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Dr Penny Brown joined the department in October 2013 as a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow, and is currently funded by the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. Having obtained a degree in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Manchester, she went on to study graduate-entry medicine at the University of Oxford before coming to the Maudsley to specialise in psychiatry. She has a long-standing interest in mental health law and obtained an LLM from the University of Northumbria while gaining membership of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Alongside her research and teaching roles, she has worked at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust as a trainee and now consultant in Forensic Psychiatry.    

Her research focuses on the impact of mental health law on practice, in particular mental capacity in forensic settings and mental health at court. She is currently leading a project exploring the concept, prevalence and assessment of unfitness to plead. She has contributed to textbooks in forensic psychiatry as well as texts for trainees including Psychiatry: Breaking the Ice and PRN Psychiatry. 

Research Interests

  • Mental health law 
  • Mental capacity 
  • Fitness to Plead  
  • Mental Disorder in the Criminal Justice System 
  • Risk assessment 

Research Groups

Dr Brown is a member of the Forensic Research Group, working on the Fitness to plead project 

Expertise and Public Engagement 

Dr Brown contributed to a Law Commission’s consultation on “Unfitness to Plead”, including the final report which was published in 2016. 

In 2018 she spent 6 months working at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology as part of a Wellcome Trust Secondment Fellowship, preparing a research briefing for parliamentarians on the age of criminal responsibility. 


Dr Brown is the Programme Lead for the iBSc in Forensic Psychiatry, Criminal Behaviour and Law. She also teaches on mental health law, psychiatry in the court room and ethics in psychiatric research on MSc courses within the department and as an external lecturer. 

Dr Brown coordinates the s12 and AC approval courses at Maudsley Learning, and teaches on psychiatry and the law on the Maudsley MRCPsych course.