Psychologists and the courts: Ethical issues

Document Type

Book Chapter


Cengage Learning Australia

Place of Publication

South Melbourne


Morrissey, S., Reddy, P., Davidson, G.R., & Allan, A.


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Arts and Humanities




Allan, A. (2015). Psychologists and the courts: Ethical issues. In Morrissey, S., Reddy, P., Davidson, G.R., & Allan, A. (Eds.), Ethics and professional practice for psychologists (2nd ed., pp. 103-110) . South Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.


Psychologists who interact with the courts often find it an unpleasant experience and some feel abused, disillusioned or frustrated; or find themselves the target of notifications or accusations that they brought the profession in disrepute. They often find themselves in this situation because they confuse their roles and legal-ethical obligations with those of forensic or expert-witness psychologists and therefore engage in activities that go beyond their competence and/or appropriate role in court. Psychologists with specialised forensic competencies and expert-witness (i.e., whose peers recognise them as experts in a specific field), however, use their knowledge and skills to collect information (sometimes using investigative techniques that in another role would be inappropriate) to prepare reports and to give testimony. Judges and magistrates (presiding officers) usually allow them to express opinions within their field of expertise as an exception to the rule that evidence must be factual, because they have knowledge and skills presiding officers lack. These psychologists’ responsibility flows from employment contracts or individual contracts with clients.

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