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Mental Disorder and the Law

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

This course focuses on experiences of those with mental disorders in the criminal justice system. Students are introduced to relevant professional disciplines in the Canadian criminal justice and forensic psychiatric systems. The course focuses on criminal process and procedures in place to detain and treat criminally accused, mentally disordered persons. The legal concept of “protection of the public” is examined along with current issues in mental health law. A critical review of legal provisions with regard to the treatment, care, and control of mentally disordered persons from both practical and theoretical perspectives is undertaken.

Course Content

1) Historical context of management and treatment of mentally disordered persons

2) Major mental disorders

  • Symptoms and behaviours associated with major mental disorders
  • Criminogenic factors    
  • Mental health experts and the courts

3) Fitness to Stand Trial 

4) Pretrial Issues

  • Police powers
  • Arrest, remand, and bail
  • Court appearances

5) Criminal Responsibility

  • Regulation and process for mental disorder

6) Dispositions and Sentencing

  • Civil commitment
  • Risk assessment
  • Reintegration

7) Canadian Case Law

  • Liberty of the person
  • Protection of public

8) Comparisions to US and European approaches to "not criminally responsible" designations

Methods of Instruction

  • Lecture 
  • Quicklaw lab
  • Group discussions
  • Research paper
  • Field trip (e.g. a psychiatric institution, prison or specialized court)

Means of Assessment

Formal evaluations in accordance with Douglas College policies will be based on the following:

  1. Midterm and Final Exams
  2. Term Paper
  3. Project/Presentation
  4. Class Participation

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Midterm  25%
Final  25%
Term paper  30%
Group presentation  10%
Participation            10%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Describe the experiences of mentally disordered persons in the criminal justice system with regard to regulatory structures and process.
  2. Describe the historical legal context in the management of mentally disordered persons.
  3. Illustrate major mental disorders with associated criminogenic factors.
  4. Describe relevant professional disciplines in the Canadian criminal justice and forensic psychiatric systems.
  5. Explain the criminal justice process and procedures in place to detain and treat accused mentally disordered persons.
  6. Explain the legal concept of “the protection of the public” as it relates to risks posed by mentally disordered persons.
  7. Illustrate current legal issues in mental health law.
  8. Compare and contrast the legal standards for "not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder" between Canada and the United States.
  9. Explain mental disorder provisions of the law and institutional procedures (e.g. forensic hospitals) from both the practical procedures and theoretical perspectives.
  10. Research and analyze relevant case law.

course prerequisites

CRIM 1100, CRIM 1150 and CRIM 1160



Courses listed here must be completed either prior to or simultaneously with this course:

  • No corequisite courses


Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

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.