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Registration for the Fall 2019 semester begins June 25.  Watch your email for more details.

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Mental Disorder and the Law

Course Code: CRIM 4410
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of the experience of the mentally disordered offender in the criminal justice system in terms of the structure and process imposed on these offenders. Students will be introduced to the various professional disciplines at work in the Canadian Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychiatric Systems. The course focuses on the criminal process and procedures in place to detain and treat the criminally accused mentally disordered person. The legal concept of “protection of the public” is examined in detail and the student is introduced to the current issues in mental health law. Students will be encouraged to critically consider the mental disorder provisions of the law and the treatment, care and control of the mentally disordered person from both practical and academic perspectives.

Course Content

The course begins in Section One with a brief history of the management and treatment of the mentally disordered criminal. The student will subsequently be introduced to the professional disciplines involved in forensic psychiatry, psychology, and law, understanding that each discipline contributes to the overall management of the mentally ill accused.

An examination of the major mental disorders follows in Section Two.  The student will become generally familiar with the symptoms and behaviours associated with common disorders of the mind and with what statistical frequency these behaviours may result in Criminal Code offences and subsequent legal proceedings. Bio-criminological theory provides the basis for examining the aetiology of these offences.  Instructional dimension is provided through the examination of case law together with criminological theory.  This course utilizes court reported examples and case studies, examining the experience of the mentally disordered offender in a more tangible, “real life” context, while incorporating legal and criminological study to fully examine the issues.  

Section Three focuses on relevant case law for lecture and in-class discussion. The Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Winko is discussed in depth as it relates to the concepts of liberty of the person and public safety. European and US case law on the “insanity defence” will be examined in comparison to current Canadian law.

Section Four of the course addresses the legal pathways of the accused person, and will focus on the Mental Disorder Provisions of the Criminal Code (Part XX.1). The student examines the process of arrest, remand, bail, pre-trial, court appearances, hospitalisation and reintegration. The student will become familiar with these procedural systems, and is able then to apply the process to hypothetical cases as part of course work assignments and the term paper.

At least one guided field trip to a psychiatric institution, prison or specialized court is an additional learning resource, where scheduling permits.

Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture (primary mode of instruction)
  • In-library Quicklaw Lab
  • Small group discussions re case law
  • Video materials, Web based resources
  • Research paper
  • Field trip

Means of Assessment

The instructor will provide a course outline at the start of the semester containing specific evaluation criteria. All evaluations will conform to the policies of Douglas College.  Formal evaluations will be based on the following:

  1. Examinations:  midterm and final
  2. Class participation
  3. Term paper, project or presentation

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Midterm  25%
Final  25%
Term paper  30%
Class assignments  10%
Class participation            10%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, the successful student will be able to:

  1. Describe the experience of the mentally disordered offender in the criminal justice system in terms of the official state structure and process imposed on the offender.
  2. Describe the historical management of the mentally disordered offender and become demonstrably knowledgeable with regard to the major mental disorders, and also with the possible associated criminogenic factors.
  3. Identify and describe the various professional disciplines at work in the Canadian Criminal Justice System and Forensic Psychiatric System.
  4. Describe the criminal process and procedures in place to detain and treat the criminally accused mentally ill person.
  5. Explain the legal concept of “the protection of the public” in so far as risks posed by the mentally ill offender.
  6. Identify and describe the current legal issues in mental health law.
  7. Compare and contrast the legal standards for the “defence of insanity” between different jurisdictions, for example, Canada and the United States.
  8. Describe the mental disorder provisions of the law and institutional procedures (forensic hospitals) from both the practical procedures of management of the mentally disordered offender and academic/theoretical perspectives.
  9. Retrieve case law and conduct research via the Quicklaw system and Web based resources.

course prerequisites

CRIM 1100 and CRIM 1150 and CRIM 1160

Recommended: CRIM 2260 and/or CRIM 2261

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.

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