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Calibrating risk for violent political extremists and terrorists: the VERA 2 structured assessment

D. Elaine Pressman (Based at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)
John Flockton (Based at the High Risk Management Correctional Centre, Corrective Services NSW, Goulburn, Australia)

The British Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 1463-6646

Article publication date: 16 November 2012

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to outline the process of risk assessment for terrorists and violent political extremists and to present an example of such an approach. The approach proposed is referred to as the VERA 2 or violent extremism risk assessment protocol (Consultative Version 2).

Design/methodology/approach

A review of the knowledge base relating to risk assessment and risk assessment methodology was undertaken with a focus on relevance to individual terrorists and violent extremists. The need for a specific approach for the risk assessment of terrorists that differs from approaches used for ordinary violent criminals was identified. A model that could be used for the risk assessment of terrorists was identified with pertinent risk indicators. This was structured into a protocol referred to as the VERA (Consultative Version 2). The approach is intended to be applied to different types of violent extremists, terrorists and unlawful violent offenders motivated by religious, political or social ideologies.

Findings

First, risk assessments of adjudicated terrorists and violent extremists should be undertaken with risk indicators that are relevant to ideological motivated violence. Indicators used for ordinary common violence differ in substantive ways from those relevant to terrorists and therefore may have questionable relevance for the assessment of risk in terrorists. Second, it is possible to construct an evidence‐based risk assessment approach for the range of violent extremists and terrorists using a structured professional judgment approach with pertinent risk indicators. The VERA 2 is an example of this type of risk assessment protocol for terrorists and unlawful violent extremists.

Research limitations/implications

Risk assessment tools that have been developed for ordinary violent criminals and members of organised criminal gangs should be used with caution with terrorists, violent extremists and other perpetrators of ideologically motivated unlawful violence. Specific risk assessment approaches for terrorists with relevant indicators should be used. At this time, terrorist oriented approaches such as the VERA 2 are to be considered consultative and used as an add‐on to other established approaches.

Originality/value

There are few transparent, structured risk assessment approaches that use indicators specifically relevant to violent political extremists and terrorists. One new approach, the VERA 2 is outlined in the paper using risk indicators that differ in substantive ways from those used for other ordinary violent criminals.

Keywords

Citation

Elaine Pressman, D. and Flockton, J. (2012), "Calibrating risk for violent political extremists and terrorists: the VERA 2 structured assessment", The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 237-251. https://doi.org/10.1108/14636641211283057

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited