. L [1973] 3 W.L.R. 859 at p 865.
17 Volume 2, 1977 deals with offenders.
18 Published in The Listener but also incorporated as Chapter 5 (pp 99–115) of the book of the lecturesThe Unmasking of Medicine, (1981). Kennedy, Ian. London: Allen & Unwin
19 Ch 5, see f.n. 9 above.
20 Published 10 November 1981.
21 Runs through the new provisions, e.g. Clause 4 and especially Cause 34.
22 Clause 44(2).
23 See MIND's submission in reply to the green paper on reform of the Mental Health Act in 1976.
24 Cause 3.
25 To be renamed ‘for assessment’.
26 The Mental Health Act Commission (Clause 42(1)) has a general supervising role and some statutory control is set out in Clause 38.
27 Sec f.n. 10.
28 Report of the Review of Rampton Hospital, Nov 1980, Cmnd 8073. London: HMSO
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 29th January 2018 - 20th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

The Impact of Legal Modes of Thought upon the Practice of Psychiatry

  • John Wood (a1)
Submit a response


No eLetters have been published for this article.


Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *