Original Research

Social, forensic, and clinical correlates in female observandi referred for non-violent crimes

Muthumuni Nemavhola, Tando A.S Melapi, Danie Hoffman, Ora Gerber-Schutte
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 30 | a2209 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v30i0.2209 | © 2024 Muthumuni Nemavhola, Tando A.S Melapi, Danie Hoffman, Ora Gerber-Schutte | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 October 2023 | Published: 28 March 2024

About the author(s)

Muthumuni Nemavhola, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Tando A.S Melapi, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Danie Hoffman, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Ora Gerber-Schutte, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Globally, crime is highly masculinised and research into female criminality is scarce. In South Africa, no research specifically investigating the characteristics of female observandi referred for non-violent crimes has been published.

Aims: The study aimed to describe the socio-demographic, clinical, and forensic correlates in women referred to Sterkfontein Hospital for forensic psychiatric observation following a non-violent criminal charge between 2010 and 2019. It also sought to establish the relationship between the correlates and fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility, as well as the relationship between the socio-demographic characteristics and the different non-violent criminal charges.

Setting: Sterkfontein Hospital.

Methods: A retrospective record review of all cases referred to Sterkfontein Hospital for a single observation over 10 years was conducted.

Results: Sixty-five cases were included in the study. Most observandi referred for non-violent crimes were found to be single (84.6%), unemployed (67.7%), reported abuse (55.4%), and had a high prevalence of mental illness (90.8%). Non-adherence to treatment was identified in 59.1% and substance use was identified in 72.2% of the study sample. The most common charge was theft (64.6%). The majority of the sample was found fit and responsible (57%). Bipolar (21%) and Primary Psychotic Disorders (35.7%) were associated with statistically significant outcomes of trial incompetence (p = 0.005) and lack of responsibility (p = 0.028).

Conclusion: It is recommended that prospective studies are conducted which include comparisons with male counterparts and females referred for violent crimes.

Contribution: The study identified correlates that should be included in the standard of care in forensic assessments of female observandi.


Keywords

female observandi; non-violent crimes; forensic; social; clinical; correlates

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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