Forensic Psychology can be defined as the professional
practice that applies technical, scientific, or specialized knowledge of
psychology to the law system to aid in addressing administrative, contractual
and legal matters. Briefly Forensic Psychology is every application
of psychology to the legal system.
first application of Forensic Psychology was seen in 1843 in the M’Naghten
Trial in England. M’Naghten was in trial for killing the Prime Ministers
secretary, he originally wanted to shoot and kill the Prime Minister because he
believed that the everyone was conspiring against him and saw as his only
salvation the assassination. He then was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and
court found him not guilty by order of insanity (schizophrenia).
The basic forensic functions can be divided into two
categories. The first one is Law enforcement that includes counselling to
victims of crime, direct work with the police, expert testimonies, jury
selection, criminal profiling and psychological autopsies. And the second one
is correctional settings which includes research, group and individual therapy
to inmates and consulting and teaching law enforcement agencies.
Forensic assessment is part of the wide category of
psychological assessment and it involves techniques such as interviews, tests,
measuring devices. They are used to explain present and past behavior and
predict future behavior. It also may include specially designed forensic
measures and traditional psychological assessments but there is a distinct
purpose from the one in traditional therapeutic assessment.
The main differences with Clinical Practice are that
the clinician might not be the client of an assesse but a client of a third
party, meaning that it is imperative to rely completely on the available documentation
the assessee may not be motivated… Forensic
evaluators have different practice guidelines and training, and they have to be
educated in the language of law. And lastly assessors might be asked to give
opinions about individuals that they have never met before.
Court cases are divided into civil and criminal
courts. Civil courts include workers compensation, divorce and child custody, injury
and emotional distress suits, civil commitment, testamentary capacity, and
juvenile offence. While criminal courts include criminal competency (competency
to waive Miranda, stand trial, be
sentenced, be executed, plead guilty, and waive counsel), criminal
responsibility and violence risk assessment.
The main criminal evaluation instruments are interviews/structured
interviews and tests. Some specific tests are MMPI-II for malingering,
competency screening test for competency to stand in trial, Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) for
risk assessment etc.
Symptoms of psychopathy include lack of empathy and
remorse, irresponsibility, deceitfulness, aggressiveness, impulsivity,
disregard to the law and pursuit of money or pleasure from anti-social behaviors
that can harm others. Psychopaths are twenty to twenty five times more