Forensic Psychology For Dummies (UK Edition)
Forensic Psychology is the application of psychological knowledge to the criminal justice system. Print out and pin up this Cheat Sheet to remind yourself of how Forensic Psychology is used within the justice system to assess offenders, identify criminal capacity in young people and to characterise psychopaths.
Examining the Characteristics of a Psychopath
Robert Hare's Psychopathy checklist is a tool commonly used in clinical practice to assess whether an individual is a psychopath. Here are Hare’s definitions of two types of psychopath:
Selfish, callous psychopaths
Glibly, but superficially charming
Grandiose feeling of how important s/he is
Pathological liar – lies when there is no need to
Manipulates others, cunning
Lacks remorse or any feelings of guilt
Does not really feel strongly about anything
Does not accept responsibility for his/her actions
Easily bored, needs excitement
Feeds off other people
No realistic, long-term goals
Lack of control over actions
Behavioural problems in childhood
Different types of offending
Abuses any conditions set by the courts
Using Forensic Psychology in Assessing a Criminal Offender
Forensic Psychologists often assess offenders to determine whether they’re fit to plead their case in court, or are likely to be violent in the future. There are a number of important issues to be considered in this assessment and these are outlined here:
Any history of abuse?
Offender ever removed from family?
Any criminal close relatives?
Amount and variety of criminal convictions?
Types of victims? (Particularly their age and gender)
Achievements at school? (Or lack of them)
Age left school?
Literacy skill level?
Numeracy skill level?
Opinions about crime and criminality?
Justifications of his or her offences?
Any processes of denial or minimisation?
General intelligence level?
Any indications of mental illness?
Any indication of personality disorder?
History of intimate relationships?
Current intimate relationships?
Identifying Criminal Capacity in Children with Forensic Psychology
Criminality can often be linked back to an offender’s childhood. A child who exhibits three or more of the following behaviours is at risk of becoming seriously anti-social as an adult:
Cruelty to animals
Cruelty to people, especially vulnerable people
Breaking into buildings or cars
Destroying property, that of their own or others
Running away from home overnight more than once
Stealing more than once