Publication Details

Byrne, M. K. (2000). Trauma reactions in the offender. Understanding Post-Traumatic Conditions: Medico-legal seminar papers (pp. 1-32). Bondi Junction, Australia: LAAMS Publications.


The psychological sequelae to an incident, objectively defined as 'traumatic', may range from no reaction or mild depression through to dissociative experiences and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this paper I intend to survey more severe responses to trauma as experienced by offenders, in particular, violent offenders. While the symptomology overlap, the two key trauma reactions discussed are PTSD and Dissociative Disorders. The importance of dissociation has recently been emphasized by Gershuny and Thayer (1999) who have found that not only is dissociation associated with trauma but that those who do dissociate are more likely to experience higher Ievels of trauma related distress. With respect to dissociation, I will not attempt to survey the Iegal commentary that has evolved around what has been termed "automatism" except where that may elucidate a clinical description or underscore an argument I wish to present. Rather, let me acknowledge the complexity of the debate surrounding sane and insane automatism, the burden of proof and the changing landscape in the face of the recent revisions to the Criminal Law Consolidation (Mental Impairment) Amendment Act 1995. The interested reader is referred to two usefuI articles which present legal argument: the papers by Febbo, Hardy and Finlay-Jones (1993) and McSherry (1998), both of which are referenced in the paper provided.