The word “forensic” is derived from the Latin word “forum” which was the place of public meeting in Roman cities, where the process of justice was carried out through debates. Today the term forensic is used to define the use of scientific methods and procedures to investigate crime. Forensic psychology is defined, therefore, as “the application of clinical specialties to legal institutions and persons who come into contact with the law”.
It consists of understanding the criminal law, carrying out legal evaluations and interacting with judges, lawyers and other legal professionals. It also includes the ability to make psychological findings and translate them into the language of the law, so that legal professionals understand the information. It is also essential that a forensic psychologist understand the philosophy of the law and legal processes.
The questions that are usually asked to a forensic psychologist are legal questions where the forensic psychologist must be able to convert the psychological data into legal language for the court.
Therefore, a forensic psychologist must have relevant training in psychology, including clinical psychology or counseling. Must acquire relevant experience in forensic psychology when working with other professionals.
Therefore, a forensic psychologist is very different from a typical clinical psychologist. A forensic psychologist does not see the situation from the client’s perspective; Neither has empathy with the client. During the evaluation process, it is important that the forensic psychologist examine the coherence of the factual data in various sources.
Functions of a forensic psychologist
There are several functions of a forensic psychologist. The main function is to provide testimony in court. This has become a rather daunting task because lawyers now have become quite competent to undermine the testimony of these psychologists in the court of law.
Apart from this, they also perform other functions. They are:
The psychologist is usually appointed by the court of justice to evaluate the person’s competence to a firm trial. If the evaluation indicates that the individual is incompetent to support the trial, it will also indicate the recommendations for the procedures to follow in order to make him competent for the trial. The forensic psychologist can also prescribe medication for the treatment of the individual. If these medications and treatments do not show the required effect, then the psychologist can advise the court to commit the person to a psychiatric center until he can be declared competent to support the trial.
The court appoints the forensic psychologist to assess the mood of the individual at the time of the crime. This happens when the lawyer begs his client not to be guilty and tells him the reason for the madness.
Often, the individual can also simulate mental illness symptoms during competency assessments. This will often be revealed by the forensic psychologist when observing the individual in other settings, because it is difficult to consistently maintain the false symptoms over a period of time. Such offenses can also add more time to the individual’s sentence, when he is found guilty.
An evaluation by a forensic psychologist is very important when considering the mitigation of the sentence for the individual. When the mental disorder of the individual does not meet the criteria to be “not guilty” when giving reasons for dementia for insanity, other considerations are taken into account. These include the state of mind of the individual at the time of the crime, relevant history of mental disorder and psychological abuse, medical history, family and social background, including physical abuse, mental abuse, domestic violence and exposure to traumatic events and criminal violence. The psychologist considers all of these factors before making a recommendation to the court about mitigating the individual’s sentence.
A psychologist is also referred while doing other evaluations in legal processes. One of these evaluations is to assess whether the individual will commit the same crime again or if it is still considered a danger to society. They are also consulted during probation hearings and parole hearings. They also provide an assessment of the individual’s ability to be rehabilitated after their release from jail. They provide information on the credibility of witnesses, help select the jury during the trial process and also provide profiles of offenders to law enforcement authorities.
Therefore, a forensic psychologist plays a very important role in today’s world, especially in the crossing of law and psychology.