Psychological pre‐sentence evaluations for sentencing young offenders in Australia [2019]

Drawing upon extant Australian and International literature we sought to identify the skills and knowledge psychologists require to competently evaluate Australian young offenders for sentencing. We also sought to identify the key ethical and methodological issues that Australian psychologists should be aware of before commencing a forensic evaluation of a young offender.

Using search terms “expert witness, pre‐sentence report, pre‐sentence report, forensic mental health assessment, Forensic Mental Health Assessment, forensic assessment, methodology, forensic model, and sentencing juveniles” we searched for peer reviewed articles published between the years 2000–2018 on the PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, and ProQuest data bases.

Drawing upon available literature we identified the knowledge and skills required for evaluations and the ethical standards available to help guide the evaluation. Due to the lack of Australian research in this area, we had to rely on international literature regarding recommended evaluation methods. There is no clear statement on what the psychology profession in Australia believes is an appropriate evaluation methodology and what content is required in a pre‐sentence report. There is no specific data clarifying what Australian judicial officers find helpful in pre‐sentence reports.

Our article highlights the need for further research into Australian evaluation methodology for pre‐sentence reports, and the need for professional standards and guidelines specific to Australian jurisdictions.

Debra Bycroft, Greg E. Dear, Deirdre Drake
Australian Psychologist, Volume 55, Issue 5, October 2020