The mind I love most must have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two, a pool that nobody's fathomed the depth of, and paths threaded with flowers planted by the mind.
Psycholegal assessments are psychological assessments conducted within a legal framework (as opposed to a clinical or therapeutic framework) and usually conclude with report(s) that may be used or referred to during legal proceedings.
I provide psycholegal assessment and forensic reporting services in civil and criminal matters where the opinion of a psychologist may be required to assist and inform the Court.
I do not provide medico-legal assessments and rather refer these specialist assessments via a well established network of medico-legal experts.
FORENSIC ASSESSMENT SERVICES
Forensic assessments are typically requested when mental health and psychological factors are considered to be important considerations in matters that are subject to legal proceedings. They may be requested by any of the parties involved in civil legal proceedings or by defendant(s), complainant(s), or the State during criminal legal proceedings.
Forensic assessments are limited to diagnosing and understanding an individuals’ mental health and psychological functioning at a specific point in time, within a legal framework. They specifically exclude therapeutic and treatment interventions (which remain the professional responsibility and function of the individuals’ personal clinical practitioner, where and if applicable).
In South Africa the practice of forensic psychology is currently a sub-category of clinical psychology. As such these assessments are usually undertaken by clinical psychologists with forensic assessment experience and expertise.
WHEN IS A FORENSIC ASSESSMENT USEFUL
Some typical instances that may warrant a forensic assessment include circumstances relating to:
- the mental health of a defendant, which may influence / have influenced their competency to stand trial and / or their criminal (in)capacity;
- mental health or psychological factors relevant to sentencing considerations in respect of an already convicted person (i.e. as part of the assessment of mitigating and / or aggravating factors);
- as part of a victim impact assessment in order to inform the Court of the impact of an offence on the complainants mental health and / or psychological functioning, particularly in cases of trauma, violence, abuse and / or other serious criminal act(s); and
- the Child Justice Act (Act 75 of 2008, as amended) (which may include assessment of physical (by a medical officer), psychological, social, financial or other consequences experienced by the complainant).
WHAT HAPPENS DURING A FORENSIC ASSESSMENT
Typically, a forensic assessment comprises a combination of consultations and structured psychometric screens and tests managed over two separate stages. The first stage entails clinical and forensic interviewing of approximately four to eight hours duration, usually spread over the course of four to six sessions. The second stage includes the administration and completion of a number of structured psychometric screens and tests, completed over two separate one-and-a-half hour sessions.
Collateral information is usually also obtained or confirmed from medical or forensic records or other relevant records, as well as from consultations with other health practitioners, legal professionals, family members, partners, or other persons relevant to the matter.
Any forensic interview and psychometric screens and assessment consultations may be recorded (via either an audio or audio-visual device) and remain part of record keeping in respect of the assessment.
A professional written report is usually completed within 2 to 4 weeks after completion of the last interview and / or psychometric screen and / or test. This report is provided to all clients and may be used during legal proceedings, including being used and referred to during court proceedings.