Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Forensic Practice, Volume 16, Issue 4.
Welcome to the current issue of the Journal of Forensic Practice which presents an eclectic mix of papers in the field of forensic practice. This issue starts with an invited paper by Dr Charlie Frowd and colleagues which reports on the first project of its kind to formally explore the potential impact of pictorial properties of a target face on identifiability of faces created from memory. The design follows forensic practices as far as is practicable, to allow good generalisation of results, exploring the impact of target-image choice on face construction using a modern evolving type of composite system: EvoFIT. Here, participants saw an unfamiliar target identity and then created a single composite of it the following day with EvoFIT. Targets were images that had been previously categorised as low, medium or high likeness, or a face prototype comprising averaged photographs of the same individual. The results emphasise the potential importance of matching a target's pose and expression at face construction; also, for obtaining image-specific information for construction of facial-composite images, a result that would appear to be useful to developers and researchers of composite software.
The next paper by Jennifer Copley, Dan Johnson and Stella Bain researches staff attitudes towards young people in looked after accommodation. The paper considers the power of psychological well-being, empathy and coping style in predicting staff attitudes towards young people in looked after accommodation who are involved in, or at risk of, offending behaviour. The findings indicate that empathic concern (affective empathy) was the only factor predictive of attitudes towards young people. Applied implications for employers are discussed, including the possibility of empathy training for staff members. The paper further highlights the need for consideration of the factors impacting on staff attitudes. The outcome suggests that empathy may serve as a protective factor against the development of negative attitudes.
Tiina Tuominen and colleagues then present a study which seeks to determine the nature of the academic skills deficits in male offenders and their relation to neurocognitive deficits. Using a Finnish prisoner sample, they test the reading, spelling, and mathematical abilities of participants. Despite the limitation of the moderate sample size, the authors suggest that reading and spelling difficulties could be seen as functional illiteracy which; combined with a broad spectrum of neuropsychological function deficits; pose a challenging task for rehabilitation. It is argued that only after proper identification of deficits has been achieved is it possible to set goals and select the appropriate means for rehabilitation. They propose that it may not be enough just to train reading or develop literacy activities among prisoners; focusing intervention on comprehensive neurocognitive deficits is also necessary.
The next paper by Sarah-Jane Archibald, Colin Campbell and Derval Ambrose examines the prediction of treatment outcomes for personality disordered offenders. The paper aims to establish which risk assessment method (i.e. structured professional judgement or actuarial) is most reliable for predicting treatment outcomes for individuals with PD and whether individuals identified as high risk are more likely to have poorer treatment outcomes and whether engagement in treatment helps to reduce risk assessment scores. The retrospective cohort design uses a sample of 50 patients from a medium secure forensic personality disorder service, and their risk was assessed using one structured professional judgement instrument (the HCR-20) and one actuarial instrument (the RM2000). It is concluded that overall the HCR-20 was a better predictor of treatment outcome than the RM2000 and that personality-disordered offenders with high HCR-20 scores are at an increased risk of adverse treatment outcomes. Despite the recognised limitations of the study in terms of the small, non-randomised sample, the findings indicate that structured professional judgement approaches are more effective predictors of risk than actuarial measures for assessing patients with PD.
Irram Walji and colleagues then explore the relationship between violence, level of functioning, and treatment outcome in a sample of psychiatric inpatients. This research studies 95 inpatients with a primary diagnosis of severe mental illness; with and without a history of violence; and compares how levels of global functioning and risk impact on recovery. Both violent and non-violent groups showed increased global functioning over time, with no significant difference between the groups. Neither group showed significant reductions in risk over time. Patients in the violent group had significantly fewer prior and current symptoms of mental illness than non-violent individuals. Despite evidence that suggests that a history of, or current violence leads to impaired outcomes amongst people with diagnoses of mental illness, the findings of this study suggest a history of violent behaviour was not a predictor of poor progress within inpatient settings.
The paper by Dr Rohit Gumber and colleagues explores the role of psychiatrists as expert witnesses, specifically focusing on perceived levels of competency and training needs amongst a sample of trainee and career grade psychiatrists in a UK health and well-being Trust. The results indicate that only 9 per cent of respondents in this sample reported feeling that they had adequate training to feel competent as an expert witness. However, despite low levels of training and confidence, 73 per cent of respondents had written an expert report. Whilst it is acknowledged that the study may be limited; in as far as the approach may have resulted in a response bias towards those interested in medico-legal work, or those who have participated in it; the authors identify a number of recommendations. The authors suggest that doctors need to be offered formal training opportunities including simulated training; ideally organised within Trust CPD committees or Education committees. It id further argued that the implementation of the RCPsych report guidance into speciality curricula and CPD opportunities for doctors would ensure a robust curriculum based delivery of these essential skills.
The final paper in this issue is by Ward and Attwell, who undertook an evaluation of two community outreach forensic services. They adopted the Good Lived Model of rehabilitation in terms of determining its effectiveness. Ultimately they use their study to inform how community services meet their objectives, and offer some helpful considerations for future work with this population, including a holistic view of engagement.
Neil Gredecki and Carol A. Ireland