By Avril Eyewu-Edero
Forensic psychology is the application of psychology to legal issues. Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior.
This discipline of Psychology works well in address why a person committed a crime, the mental state of the offender at the time of the crime, the ability of the defendant to testify in court and to advise on issues such as bail and sentencing.
A forensic psychologist can also help develop a criminal profile of a suspect for investigation and apprehension.
A Forensic psychologist can be useful in both civil and criminal cases. In civil cases such as divorce and child custody cases, for example, the forensic psychologist would help the court understand psychological reasons why a party should or should not have custody of a child or children.
This way the child’s wellbeing is prioritized based on psychological assessments carried out on the parents or guardian and other factors considered.
Whereas, In criminal cases, a forensic psychologist would help the court determine if the defendant is fit enough to stand trial, the psychological assessment of the offender, their ability to go through trial and the right punitive measures that should be applied in a case.
Forensic psychologists make their conclusions by providing psychological assessments after evaluating the person involved in the case, either offender or victim and they present their findings and opinion in court as an expert witness.
Forensic psychologists are also helpful to victims of crimes such as rape, domestic abuse, torture, incest by conducting investigations, extracting information about the incident from them without negatively affecting their emotions and offering the right treatment to help the victim recover from the trauma.
For criminal profiling, as seen in shows such as criminal minds, forensic psychologist can help the police create a psychological and physical profile of a suspect based on how the crime was committed and the suspects activities at the crime scene, to narrow down who they suspect the offender could be, that is, people that fit the profile.
For bailing and sentencing, the forensic psychologists are useful in helping the court determine what type of punitive measure would be the most effective for an offender and not just sentencing them to jail.
For example, a serial rapist might need a medical intervention for a psychological deficiency that allows him to repeatedly commit sexual offenses, if he doesn’t get that psychological disorder addressed medically and just sentenced to jail only, he would most likely be out of jail and return to old habits, which is referred to as recidivism.
Another useful aspect of forensic psychology in a criminal investigation it’s the application in criminal matters.
For example, In a homicide case where a woman who killed her husband claims she reacted after being tortured emotionally and physically by her husband for years, a forensic psychologist can help the court determines if a homicide was as a result of self-defense, the long term emotional torture and abuse resulting in a fatal violent act (out of character) or if the murder was a clearly premeditated.
We have not yet adopted the concept of using forensic psychologists in legal proceedings in Nigeria, but if considered, it would be very useful in helping judges, lawyers, and the police to investigate crimes, understand crimes and an offender better.
This way, the most effective punitive measures for the offender would be recommended, thereby reducing the chances of recidivism.