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Koh KGWW, Gwee KP, Chan YH
Correspondence: Dr Kenneth G W W Koh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction The association between mental illness and violent offenders is an important issue not just for psychiatrists but for the public as well. Several studies have linked an increased prevalence of psychiatric illness among offenders of violent crimes. This study seeks to update the psychiatric community in Singapore on individuals charged with murder from 1997 to 2001, all of whom received a psychiatric assessment.
Methods 110 individuals were charged with murder from 1997 to 2001. Socio-demographical data, psychiatric diagnoses, offence and victim profiles and court outcomes were obtained from prison records and psychiatric files.
Results There were 110 individuals charged with murder between January 1, 1997 to December 31, 2001, with a total of 113 victims. In 70 of the cases, one offender killed one victim. Offenders were mostly unmarried males in the 20-39 year age group who received a secondary school level of education or less. 57 of the remandees were found not to suffer from any mental illness. Alcohol abuse and dependence disorders accounted for the largest diagnostic group. Depressive disorders accounted for 9.1 percent of the accused persons and schizophrenia, 6.4 percent. Victim profiles and court outcomes are also described. A comparison is drawn between this study and the last large report on homicides in Singapore, published in 1985. No difference is detected when the rates of schizophrenia and depression are compared between the two eras.
Conclusion Perpetrators of murder have been shown to have an increased incidence of psychiatric disorders. Reduction of the rate of homicide in the country may be achievable via the reduction of controllable factors found to be linked to the aetiology of murder. Alcohol and other illicit substance use are frequently found to be associated with homicide. The authorities are encouraged to enhance campaigns to dissuade alcohol abuse.
Keywords: alcoholism, forensic psychiatry, homicide, jurisprudence, mental disorders
Singapore Med J 2006; 47(4): 297-304