Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Forensic Practice, Volume 17, Issue 1.
Carol A. Ireland and Neil Gredecki
We begin this issue with two invited papers, both looking at distinct areas of study. The first is by Professor Jane L. Ireland and Professor John Beaumont, examining the important of expert evidence in the UK. This paper carefully proposes a clear criteria, that of an abridged Daubert. Professors Ireland and Beaumont discuss the contentious nature of this as a research area and highlights the damage that can be created by unreliable “scientific” evidence. As such, this invited paper argues for an improvement in the assessment of expert evidence reliability, focusing on a review of the area and arguing proficiently the need for an abridged Daubert criteria that increases transparency and evidenced decision making. The current challenges with the admissibility of expert evidence is considered, using this as a backdrop to argue the importance of a revised approach. Ultimately this paper argues the value of such a practical criteria in then assisting the Courts and witnesses to evaluate the quality of evidence.
Following this is the second invited paper of this issue, again by Professor Jane L. Ireland but also co-authored with Dr Philip Birch. This Australian study focuses on men procuring sexual services from women. It focuses on the characteristics of such men using a quantitative approach. Sampling took place in brothels and outreach organisations where sex work is decriminalised, leading to a helpful sample size. They note a range of interesting and thought-provoking results, namely that the primary motivations for procurement appeared to be thrill/excitement and attractiveness of the sex worker. Cluster analysis identified the most frequent group being those with a drive for exciting, thrill-seeking sex with an attractive partner and those with the same drive but not wanting investment. Ultimately, the results do not support men's procurement as primarily “deviant”, and the authors challenge this conceptualisation well. The authors argue the importance of professionals needing to explicitly enquire about such behaviour when appropriate. They note a range of implications for practice, not least a need for practitioners to avoid a focus on such behaviour as having deviancy as a motivation.
The next paper is by Simon Chu and colleagues, looking at the impact of a night confinement policy on patients in a UK high-secure inpatient mental health service. It notes succinctly the history of confining patients to their locked bedrooms overnight to increase service efficiency and reduce costs. This study therefore assesses the views of staff and patients concerning this policy, examining the specific impact on patients. A range of variables were considered, such as sleep hygiene, patients’ behaviour, ward atmosphere, engagement with therapy, and detail on adverse incidents. Their findings noted that the impact of the night confinement policy on patients was minimal. There appeared no consistent negative effects of confining patients overnight, and in fact, patients and staff were broadly positive about the impact the practice had on patients. This paper then carefully progresses to argue that a night confinement policy may have a positive contribution to the provision of an effective high-secure mental health service.
This paper is then followed by that of Nicola James and Joel Harvey, examining the psychosocial experience of role reversal for paraprofessionals providing substance misuse and offender treatment. This used a qualitative design and explored the potential protective factors of ex-offenders and substance misusers in the treatment and intervention of offenders. Their study noted four interesting themes: The Fragile Sense of Self, Hitting Rock Bottom, Belonging and Identity and Maintaining the Role Reversal. Although their sample size was small, the qualitative analysis was thorough and considered. They argue well the importance of further research in this area, exploring similar ideas with differing populations, focusing specifically on the desistance from crime.
Jenny Mercer and colleagues then follow with a valuable addition looking at the therapeutic potential of a prison-based animal programme in the UK. They present well the evidence in terms of the therapeutic potential of animals, and when working with vulnerable individuals. Their study is exploratory in nature, looking at the accounts of staff and forensic clients involved in a UK prison-based animal programme. Using a qualitative approach, they consider the views of service users and staff members in a forensic unit. Using thematic analysis they note four salient themes: A Sense of Responsibility, Building Trust, Enhanced Communication and Impact on Mood and Behaviour. Results note the overall positive impact on forensic clients by engaging with animals.
Melanie Merola's research is then presented, examining the experiences of young offenders on an indeterminate sentence. This was another qualitative piece exploring their experiences, noting several themes such as Injustice of the Justice System, Not Knowing, Coping, Change and Walking on Eggshells. Whilst they discussed the negative aspects of their sentence, they did notice a positive element, namely an inspiration that the sentence gave them the chance to change their offending behaviour. Although within this were more negative elements. They importantly note that lapses in motivation do not necessarily reflect the risk of the person but more the difficulty of the sentence, and they discuss ways in which motivation can be further maximised.
The final paper in this issue is Adrian Hayes and colleagues, and where they exam a novel service for psychiatric in-patients that are considered difficult to manage. They discuss a new service that was developed to provide transitional care between acute and secure services for those patients considered difficult to manage. They utilised a retrospective descriptive study by reviewing case notes, and further used qualitative interviews. They argue that the service provides appropriate interventions for managing clients with serious mental illness and challenging behaviour, and offer some helpful considerations in terms of service development.