Requests soar for psychiatric reports

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Court requests for mental health reports have rocketed by nearly 300 per cent in the past three years, the Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed.

The BHB said that delays in delivering reports to courts were because of a shortage of professionals as well as the huge rise in demand for psychiatric evaluations.

The news came after the Court of Appeal expressed serious concerns last month over “unacceptable” time gaps between conviction and sentencing in many court cases.

Defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher also highlighted cases in which the preparation of psychiatric and psychological reports had taken several months.

A BHB spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette that the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute was two psychologists short, which had contributed to the delays.

She said: “Due to a dramatic increase in the number of requests originating from the courts and other public bodies, combined with two psychology vacancies, there is an acknowledged delay in the provision of reports at the current time from MWI.

“The number of reports requested from the courts has risen more than 280 per cent over the last three years, from 24 in 2014 to 68 in 2017 as of November 27.”

The spokeswoman added: “Each report takes between five to 15 hours to complete on average and can take longer. Currently there are three psychologists and one psychiatrist providing the bulk of these reports.

“Clinicians for the two vacant psychology posts have been identified, but they are overseas and so cannot immediately take up the positions. The first is hoped to arrive in January 2018.”

Court of Appeal president Sir Scott Baker said last month he would raise the problem with Chief Justice Ian Kawaley in a bid to find a solution.

The BHB spokeswoman said: “MWI staff members are working within the approved MWI budgetary allocation, while accommodating the extra workload generated by the court system and continuing to meet the rising day-to-day clinical needs of service users at MWI.

She added the BHB appreciated an increased focus on the mental health of defendants by the courts and admitted more work was needed to “streamline the process in order to improve efficiency while maintaining quality”.

The spokeswoman said: “We continue to meet with our colleagues at the courts on a regular basis to enhance the service we are expected to provide.

“We also note that the issues referred to by Mr Justice Baker were not solely due to delays in provision of psychological and psychiatric reports but appear to be related to other procedural issues within the courts themselves.”

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Published Dec 1, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 1, 2017 at 6:39 am)

Requests soar for psychiatric reports

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