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Israeli Forensic Psychiatry
The Israeli legal system is complicated.
There is no Constitution, there are 2 parallel civil legal systems, religious and civil, but only one Criminal justice System. All the criminal systems have their final place of appeal in the High Court which is chaired by the Chief Justice. Appeal is heard on grounds of grounds of content, i.e., grounds and not as a "detail".
The Israeli Criminal Legal Code is based on the Ottoman Code, the British Mandatory Code, and is strongly influenced recently by the American tradition of Liberalism.
Moreover, there is no trial by jury, although the cases are presented and defended in an "adversary" style.
All marriages are co-officiated and legalized at the hands of the religious courts. However, there are also civil divorces in religious and non religious courts. Both courts are equally enlightened in the use of advice concerning personal obligations, etc. In the realm of divorce practically speaking divorces are "extremely easy" if both parties agree and quite impossible if one party doesn't. If one of the parties is Mentally Ill then the rights of the Mentally Ill member are scrupulously upheld.
Forensic Psychiatry Issues in Criminal Law in Israel
- Competancy to Stand Trial
The courts may well turn to the Mental Health Profession, when the case being considered has an element whereby the mental health of the accused is of bearing. The court is usually concerned with the ability to define right from wrong at the time of the alleged act. Here the M'naughton Rule is applied with no subtleties whatsoever. If the patient is deemed to be unable to recognize right from wrong, he is hospitalized (see later). The application is extremely rare indeed. The court is concerned with the ability of the defendant to conduct his trial, by being able to follow and instruct his council. If he is not so capable, the trial is deferred until he is. This rarely happens.
- Diminished Capacity
The condition of the mental health of a defendant is considered in passing sentence. Generally speaking the court may well recommend that incarceration be in a unit of the Mental Health Service in the prison.
- Mental Health in Prisons
While in the Penitentiary System, use is made of Mental Health Care in ascertaining a prisoner's ability to released under "Licensed" supervision if he is no longer a danger to the public. This knowledge is examined at the completion of two thirds of imprisonment. If a patient is considered more liable to commit a crime because of his mental condition he will not be allowed a license. Not rarely a patient will commit a crime and be punished as the M'naughton Ruling does not apply. He will not receive "1/3" because of his mental condition and on completion of his full sentence upon release, he may well be involuntarily hospitalized because his illness endangers the public.
[similar to sexual preditor laws in US - ed]
The Penitentiary System makes use of the Mental Health Services in treatment of the endemic drug use in Israeli prisons, and has established a very reasonable reputation.
Forensic Psychiatry Issues in Civil Law in Israel
The civil courts use Psychiatric Consultants as advisors to the court in matter of litigation for compensation following trauma. In the case of road accidents it is mandatory for the court to appoint its advisor and the councils for the sides may not do so. They may present material to the appointed Consultant who is liable to undergo cross examination.
- Child/Juvenile Issues
A Judge in the special Juvenile Court may order hospitalization and treatment but this is done but rarely and after great deliberation. A child may be separated from his parents and placed in an alternate position, but there is a set evaluation procedure, under the auspices of the Israel Welfare Agencies who have a designated officer for this task. This same officer is bound to present an attestation about the children in divorces.
- Competency for Treatment & Testimentary Capacity
A judge can and often does order evaluation of a person to ascertain competence, and more recently treatment modes. The Israeli Psychiatrist is occasionally called to give his opinion concerning competence of a patient. Generally speaking this in 2 spheres, namely to manage his belongings and body and secondly if he is able to sign a will. There are no clear verdicts but we are asked to state our views regarding property and body and if the patient understands the role of a guardian and if he is capable of having a view about the appointee. The recommendation are handled by the Guardians Office in Legal Ministry. Regarding wills there are no guide lines. Generally it is held that the maker must be aware of the significance, and not under any influence either positively as negatively of that based in his illness. It is extremely difficult to have a will annulled, because you have to prove that at the time of the will the patient did not understand the significance of his act.
- Civil Commitment
Israel is divided into several districts and to each district is ascribed a District Psychiatrist. He has a Mandatory of Statutory Position. He can order Examination Hospitalization, or treatment in a hospital or out patient setting. His orders are limited in time and subject to review and renewal by a Sitting Committee.
The District Psychiatrist can only give orders at the behalf of an accredited Psychiatrist following his recent examination. Generally the Judiciary turn their request to the District Psychiatrist.
- Managed Care Arbitration
Recently the District Psychiatrist was made responsible for the quality of Mental Health Care. He will be the arbitrator in disputes between the Insuring Agency and the Bodies giving therapies and treatment. As of yet this system is untried and unclear.
With thanks to:
Prof. Silfan is the founder and Professor of the Chair of Clinical Criminology at the Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Director of the Beer Yaakov Government Mental Health Center, which includes Mental Health Care Services for the Penal Services, Consultant to National Insurance.
Dr. Michael Benjamin is Consultant to the Kupat Cholim, Israeli Military Industries, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Education, National Insurance and the National Road Safety Council.
If you want to post a similar page about your country, please e-mail James F. Hooper, M.D.