Threat Assessment Goes to Court: Threat Assessor as Expert Witness

Threat Assessment Goes to Court:
Threat Assessor as Expert Witness

Professor James R. P. Ogloff AM

Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare

The field of threat assessment draws from many areas of clinical and forensic practice (e.g., risk assessment, risk management, scenario planning, clinical diagnosis). However, the field is developing its own epistemology, tools, and techniques. Given the applied nature of the field, and its interface with the criminal justice system, threat assessors are increasingly finding themselves providing evidence to courts and tribunals. However, little work exists to guide practitioners in this regard. This workshop is relevant not only to threat assessors who appear as expert witnesses, but also to those who may be required to appear as fact witnesses or be required to justify their assessments and managements plans within a legal context, including threat assessors within law enforcement, government departments and corporate security. The workshop will provide information regarding the basic rules of evidence relevant to witnesses and opinion evidence (i.e., expert evidence). The roles threat assessors and the range of their interfaces with the legal system will be reviewed. Using exercises and discussion, the range and nature of tools and techniques involved in threat assessment will be considered. Information will also be obtained from participants regarding their experiences with the provision of reports and evidence in legal contexts based on their threat assessment work. That information will be used to underpin the issues arising for witnesses. Strategies will be discussed for navigating the legal situations that may arise. Finally, evolving practice guidelines for witnesses will be reviewed. The workshop will conclude with discussions about limitations of expert evidence in the context of threat assessment and matters arising for future consideration.


James Ogloff is trained as a lawyer and psychologist. He is Foundation Professor of Forensic Behavioural Science and Director of the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Swinburne University of Technology. He is also Executive Director of Psychological Services at Forensicare. Professor Ogloff was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2015 for significant service to education and to the law as a forensic psychologist, as an academic, researcher and practitioner. Professor Ogloff has specific expertise in forensic psychology, forensic mental health, mental health law, and the assessment and management of offenders. He has particular expertise in correctional and forensic mental health. In his clinical work, he assesses and assists with the management of some of the most difficult offenders in Australia and abroad. He is a Past-President of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law and a former Chair of the College of Forensic Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society. He is a Past-President of the Canadian Psychological Association and a Past-President of the American Psychology-Law Society. Professor Ogloff has published 18 books and more than 300 scholarly articles and book chapters. He has served as editor and associate editor of leading scholarly journals in his field. He is the recipient of the distinguished contributions awards in law and psychology/forensic psychology from the Australian Psychological Society, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the American Psychology-Law Society.

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