Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Daisy Cheung: Magistrates Must Improve Approach to Mental Disability in the Courtroom (HKFP)

"Magistrates must improve approach to mental disability in the courtroom"
June 22 2020
I have read with great disappointment and concern reports of two recent magistrate cases dealing with the topic of mental disability.
    The first involved a schoolteacher who was found guilty of assault on June 12 at the Fanling Magistrates’ Court. It was reported that the magistrate had questioned the mental state of the defendant on the basis that his testimony was full of lies, that he showed no remorse, and that his testimony about the police wanting to throw him off a bridge was so outlandish that she suspected he had both mental and personality disorder.
     She further commented that she did not think his mental state was such that he could continue to teach. The defendant was remanded to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre until June 26, where two psychiatric reports would be obtained.There are clearly many concerns with the magistrate’s cavalier usage of technical medical terminology (in an area in which she has no apparent expertise) and perhaps with her decision to remand the defendant to Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre on the basis of his testimony in court, but I would like to focus in particular on the unnecessarily stigmatising effect of the magistrate’s words.
    First of all, anyone with courtroom experience will know that lack of remorse and testimony that appears untruthful or difficult to understand can be shared by many defendants, and that by itself, these behaviours are not indicative of mental or personality disorder.
    What the magistrate is doing here is equating undesirable human behaviour with mental illness, which is incredibly stigmatising for individuals with mental disability, already one of the most vulnerable and stigmatised groups in society. ... Click here to read the full text. 

Chinese version: 
June 25 2020
     裁判官進一步質疑被告的精神狀態是否足以使他繼續教書,並將案件押至6 月26 日判刑,以索取兩份精神科報告、心理及背景報告。期間被告還押小欖精神病治療中心。
    裁判官將不良行為與精神疾病等同起來,這種做法嚴重污名化患有精神障礙的人士——況且他們已是社會上最弱勢和最被污名化的群體之一。 ... Click here to read the full text. 

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