Writing Reports for Court: An International Guide for Psychologists Who Work in the Criminal Jurisdiction

Writing Reports for Court: An International Guide for Psychologists Who Work in the Criminal Jurisdiction


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Psychologists are increasingly being asked to give evidence in court as expert witnesses, yet for some it can be a harrowing experience. Writing Reports for Court provides essential support for psychologists when preparing a court report and giving evidence.
A well prepared report underpins an effective court presentation. The credibility of a psychologist called upon to prepare a report for court will be questioned if the document presented is viewed poorly. The court will place little weight on the report and the psychologist’s professional reputation will be placed at risk.
This book offers guidance on the content and structure of reports, highlights the importance of assessments that directly address the legal questions under consideration, and includes detailed descriptions of relevant law and practice in Australia, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Singapore.
Featuring several comprehensive case studies, this book serves as an excellent resource for any working psychologist who may find themselves in a criminal court as well as any psychologist or student considering a career in forensic work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781922117403
Publisher: Australian Academic Press
Publication date: 02/24/2015
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.38(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jack White is the principal of White & Associates Psychologists, a specialist forensic psychology practice based in Adelaide. He has a Doctorate Degree in Psychology from the University of Adelaide and is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. He received the 2008 Award of Distinction from the Australian Psychological Society’s College of Forensic Psychologists and is a past National Chair of that College. He taught within the Forensic Psychology Masters program (1999–2010) at the University of South Australia, and currently is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Canberra. Academically he has published widely in areas that include report writing, psychometric assessment, Indigenous neuropsychology, mental impairment, intellectual disability, and criminal behavior in athletes.

Andrew Day is Professor in the School of Psychology at Deakin University and a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. He has published widely in the area of offender rehabilitation. Before joining academia he was employed as a clinical psychologist in South Australia and the UK, having gained his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in Applied Criminological Psychology from the University of London.

Louisa Hackett is the Principal Psychologist for Youth Justice in South Australia. While gaining her Masters in Forensic Psychology, she worked as a Research Associate in the Forensic Psychology Research Group at the University of South Australia. Since then, she has worked primarily in correctional and forensic mental health settings, conducting psychological assessments and providing intervention with adults and young people involved in the criminal justice system for the last 10 years.

J. Thomas Dalby has provided expert opinions to courts across Canada and the United States for 36 years relating to criminal, civil and administrative law matters. Dr Dalby is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of Calgary and was on the faculty of Medicine for 26 years. He has published over 100 books, chapters, and articles in medical, legal and psychological forums. In 2013 Dr Dalby received the highest Canadian award for a professional psychologist — the Canadian Psychological Association’s award for distinguished contributions to psychology. He has also published fiction and was co-writer of an award-winning screenplay based on a key insanity case in London in 1843.

Table of Contents

About the Authors

Chapter 1 Introduction
Difference Between a Witness of Fact and an Expert Witness
Guidelines for Expert Witnesses
The Report Structure
The Introduction
Background Material
Current Legal Matter

Chapter 2 The Psychological Assessment
Behaviour During the Assessment
Essential Elements of Psychological Tests
Performance Based Tests
Availability of Treatment or Rehabilitation
Impression Management and Malingering
Psycho-Legal Tests

Chapter 3 Opinion
Court Report: Mr Jack Jones
Court Report: Mr William Pitt
Court Report: Mr Leonard Panther
Court Report: Mr Jason Collins
Court Report: Mr Arthur Askey

Chapter 4 Going to Court as an Expert Witness
Know the Legal Landscape
Pre-Trial Consultation
Getting Qualified or ‘Proofed’ as an Expert
The Scientific Expert
Examination in Chief
Post-Trial Consultation
Advanced Performance

Chapter 5 Report Writing in Different Jurisdictions
United States of America
United Kingdom
New Zealand

Appendix — Example Practice Direction
Glossary of Psychological Tests


This book has been written to help psychologists to present the results of their assessments as evidence in court. The report is the most important way in which he or she can communicate the outcomes of a psychological assessment. It is the report that is submitted as evidence, and a poor quality report can have negative implications not only for the individual psychologist but for the profession as a whole. Although the chapters that follow identify a range of issues that are relevant to report writing across a number of different countries, it is immediately apparent that high quality reports have many things in common. A good report will, for example, clearly examine psychological issues that are of direct relevance to the legal decision-making, taking account of the germane local legislation. Indeed, it is legislation that provides definition and direction for the report. The psychologist brings together in a good report general factual and clinical material and considers its relevance to the legal issues under consideration, with the aim of providing a coherent and logical opinion for the court.
Good reports follow a logical structure which clearly documents the reasons for the referral, the nature of the assessment, and the opinion of the expert. The chapters that follow describe an approach that provides such a structure, as well as guidance on how to use a range of psychological tools/methods that can inform an opinion. While psychological reports can be prepared to address a wide range of legal questions that arise in different courts and tribunals, our focus here is solely on those reports that are prepared for the criminal court.
What makes forensic reports different from general clinical reports has mostly to do with their content and style. The content is often dissimilar from that contained in general psychological reports because of the over-riding need to address forensic questions. The style differs because forensic reports are written to meet the demands of legal forums, non-expert readers and decision-makers. Unlike reports that seek to communicate with like-minded professionals, the court report is written for the lay person and should, therefore, be written in a manner that is readily understandable and free from jargon. The use of legal terminology, with moderation, will however increase the credibility of the report. A series of case examples are used in this book to illustrate these differences.
Finally, this book considers how to effectively give oral evidence in court based on the report and how the psychologist might prepare him or herself to do this professionally.

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