Important Information

For Lawyers

 

 

What does an expert need from a referring lawyer to ensure that all parties get the optimal result ?

 

This is a checklist that lawyers should consider if they want to get the best out of a psychological report:

 

1. Provide clear and precise questions.

 

A good solicitor will ask as many questions as they consider should be relevant for their client. A lazy solicitor rarely asks specific questions.

 

In criminal matters the logical questions may include:

 

a. Does my client have a mental health condition relevant to his or her matter?

b. What evidence is there to support this diagnosis?

c. What is the relationship between the client's mental health and his or her offending?

d. How might this condition be optimally treated, both within the prison system and within the community?

e. Are there any issues in relation to mental impairment legislation that may impact upon the client?

 

In civil matters the logical questions may include:

a. Does my client have a mental health condition relevant to his or her matter?

b. What evidence is there to support this diagnosis?

c. What were the circumstances of the subject civil claim (e.g. accident , criminal injuries etc)

Is there a  causal relationship between the client's mental health and the subject incident?

d. How might this condition be optimally treated ?

e. Is the condition stable?

f. Is the condition likely to be permanent ?

g. When might a further review be required?

 

2. Psychologists need your assistance with  relevant material in order to produce reports that have most merit.

 

Please ensure that with any referral the following are included:

  • relevant questions in referral letter (see above)

  • copies of any previous reports (e.g. presentence report, psychiatric report, treatment report, etc)

  • Police Apprehension Report (s)

  • Offender History Report

  • relevant witness statements

 

3. A good report will be evidence-based.

 

A report will provide evidence that utilises valid and reliable instruments in order to address the relevant legal questions.

 

The psychologist should know what test to use and when.

 

Some tests are better than others, and the quality of the test used will often influence the weight that can be placed on it. In many respects, a valid and reliable test can be as useful source of evidence as a  DNA measure  – provided it is properly administered and interpreted.

 

Some of the best tests include:

  • Ishihara Colour-Blindness Test (test of colour blindness)

  • Kaufmann Brief Intelligence Test (test of intellectual function)

  • Complex Figure Test (test of executive functioning)

  • Memory Assessment Scale (comprehensive test of memory function)

  • Personality Assessment Inventory (test of clinical psychopathology)

  • NEO Personality Inventory – Revised (test of personality type)

  • Child Abuse Potential Inventory (test of possible child abuse perpetrator)

  • Inventory of Offender Risk, Needs And Strengths (test of potential recidivism)

  • MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool – Fitness To Plead (measure of an individual's potential fitness to give evidence in court)

  • Rogers Criminal Responsibility Assessment Scale (test of competency – mental impairment section 269C)

 

4. Give the Psychologist adequate time to prepare the report

 

Don't leave it to the last minute.

In organising a psychology assessment and report the psychologist will need time to :

  • schedule the assessment date (allow at least 2 weeks),

  • undertake the assessment with relevant psychometric testing,

  • follow-up with any collateral information (e.g. speaking with teachers or parents or employers),

  • score the psychometric tests

  • write the report in a careful and considered manner.

The assessment may then involve a session between 1½ and 3 hours.

Preparation of the final report should be completed within 4 weeks from the time of the assessment.

It is also good to speak with the psychologist after the assessment has been completed in order to communicate any further information that may be relevant for the psychologist to assist in his or her preparation of the report.

 

5. Clarify funding 

 

Communicate the funding clearly to the psychologist so there is no ambiguity (e.g. whether the matter is privately funded or is a legal aid matter) and that the money has been placed in trust.

 

It can be embarrassing if a solicitor fails to pay his or her fees to the psychologist in an appropriate time frame (within 30 days of receiving the report). Such matters may attract Law Society attention.

Don't become an embarrassment to your profession.

 

​© 2015 by White & Associates Psychologists.

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