In the 21st century, Forensic Psychology presupposes the application of psychology to the criminal justice procedure collectively. Forensic psychologists are engaged in the ideology of offending, offender profiling, the psychology of a given testimony, investigative interrogation, the psychology of the juries and judges and the psychological approach to the penalizing and treatment of the offenders. However, the scope of forensic psychology was narrow and is now expanding gradually.
In the 21st century, crime in India is considered as one of the major vices. Gradually, the proportion of the crime rate is increasing and causing pernicious effects on people, institutions and the society as a whole. Various methods have been inculcated in order to curb such cases, such as forensic odontology, criminal profiling, forensic psychology etc. These techniques are used based on the complexity of the crime, nature of the crime, evidence supporting the crime, nature of the crime and the level of forensic technology available.
The word forensic is derived from the Latin word ‘forensis’ which means ‘forum’, the place where trials took place in Roman times. Forensic psychology is the application of clinical psychology to legal matters, typically intending to evaluate the litigants whose mental states have some issue in the legal proceedings.It helps in ascertaining whether a suspect is guilty or not or whether he/she should be convicted or not. Furthermore, it plays a key role in punishing and preventing of crime. The word forensic can be defined as a “scientific method of investigation of crime”. Therefore, it is also described as a merger of law and psychology.
Forensic psychology is alternatively called Offender’s psychology. The theme of forensic psychology is based on explaining criminal behaviour and its criminality. It provides a basis and an idea on how to assess the offenders and aid them to overcome their behaviour through detention and modification, to avoid repetition of the same offence in the future. It focuses on the essential characteristics and manner of the offender through assessment, punishment and treatment.
In a situation where a crime is committed, a laymen person or the people surrounding the crime scene would contact the police, who then would arrive at the crime scene and collect all the valuable evidence from there, after collecting the evidence from the crime scene, the evidence is then delivered to the forensic laboratories where the evidence is tested by forensic psychologists.After the laboratory conducts the scientific assessment, they send their reports to the court of law to aid the court in deducing the best possible conclusion.
The history of Forensic Psychology dates back to 1968 when at the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the first lie detection division was set up. Earlier there were no formal training centres for professionals to be trained in lie detection, references were made from books and papers from the western culture on how to run lie detection tests.
In 1989, the court for the first time authorized to conduct narco-analysis and it was conducted by Dr. S.L. Vaya. But this test was conducted without the consent of the person in question, and it was pointed out that keeping the law and fundamental rights in mind consent and court sanctions are very important. Narco- Analysis is conducted in a room which is the same as an operation theatre with the help and guidance of a team of professional members that are doctors, nurses, and mental health practitioners.
In 2010 the Supreme Court held that tests like Brain Mapping, Narco-Analysis, and lie detection will be held only after consent and all the information received after conducting these tests is enforceable as evidence in the court of law.
In recent years, forensic psychology has seen a significant increase in popularity, both in the media and among younger generations. Indeed, many undergraduate students are drawn to forensic psychology under the mistaken impression that it is primarily used for criminal profiling.
The manner in which forensic psychology is presented is one of the reasons it is so popular. It’s presented in a fun, addictive, and entertaining manner. It allows us to stand back and observe how twisted people can be. In some ways, it’s a window into how different people’s brains work and how certain decisions, such as murder, can shape the brain differently.
Thus, there is a grey field observed on this as how on one hand courts find these scientific tools used by the forensic laboratories as violative of an individual’s fundamental rights and how on the other hand courts use the information extracted from tests to help them with crime scene analysis.
ROLE OF A FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST
The role that forensic psychologists play in the legal field is contrasting in nature. Forensic Psychologists apply the principles of psychology in the field of a specific criminal investigation. Forensic Psychology is used in criminal trials to ascertain whether the individual’s mental state meets the requisite legal standards. Psychology is a vast field, which has knowledge with regards to the clinical assessments, treatment and diagnosis criteria that the legal system can uphold in the field of forensic psychology.
