Arson

Arson is taken very seriously by the criminal justice system, for obvious reasons. Occasionally, one may see a patient who has committed a string of minor offences, and the system appears to have bent over backward to keep them out of prison. But if they commit arson, even without serious consequences, the attitude of the justice system can immediately become very different. Arson may be committed by

• criminals - for example, to obtain insurance money or conceal evidence of another crime

• psychotic patients motivated by delusions

• those with sociopathic personality and/or low intelligence who start fires for excitement, sexual stimulation, or revenge. They often repeat the offence and may require secure detention.

• children and adolescents with conduct disorder. Theft from shops ('shoplifting')

The law does not distinguish shoplifting (theft from shops) from other kinds of theft, but it has been studied separately by psychiatrists. In the cases described, it is predominantly a crime of women. Types include the following:

• straightforward theft

• search for excitement by those of sociopathic personality

• psychiatric disorders, including depressive illness (especially in middle-aged women), mania, schizophrenia, dementia, and learning disability

• absent-mindedness due to medical conditions such as epilepsy or hypoglycae-mia, or prescribed drugs such as benzodiazepines

• shoplifting by addicts, who may steal from shops in order to fund their habit.

Other topics with forensic implications include antisocial personality (see Chapter 7), sexual deviations (see Chapter 17), juvenile delinquency (see Chapter 18), child abuse (see Chapter 18), and the Mental Health Act (see Chapter 26).

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