The importance of neuropsychological assessment for forensic psychiatric evaluations of defendants
background In criminal law, increased interest is being shown in brain disorders, cognitive impairment and neuroimaging, particularly in connection with pre-trial reports. In a number of cases the contribution made by neuropsychology to the forensic diagnosis is considerable, and there is a need for further clarification.
aim To clarify the relevance of the neuropsychological assessment of suspects and to explore the implications for forensic psychiatry.
method We discuss recent literature and present a characteristic case selected from the Dutch jurisdiction.
results On the basis of neuropsychological assessment it is possible to obtain insight into the relation between brain disorders and criminal behaviour. The case that we present shows that the court may consider the influence of cognitive impairment on behavior to be very important.
conclusion Neurocognitive disorders can make an important contribution to psychiatric assessments of defendants. In the forensic practice a combined diagnostic approach consisting of psychiatric evaluation, neurological assessment of behaviour, imaging techniques and neuropsychological assessment, is clearly preferable.