The roles that psychologists perform when they become professionally involved in criminal proceedings are as follows:
In this situation, the Forensic Psychologist will usually be involved in the assessment of an individual in order to provide a clinical judgement. The psychologist could use interviews, assessment tools or psychometric tests to aid in his or her assessment. These assessments can inform the police, the courts, or the prison and probation services about the psychological functioning of an individual and can therefore influence how the different sections of the criminal justice system process the individual in question.
This may involve the Forensic Psychologist performing research to inform a case. This can involve carrying out experimental tests to illustrate a point or provide further information to the courts (for example, how likely it is that someone can correctly identify an object in the hand of an individual from a distance of 100 metres at twilight). Alternatively, it can involve psychologists providing the court with a summary of current research findings which may be relevant to the case in question.
Forensic Psychologists help to better understand the human behaviour of criminals, witnesses, victims, jury to attorneys or other legal professionals, by applying psychological expertise and research. Consultations can take several forms, such as:
– Law Enforcement Consultations
It includes assisting with criminal profiling, determining the psychological fitness of officers, or expertise in criminal behaviours. There are several methods and approaches related to criminal profiling, but there is still doubt about the efficiency and accuracy of criminal profiling in general.
– Trial consultants
Forensic Psychologists work with legal professionals and help them in preparing cases, jury selection, developing a case strategy, and witness preparation. Under this Forensic Psychologists rely heavily on research, to best advise the persons with whom they are working. As trial consultations are often hired by one specific side in a trial, psychologists are faced with many issues with respect to being neutral while consulting and should not choose aside to support and consequentially omit or create information that would be beneficial to one side or another.
– Expert Testimony
Expert witnesses have the ability to testify more knowledge of a situation or topic as they are experts in certain topics and have specialized knowledge about it, unlike fact witnesses, who are limited only to testify about what they know or have observed. The judge has the power to decide whether an expert witness will be accepted or not.
– Academia / Research
Academic Foreign psychologists engage in teaching, training, and researching students about foreign psychology, the psychology of criminal behaviour, courtroom, investigation, assessment, and treatment of offenders and also teach how to carry out criminal psychological research.
FUNCTIONS OF FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
1. Criminal Investigations–
The role of a Forensic Psychologist in Criminal Investigations can take a variety of forms.How psychologists can contribute extends well beyond the process of profiling offenders. The apprehension of the offender would be assisted by enhancing police decision-making and leadership skills, improving methods of interviewing witnesses and victims, developing accurate methods of recording, collating and analysing data on pre-conviction of offenders, developing a suspect prioritisation system based on empirical research and enhancing intelligence-led policing and the use of information.
2. Crime Analysis–
Crime Analysis is one field of work which draws upon Forensic Psychological methods.The most common role of crime analysts is that of case linkage. This process involves the linkage of crime based on the similarities in the behaviours of the offenders as reported by the victim or as inferred from the crime scene.
3. Criminal Investigative Analysis–
Offenders Profiling has received a great deal of attention with respect to high-profile cases that are brought to the public’s attention. What we can be clear about is that profiling uses information gleaned from the crime scene relating to the offender’s behaviour during the crime. This can be pooled with other information, such as victim statements, in order to conclude the nature of the person who committed the crime.
4. Interviewing, Detecting Deception and Eye Witness Research–
During an investigation, collecting reliable evidence to put together a case of the sequence of the events that took place. One of the main sources of this is the people who were an eyewitness to this on the crime scene.To gain this information, an interview needs to be conducted by the investigating officers to gain accurate information from the witness. After the suspect has been identified he or she too is interviewed to gain his or her view of events and to possibly extract a confession to the crime. Research performed by Forensic psychologists investigating the detection of deception also has useful applications for the police when interviewing witnesses and in particular suspects.
5. Police Psychology –
The application of psychological knowledge to assist the police in an investigation is an important function of forensic psychology. Psychologists have contributed their knowledge to the process of police officer recruitment by introducing psychometric tests which measure psychological characteristics that may be important concerning such work. These tests could assess, whether a person is an assertive individual, open to persuasion, and conscious of any detail. Psychologists have been instrumental in advising the police on what mechanisms would be beneficial to them, but will also provide professional services to police officers for their overall growth and development.
