Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical and Forensic)

School

School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Dr Greg Dear

Second Advisor

Dr Deirdre Drake

Abstract

The research reported in this thesis was designed to identify the methodology required for the pre-sentence evaluation of a juvenile, the skills and knowledge that inform this methodology, and the report content that should be communicated to the court.

Four sources of data were used: the available literature in the area, a Delphi study of psychologists with expertise in the area who conduct the evaluations and prepare the reports, a survey of judicial officers who receive the reports, and a reference group of psychologists to provide suggestions on how to resolve the minor discrepancies that emerged between the psychologists and the judicial officers. The results show consensus among psychologists on the skills and knowledge required for a pre-sentence report and content of a report. There was agreement on most aspects of methodology except for the need for a formal risk assessment (e.g., using scientific valid assessment tools) and the use of a model to guide the evaluation. In these areas, psychologists are out of step with recommendations in the professional literature. Judicial officers agreed that most content provided in a psychological pre-sentence report was helpful. However, they identified a number of areas where reports could be improved: methodology, transparency, relevance of content, comprehensiveness, and conciseness. Judicial officers provided clarification on a number of other areas: that scientifically based information on risk was always helpful and is mandatory for some offence types; that it was not appropriate for the court to provide feedback on the helpfulness of individual reports; that when addressing physical health or sentencing options in a report, psychologists should take care not to step outside their own competency and psychologists should make transparent the relevance to their data to the legal issue being addressed. The data highlight the need for steps to be taken to improve the standard and consistency of reports.

As the first step to improving standards and consistency, a decision-making model for pre-sentence evaluations is proposed. Having produced this model, researchers now need to test it in the field to determine if applying the model has a positive impact on the helpfulness of reports and if the model can be used in other countries to improve the validity and helpfulness of psychological reports for juvenile sentencing matters.

Access Note

Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 are not included in this version of the thesis.

Available for download on Sunday, March 10, 2024

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