A response to Dr. Gudjonsson's commentary

Dernevik, Mats, Beck, Alison, Grann, Martin , Hogue, Todd and McGuire, James (2009) A response to Dr. Gudjonsson's commentary. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 20 (4). pp. 520-522. ISSN 1478-9949

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We thank Dr Gudjonsson for his thoughtful response to our article on a
complex and controversial issue. He places our paper in the context of the
Home Office commissioning independent ‘experts’ to conduct risk
assessments. It was indeed such an assessment that inspired us to write
the paper and to draw attention to some of the concerns for professional and
ethical practice. In our view, the central arguments of our paper still hold,
and therefore we are grateful for the opportunity to address the points he
First, our central argument is that there is no proper empirical basis for
applying existing risk assessment scales used in mental health settings to the
population under discussion. Dr Gudjonsson’s response does nothing to
address that criticism. His contention that an ‘informed and valid risk
assessment of convicted terrorists provides important information for
authorities seeking to protect their citizens from future harm’ is both
unfounded (there are no informed or valid assessments available) and
untested (there are no outcome data that indicate it would be helpful even if
there were). The standard type of evidence we would expect to see to support
the use of a risk assessment measure would consist, for example, of a followup correlational study or an experimental trial. A recent review of the most
widely used instruments for violence risk assessment, including the HCR-20,
has been reported by Farrington, Jolliffee, and Johnstone (2008). That
review relies, as scientifically we would expect it to, on evidence from followup studies of prisoner cohorts and similar sets of data. As far as we can
establish there is no parallel to this in relation to persons who have engaged
in terrorism. If there is, it seems odd that Dr Gudjonsson does not cite it.

Additional Information:Published online 5th August 2009
Keywords:ethics, human, letter, medical research, mental disease, mental health, priority journal, prisoner, professional practice, risk assessment, safety, terrorism, violence
Subjects:B Subjects allied to Medicine > B760 Mental Health Nursing
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Health & Social Care
ID Code:9853
Deposited On:10 Jul 2013 11:19

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