6. Expert Witness–
Court cases can involve complex issues including the presentation of information that is judged to be beyond the knowledge of the average layperson who may sit on a jury. In such situations, the court permits the calling of an expert witness who, by definition, has expertise relating to the issue in question. Under special circumstances, expert witnesses are permitted to provide their opinion on the issue being discussed.
7. Forensic Psychologists and Assessment and Treatment of Offenders –
Forensic Psychologists are heavily involved in work concerning the assessment, rehabilitation and management of offenders, either in the community or when held in incarceration. This role can involve working with the offenders to reduce their likelihood of reoffending in the future or a more clinical role addressing the psychological needs of offenders. Psychological needs can occur as a result of the effects of crime that they have committed or the internal and external environment within which they are nurtured or kept. Work of this nature can be both varied and challenging in nature.
8. Forensic Psychologists and Academia / Research
With the inevitable growth and interest in Forensic Psychology, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of Forensic Psychologists working within academia. Academic Foreign psychologists engage in teaching, training, and researching students about foreign psychology, the psychology of criminal behaviour, courtroom, investigation, assessment, and treatment of offenders and also teach how to carry out criminal psychological research. However, the role of academic foreign psychologists is not only limited to teaching, its main role is to carry out research in the field of interest. Every academic foreign psychologist has their research interest and they research its topic to get specialized knowledge about it.
ETHICS IN FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY
The ethical guidelines emphasize the importance of forensic psychologists who value the integrity, impartiality and fairness of the guidelines. They further give importance to the guidelines and simultaneously avoid conflicts of interest whenever possible.
Conflict of interest arises when a psychologist works as a consultant on one of the sides in a court case and when he is required to testify or evaluate something that contradicts the psychologist’s belief system or set of values. Furthermore, the psychologists are also faced with a situation to either resolve the perpetrator’s problems or issues or be a treatment provider in a case.
Other ethical guidelines involve obtaining consent from their clients before commencing any kind of assessment or communication from their end regarding the treatment or rehabilitation. Respecting and acknowledging the client’s privacy, confidentiality, privilege, and being impartial and objective during a trial weigh down the moral and professional obligation of forensic specialists.
As a matter of ethics, forensic psychologists have a certain duty towards society and therefore are expected to provide a certain percentage of reduced fees to individuals who are in need and cannot afford such services and also provide pro bono services.
In this profession, there is a thin line between being ethical and unethical due to various external and internal pressures. Psychologists have to keep in mind ethical concerns such as discrimination, bias or lying about certain facts because of corruption or pressure from powerful people. Certain incidents in which psychologists knowingly jeopardise a case and present a false narrative which does not end well for them.
This glimpse gives a detailed description of the core concepts and how forensic psychologists have to be placed in the role of forensic psychology. Offenders are formed through their nature and the manner in which they are nurtured. The baseline of the deviant behaviour portrayed by these individuals could be due to a lack of ethical reasoning and moral thinking. The issue of childhood trauma also has an underlying effect on the growth of these individuals. When forensic psychologists deal with the offenders, they are expected to have an eclectic approach. The Indian judiciary has considered an expert committee that is valued and is more transparent to the students who are all pursuing psychology and encourages them to raise awareness about the same. The scope of forensic psychology will create a greater impact on offenders and also in law and order.
The detention system is prepared to help the offender not experience trauma in their recovery process. The prisons in India need a good reform system so that the offenders can spend their time reforming themselves effectively. Instead of accusing them as criminals, it is wise to address their behaviour, understand their problems and then reform them at the moment. Empathizing with the offenders is a major concern for a forensic psychologist.
AUTHORED BY: HRITIKA SHROFF, Penultimate Year student at Siddharth College of Law, Mumbai University.
Forensic Psychology in Historical Perspective – Heather Wolffram
Handbook of Psychology, Forensic Psychology – By Irving B. Weiner, Randy K. Otto
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