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PSME407 Forensic Psychiatry

The principles and practice of forensic psychiatry.

This is a specialist mental health paper with an emphasis on developing clinical skills and knowledge that can be applied to both beginning practice and advanced practice in a specialist area. The paper is based on an acknowledgement of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand. We are pleased to offer this paper to students with a diverse range of experience of forensic psychiatry. Previous experience of teaching forensic psychiatry at postgraduate level has indicated that this combination of both beginning and experienced students is very effective in the learning process, leading to more stimulating group discussions, whilst meeting the specific learning needs of students.

Paper title Forensic Psychiatry
Paper code PSME407
Subject Psychological Medicine
EFTS 0.2500
Points 30 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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Limited to
MHealSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc
Students will require evidence of suitable clinical experience to be admitted to this paper.
Must be a graduate or possess an appropriate health professional qualification requiring at least three years' full-time tertiary study and have experience of or be currently working in a mental health setting.

Teaching staff

Convenor: Associate Professor James Foulds.

Paper Structure

We will be covering a broad range of subjects that are core to the speciality of forensic psychiatry. It is also hoped that the structure of the course in blocks with themes will allow discussion and critical analysis of areas of relevance beyond the core material. For example, a barrister in private practice will be talking about Health Information Law and will be able to participate in group discussions. The block format and assessment process will also allow individual students to explore areas of interest and contribute their knowledge to the class through their presentations (see below) and via active discussion.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Legislation as it applies to the mentally ill (both criminal and civil)
  • The history and operation of forensic psychiatric services within New Zealand
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggression and personality disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • The association between mental disorder and violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Offending and psychiatric care in secure facilities
Teaching Arrangements

Four two-day block courses. Two blocks are held on campus in Christchurch and two blocks online via Zoom. Attendance at block days is compulsory.

In between times, self-directed learning is encouraged with the provision of a study guide to assist with preparation for the next workshop.


Psychiatry and the Law (2007). W Brookbanks & A Simpson (Eds). LexisNexis NZ Limited, Wellington. (This is the primary course resource and is relevant to the New Zealand context).

Treating Violence: A guide to risk management in mental health (2007). A. Maden. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (A very helpful resource that focuses on the pragmatic use of the HCR-20 - but summarises a lot of material that we cover in the course).

Forensic Psychiatry (2012) (Oxford Specialist Handbooks in Psychiatry). OUP: Oxford. (A brand new resource from the UK that covers a broad range of material in an accessible way).

Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry (1990). R Bluglass & P Bowden (Eds). Churchill Livingston, New York. (Perhaps the first major UK textbook of forensic psychiatry).

Forensic Psychiatry: Clinical, Legal and Ethical Issues (2014). J Gunn & P Taylor (Eds). Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd, Oxford. (This is the second major UK textbook on forensic psychiatry).

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Critical thinking, Research.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will:

  • Practise mental health provision with a better understanding of the theories, principles and concepts underlying forensic psychiatric practice
  • Learn to research, formulate and present controversial issues within the field
  • Improve presentation skills
  • Demonstrate evidence of the application of critical theory to clinical practice

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Students will require evidence of suitable clinical experience to be admitted to this paper.

The paper can be taken as part of a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences (Forensic Mental Health) in conjunction with either:

  • PSME 401 Nature, Extent and Assessment of Mental Disorders or
  • NURS 403 Mental Health Nursing Practice

This course can also be taken as part of a 120-point Postgraduate Diploma in Health Sciences (Mental Health).


Essay 50%
Written Exam 50%

Further Information

Department of Psychological Medicine
Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences
PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand
Tel +64 3 372 6704

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system