Lecture 20—Risk Assessment Thursday, March 17, 2011
- Huge area of research
- US- Forensic Psychology conference—they’d ask why all the Canadians are
researching risk assessment—Don Andrews, Bob Hare (UBC, psychopathy), Jim
Bonta public safety, system to track people everywhere
o This doesn’t exist in US
- A lot of Canadian researchers
- Quiz 3
o Did well—mean was 75%
o Over 50% in A range
- Violence Risk Assessment
o Two components—prediction and management
o Used to be that in the ‘70s-‘80s, people would say risk assessment is used
to determine whether someone is dangerous or not—dichotomy
o We’ve gone past that—no longer a dichotomy. Looking at range instead,
and probabilities (likelihood that someone would do a violent act)
o Used to be prediction—now it’s prediction and MANAGEMENT (want to
mitigate the risk)
- When would risk assessment be needed?
o Civil settings and criminal settings
o So many risk assessment tools
o Blue: civil settings
Civil commitment—someone taken to mental hospital, can’t take
care of himself/herself (mentally ill), have to do risk assessment
(should this person be sent back home? Risk factors for suicide?)
School threats—someone sends e-mail to teacher/student saying
he/she is pissed off, upset, student forwards e-mail to teacher,
principal, committee. Risk assessment—will this escalate to school
• **Base rate: prevalence of the thing. Ex. Base rate for
engaging in violence upon parole is 1%
• Extremely difficult to predict something with low base rate
• Difficult to identify who’s going to do a school shooting
based on the low base rate.
Child protection—context of whether to remove child from home
(abuse)—likelihood that parents would engage in more abusive
act, etc. Or in custody decisions, whether there’s risk.
Duty to warn
**Also: immigration—don’t want to allow people to immigrate if
they might engage in violence in our society
o Green: could be civil or criminal
Systematic research—plenty of this. Especially when coming up
with risk assessment tools. o Black: criminal settings
Sexual violent predator—only used in US. Individual who’s had at
least two prior sexual assaults, served sentence, and then will be
assessed at time of release. Need to make decision of the likelihood
that this individual will commit another sexual offense particularly.
• Predicting sexual re-offenses is very difficult—base rate
much lower than violent offenses.
• In 5 year follow up, about 11% re-offend. Base rate is low.
Despite this, in US, they say that they can predict which
sex offender will re-offend, so they do risk assessment and
keep them in jail.
• We don’t have that.
Death penalty—likelihood of future violence
Level of security—transferred into provincial/federal system, have
to decide between minimum, medium, maximum. Often based on
the evaluation of the individual—likelihood that this person might
escape. (although this decision is sometimes based on severity of
DO/LTO—evaluation of future risk. We talked about this.
Release decisions—we also talked about this. Day parole, full
parole, statutory release, etc.
**Also: bail decision—release on bail, or stay until trial.
Level of supervision—parole/probation officer every week, two
weeks, once a month, etc. Support.
- Duty to warn/protect
o Be familiar with Tarasoff case
o Very famous in California
o Tardar—student from India. Came to India. Didn’t know the norms of
relationships in North America.
o New Year’s Eve—victim (Tatanna) kissed him under mistletoe at New
Year’s Eve. He thought they would get married and lived together.
o Became very focused on her. She wasn’t interested. Kept pestering her,
she rejected him.
o She left to go to Brazil/Peru for summer program.
o He went to counselling services—talked to psychologist, mentioned how
upset he was that she “led him on”.
o Over second interview, he told psychologist that he wanted to kill her.
Psychologist had to make a decision—there’s a threat, he knows who the
victim. Do I break patient-therapist confidentiality or not?
o Psychologist decided to phone campus security (broke confidentiality),
told them that he was worried about the boy. Security went to his dorm
and talked to him, he denied it. Campus security AGAIN did a risk
assessment—determined he was not at risk
o Tatanna came back—October 1969—he went to her dorm with a knife and
stabbed her to death o **Her parents sued the university and the psychologist for not protecting
the victim. They claim that they and she were never told that she was at
If you know who the potential victim is, you should inform them.
Case was settled—university paid family.
Now it’s the case that if you’re a psychologist/psychiatrist and are
given threat of serious physical injury, you’re liable and must
contact that victim.
o He was convicted of manslaughter—served 4 years of a 5 year sentence,
got deported to India.
o In Canada, the Code of Ethics for Psychologists says that you must do
anything possible to prevent serious injury/death to anyone.
MAY include reporting to the appropriate authorities or an
MAY, not SHALL—don’t necessarily have to
- What would you do?
o Defence hires you—risk evaluation on client
40 year old, male, white, in Vancouver
Charged with aggravated sexual assault on prostitute (injury done
Out on bail
o During assessment:
Deviant sexual fantasies—kidnapping, sexually assaulting, killing
He says that the offense was a practice try out
Has a rape kit—soft red rubber ball for mouth, handcuffs, tape, etc.
Building up vacation time, to keep her for a few days and assault
o You write report, concluding that he is very high risk—may escalate to
sexual homicide—at risk RIGHT NOW.
o Defence attorney says that you won’t testify (doesn’t want you to say this
o **WHAT WOULD YOU DO?**
• Tell the media—warn sex trade workers that there is person
• Get licence plate number, phone up police, tell them to
follow him around.
• Tell prosecution lawyer.
o But if defence lawyers got together and realise that
you went and told prosecution, you wouldn’t be
likely to find much work.
• Contact the judge. Prof:
• This was actual case—Smith v. Jones
• Psychiatrist wrote to the judge, sent the judge parts of his
risk assessment report
• The individual was convicted of the aggravated sexual
• Went to supreme court
• Psychiatrist got in trouble with defence for breaking
confidentiality (got charged)
• **Supreme Court gave criteria for when to break therapist-
patient confidentiality and client-lawyer—if there’s
identified person, or group of persons.
o In this case, it was very clear. Sex-trade workers in
the east area.
• Has to be threat of death/serious bodily harm.
o Killing and raping for several days.
• Imminence of potential harm
o This was going to happen soon. Was planning
• Psychiatrist was charged professionally for breaking
confidentiality, but was cleared.
o There’s some debate as to how imminent this was.
o But the guy had a rape kit.
o **This was around the time that Robert Pickton was
picking up sex trade workers from Vancouver,
taking them to his farm and killing them.
o **They were disappearing at very high rate.
o **Psychiatrist thought maybe this guy was
involved. Sensed that he had to do something.
- Types of risk factors
o STATIC=historical, factors that do not change with intervention
Ex. Past criminal history, age, experiencing child maltreatment
o DYNAMIC=factors that fluctuate or can change
Ex. Substance abuse (current level), mental state (currently)
- Risk factors for criminal behaviour
o Risk factors for man and woman, children and adults, sex offender/violent
offenders/mentally disordered offenders, ARE VERY SIMILAR
o Big Four
• History of antisocial behaviour
o **PAST HISTORY: STRONGEST PREDICTOR
• Antisocial attitudes
o Justify it’s okay to do something that’s criminal in
nature, wouldn’t feel bad o Will do it—supporting your behaviour
o Pretty strong correlation
• Antisocial associates
o For juveniles: peer associates
o Associating with antisocial people
• Antisocial personality pattern
o Catch-all: people with callous, lack of empathy,
o **All of these are true for sexual offending
o Central Eight
Big four plus another four
• Family/marital problems
o Getting stressed, not getting support from family
• School/work problems
• Problematic leisure time
o Instead of pro-social