Role of Criminal Psychologist

Criminal psychology is a multifaceted discipline that applies knowledge and techniques from other disciplines to the study of criminal behavior. And, criminal psychologists are involved in many areas of forensic science, including police psychology, court personality assessments, crime investigation, and post-conviction evaluation.

What is Criminal Psychology?

The fields of psychology, criminology, and law are all combined in the study of criminal psychology. When psychologists started providing professional viewpoints on criminal behavior and speculating about the potential factors that drive one to do such crimes in the middle of the twentieth century, this field of study was born.

Criminal psychology is the examination of a criminal's thoughts and actions in order to assess and identify patterns that may help the police or other law enforcement agencies catch criminals or support a court's proceedings.

Although there are many definitions of "criminal psychology," there is still no universally accepted definition of the term. It can be characterized as a science that uses psychological knowledge to assist investigative institutions effectively in completing their tasks.

Who are Criminal Psychologists?

A criminal psychologist is someone who is trained to deal with the mental health issues of clients who are facing charges or probation, as well as treatment for their illegal activity. They'll also provide information on how certain parts of the justice system work. This includes writing reports on their findings and giving recommendations for further action.

A criminal psychologist researches the actions and ideas that offenders have. Examining the causes of criminal behavior makes up a significant portion of a criminal psychologist's work. They may also examine convicts to determine their risk of recidivism (how likely they are to commit crimes again in the future) or to make informed assumptions regarding the course of a criminal's possible post-crime behavior.

What is the Role of Criminal Psychologists?

Criminal psychologists primarily examine the activities and conduct of offenders to generate data required for a court decision or law enforcement decision.

Surveys, interviews, and research are used to gather information for criminal prosecution. Criminal psychologists perform their duties by assessing the suitability of parents for custody of a child in a child custody case after taking the needs and preferences of the child into account. They also act as expert witnesses in court, supplying psychiatric confirmation of any claims of mental illness made by the defendant.

A criminal psychologist could assess a defendant, for instance, to determine whether or not they are competent to stand trial. To create a timeline of events, they could also speak with the crime victim. Criminal psychologists are permitted to testify in military tribunals on the defendant's mental state at the time of the alleged offense.

Criminal psychologists frequently testify as experts in court in addition to assisting law enforcement with crime-solving or examining the conduct of criminal offenders. Offender profiling, often known as criminal profiling, is arguably one of the most well-known responsibilities of a criminal psychologist.

Criminal psychologists' principal duties also include giving expert evidence. Criminal psychologists who practice in civil, family, criminal, and military courts may testify at a custody hearing on which parent they believe is better suitable for custody of minor children. To have a better understanding of what happened and determine if a witness would be credible while testifying, they may also work with witnesses or victims, especially kids.

These psychologists may be employed at a correctional facility where they evaluate prisoners to ascertain their propensity for recidivism as part of their tasks and responsibilities. They offer guidance and therapy to help people get better and get through probation. Criminal psychologists working for the government help choose the jury for defense or prosecution.

One of the pioneers of criminal psychology in the UK, Professor Lionel Haward, originally described the functions that psychologists carry out when they are professionally involved in criminal procedures. These are listed below −

  • Clinical − With the use of interviews, various psychometric tests, and other assessment instruments, the psychologist typically evaluates the person in this situation to make a clinical judgment and tell the police, jurors, and probation services about the psychological functioning of the person. People may be evaluated by a psychologist to determine if they are mentally healthy or not, whether they will be able to grasp the court procedures, and whether the suspect is fit to face trial. These evaluations will affect how the criminal justice system operates and how the trials are conducted.

  • Experimental − In this capacity, the expert does research to gather factual information for the current case. This entails conducting evaluations utilizing psychological tests to offer commentary on a matter or provide additional information to support the courts' decision-making process (e.g. how likely it is that someone can correctly identify an individual driving on the highway, from a distance, in the dark). Alternately, it might entail psychologists summarizing for the court the results of recent research that pertain to the situation at hand.

  • Actuarial − In this position, statistics are used to tell the court about the likelihood of an event occurring, such as the likelihood that a criminal offender would commit another offense. In this situation, the court may ask a psychologist to provide input on the pre- or post-sentence report.

  • Advisory − The psychologist may assist the police in matters pertaining to an investigation in this capacity. A criminal psychologist's presentation of an offender's profile or suggestions for how to interview a particular suspect or cross-examine witnesses in court might benefit the investigation. A psychologist serves in this capacity as a consultant to the probation, judicial, and police departments.

The above-mentioned functions of psychologists outline the variety of diverse situations within the criminal justice system when their assistance is required. The most significant function of criminal psychologists is the support they offer in a criminal investigation.


With the increasing number of crimes reported every year, and with a justice system that limits the number of criminals that we can imprison, the need for criminal psychologists does not show signs of slowing down. Criminal psychologists are among the people who work with both the criminals and courts and help them with an appropriate advice.