The law allows courts to exclude evidence from police interviews if it is obtained unfairly or would have an adverse effect on the fairness of proceedings. The assessment of a detainee's fitness to be interviewed is therefore of paramount importance. We surveyed 70 psychiatrists in higher training within the Yorkshire and Humber Deanery to ascertain their current understanding of this clinically important task. The psychiatrists' level of training received and awareness of local employee guidance in relation to their responsibilities in this field was investigated. We then piloted an interactive teaching session aimed at improving knowledge in this area and gained feedback from attending higher trainees.
There was a 64% response rate to the survey before implementation of the teaching session. The survey found that half of all respondents had been asked to carry out a fitness to be interviewed assessment at some point in their higher training. Only a third of the respondents had attended formal teaching in this area, and only a fifth were aware of local employee guidance. All the trainees who attended the pilot teaching session felt it was beneficial to their future clinical practice.
It is imperative that all the higher training schemes in the country incorporate training in this field to help satisfy the Royal College of Psychiatrists' intended specialist trainee learning outcomes and, more significantly, to avoid potential miscarriages of justice.
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