Psychopathy assessments in forensic psychiatry: a pilot study of Canadian practitioners’ use and perceptions

Published date27 June 2022
Date27 June 2022
Subject MatterHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
AuthorRasmus Rosenberg Larsen,Jessica Burns,Reba Khoshabe,Nicole Raposo,Jarkko Jalava,Stephanie Griffiths
Psychopathy assessments in forensic
psychiatry: a pilot study of Canadian
practitionersuse and perceptions
Rasmus Rosenberg Larsen, Jessica Burns, Reba Khoshabe, Nicole Raposo, Danielle Sng,
Jarkko Jalava and Stephanie Griffiths
Purpose The purpose of this study was to survey practitioners’ use and perceptions of psychopathy
assessments in Canadian forensic psychiatric settings. Psychopathy assessments are widely used in
forensic settings to inform decisions about sentencing, placement, rehabilitation and parole. Recent
empirical evidence suggests that the utility of psychopathy assessments might be overestimated,
leading to a debate about their legal and ethical justification. However, one shortcoming of these
discussions is that they rely heavily on anecdotal evidence about how exactly psychopathy
assessments influence forensic decisions, due to a general lack of survey data on field uses. Some
data are available in European and American contexts, but little is known about Canadian clinical
Design/methodology/approach To address this shortcomingin the literature, the authors conducted
a pilot study of practitioners in forensic psychiatric units in Ontario (N= 18), evaluating their use of
psychopathyassessments, reporting habitsand their perceptions of psychopathicoffenders.
Findings Practitioners reported that they primarily used the Hare Psy chopathy Checklist-Revised
(PCL-R) as a risk assessment tool, often in combination with other tool s. Most clinicians reported
using psychopathy assessments infrequently, that the re was a low base rate of psychopathic
offenders and their attitudes and beliefs about psychopathy were generally consistent with the
empirical literature.
Originality/value This pilot study providesnovel insights into the use of psychopathy assessmentsin
Canadianforensic psychiatry with the potential to informcurrent debates.
Keywords Forensic psychology, Forensic psychiatry, Psychopathy, Psychopathic, Perceptions,
Utility, Survey
Paper type Research paper
Psychopathy is a broadly recognized clinical construct defined by callous personality
traits and antisocial behaviors (Hare et al.,2018). Over the past three decades,
clinical psychopathy assessments have become a routine part of forensic
evaluations (DeMatteo et al., 2014;DeMatteo and Olver, 2021;Hare, 2007), where they
reportedly play an important rolein guiding decisions about sentencing, placement, juvenile
transfer, treatment amenability, rehabilitation and parole (DeMatteo and Olver, 2021;
Polaschek, 2022). One of the most frequently used assessment tools is the Hare
Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) (Hare, 2003) and its two related scales: the Youth
Version (PCL:YV; Forth et al., 2003) and a Screening-Version (PCL:SV; Hart et al.,1995;
Singh et al.,2014;Viljoen et al., 2010). The PCL-R includes a total of 20 construct items,
categorized as behavioral or lifestyle items (such as early behavior problems and parasitic
orientation) and affective or interpersonal items (such as lack of remorse and empathy; for a
review, see Hare et al., 2018).
(Informationabout the
authorscan be found at the
end of this article.)
Received 24 February 2022
Revised 18 April 2022
Accepted 8 June 2022
This paper forms part of a
special section “Recent
developments in the
assessment, management and
treatment of psychopathy”,
guest edited by Michael Lewis,
Jamie L. Flexon and Jane L.
The authors would like to thank
Dr Tracy Rogers at the Forensic
ScienceProgram,University of
Toronto Mississauga, for her
comments and support. The
authors also send a special
thanks to the Editors and
Reviewers of the Journal of
Criminological Research, Policy
and Practice, who helped
significantlyim provethe final
version of this manuscript.
attention of the publisher that the
article: Larsen, R.R., Burns, J.,
Khoshabe,R., Raposo,N.,
Jalava,J. and Griffiths,S. (2022),
“Psychopathy assessments in
forensicpsychiatry:a pilot study
of Canadian practitioners’ use
and perceptions”, Journal of
Criminological Research, Policy
and Practice, Vol. ahead-of-print
No. ahead-of-print, https://doi.
0007, did not include Danielle
Sng as an author. Our guidelines
make it clear that anyone who
made a significant contribution
to thepaper must be includedas
an author. Danielle Sng has
been added as an author of this
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-02-2022-0007 VOL. 9 NO. 1 2023, pp. 1-13, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841 jJOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGICAL RESEARCH, POLICY AND PRACTICE jPAGE 1

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