module specification

PY7004 - Professional Context and Practice of Forensic Psychology (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Professional Context and Practice of Forensic Psychology
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 20
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 200
153 hours Guided independent study
47 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50% 50 1500-2000 word Professional Report
Oral Examination 25% 50 10 minute Presentation Based on Court Observation
Oral Examination 25% 50 Oral Defence of Professional Report (10 minutes)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Wednesday Morning

Module summary

PY7004 is a Spring semester module in which students will introduced to the legal and professional influences upon the context and practice of Forensic psychology. There will be aparticular emphasis onpractice within the UK but many of the skills discussed (e.g. expert testimony) will apply to other jurisdictions.  Students taking this module will study alongside students taking PY7169 although will undertake a different assessment pattern. Assessment for PYP004 will consist of a 10 minute presentation based on visits to different types of courts, a 1500-2000 word professional report and an oral defence of this report (of approximately 10 minutes duration).

Prior learning requirements

Restricted to students studying MSc Forensic Psychology

Module aims

This module aims to ensure that students have an awareness of the key professional requirements of psychologists working within Criminal or Legal settings within the UK. This will include familiarisation with the English legal system, knowledge of key legislation, awareness of ethical and professional practices relevant to working for a range of different clients, and relevant professional practices-  including the nature and style of professional communications (e.g. responding to requests from solicitors, requests for consultancy services). 


Topics will be drawn from the following areas

The syllabus will include coverage of each of the following bulleted areas:
• The processes, institutions and individuals constituting the justice system framework (civil and criminal) in England and Wales;
• The impact of legislation and codes of conduct on forensic psychology practice (e.g., Data Protection Act 1998; European Convention on Human Rights; UN Convention on the Rights of the Child);
• Expert psychological testimony in the civil and criminal courts;
• Ethical and practical issues in report writing in other criminal and civil justice system contexts (e.g., risk assessment reports for Discretionary Lifer Panels or Mental Health Review Tribunals); Working for different types of client;
• Working in multi-disciplinary teams;
• Consultancy within Criminal and Legal Settings (e.g. training, external consultant, crisis negotiation).

Learning and teaching

This module will consist of workshops, lectures, and directed field trips. There will be a particular emphasis on the demonstration of academic understanding through mechanisms which support professional practice and employment skills. For example, students will be expected to present their professional options in relation to workshop exercises (e.g. related to consultancy), and within formal reports (as assessed by the formal case report) or in response to oral challenge.
In order to benefit from the module students will be expected to prepare work in advance for many of the sessions. Thus their time management, commitment to their studies and demonstration of respect for colleagues will be a key to successful completion of this aspect of their course.
Oral defence exposes students to a “real-world”situation which challenge them across different skills required for their professional development. Students have to demonstrate good abilities of time management as they have to defend their report in a 10 minutes session of questions. Also, they have to maintain a professional etiquette as they were in front of the court and use appropriate language. This assessment constitutes an important step for students’professional development.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Understand fully the roles of and relationships between the different institutions in the civil and criminal justice processes within England and Wales;
2. Critically evaluate how key domestic and international legislation and codes of practice impact upon the role and remit of criminal psychology;
3. Demonstrate acritical awareness and understanding of the key professional and ethical issues involved in professional forensic practice;
4. Understand the practical process of, and professional issues raised by, providing professional advice within a variety of formats (both written and orally)
5. Evaluate complex case material and present their conclusions in formats suitable for different  professional audiences.

Assessment strategy

This module will be assessed via three different assessment methods – each of which supports the development of professional, academic and employment skills. In summary the module requires students to deliver a comparative presentation based on court observation (25%), write a professional report which provides an expert opinion (50%) about case study material and finally to respond, in oral format, to questions about the report contents (25%).


Bernstein, B.E. and Hartsell, T.L. (2004). The portable lawyer for mentalhealth professionals an A-Z guide to protecting your clients, your practiceand yourself (2nd Edition). New York: Wiley and Sons.

The British Psychological Society webpage on ethical guidelines and support [web page] .Last accessed 7th March 2011

The British Psychological Society (2010).Expert Witness Guidance (3rd ed). [Web Page]$.cfm?file_uuid=FE6DDFB7-D213-5A58-1EA1-F984AF4F7A3B&ext=pdf. Last accessed 7th March 2011

Brodsky, S. (2004). Coping with Cross-Examination and other pathways toeffective testimony. Washington DC: American Psychological Society.

Bond, T &Sandhu, A (2005). Therapists in Court: Providing evidence and supporting witnesses. London: Sage

Ireland, C.A. & Fisher, M.J. (2010).Consultancy and Advising in Forensic Practice: Empirical and Practical Guidelines. Chichester: BPS Blackwell


Law and Human Behavior.

Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Lethard, A. (2003). Interprofessional Collaboration: From policy to practicein health and social care. London: Brunner Routledge.

Needs, A. and Towl, G. (2004). Applying Psychology to Forensic Practice. Oxford: BPS Blackwell.

Platow, M.J. (2002). Giving professional presentations in the behavioural sciences and related fields a practical guide for the novice, the nervous, and the nonchalant. Hove: Psychology Press.


Psychology, Crime & Law

Towl, G. J. &Crighton, D. A. (1996). Handbook of psychology for forensicpractitioners. London: Routledge.

Young, S.,Kopelman, M.&Gudjonsson, G. (2009). Forensic Neuropsychology in Practice: A guide to assessment and legal processes. Oxford: OUP