Associate Professor Karl Roberts, senior lecturer and researcher at the CSU Australian Graduate School of Policing
in Manly, said, “Stalking is the offence of repeated unwanted attention from one person towards another that causes fear. Approximately 20 per cent of cases involve violence, and two per cent involve serious violence including homicide.
“Despite the fact that stalkers can inflict severe injury upon and have been known to kill their victims, there exists few violence risk assessment tools designed explicitly for use by police.”
Professor Roberts, and colleague Dr Lorraine Sheridan from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, developed the risk assessment tool in a politically sensitive environment at the request of police in the United Kingdom (UK) after a particular stalking-related murder there in 2007.
“While there are many clinical risk assessments available, these require a psychologist or psychiatrist to administer them and there were none for police to use following a report of stalking based on information they would have access to,” Professor Roberts said.
“We developed the assessment tool in four stages, and firstly analysed data from 13 000 male and female adults world-wide who had been victims of stalking.
“Analysis highlighted 11 factors that were most predictive of serious violence from stalkers, and showed the most important correlate was a high level of victim fear, which suggested that victims are adept at assessing their own risk of stalker violence. The reliability and validity of the checklist were assessed by analysing police files of stalking cases where the ultimate outcome of stalking was known.”
The checklist was developed with reference to the empirical evidence, and it had to be easy to understand and use, quick to fill in to ensure completion, use unequivocal terms and short yes-no items so the assessor could cover all relevant areas. It was then trialled with regional and metropolitan police forces in the UK for 12 months. Following positive evaluation for useability and risk identification, it was adopted UK-wide as Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy.
Professor Roberts is now exploring the implications for the use of the stalking risk assessment checklist by victims via stalking charity websites, to encourage the reporting of identified danger. He is also exploring the possibility of trialling the checklist with a number of Australian state police forces and victims’ group, and any organisation interested in this is welcome to contact him.
Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Karl Roberts. The paper, A risk checklist for stalking: the design and development of a stalking violence risk assessment tool for front line police officers
, was presented at the recent Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology conference
in Alice Springs, NT, 28-29 September 2010.
Associate Professor Karl Roberts is a senior lecturer at the CSU Australian Graduate School of Policing in Manly. He teaches specialized policing investigative skills training, interviewing and investigation management. His research focuses upon police investigative interviewing of suspects and witnesses, social psychological processes in counter terrorism and violence risk assessment. Dr Roberts is a United Kingdom Registered Forensic Psychology practitioner, a Chartered Forensic Psychologist of the British Psychological Society and a United Kingdom Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Approved Behavioural Investigative Advisor (BIA) and has provided behavioural advice to a large number of police investigations throughout the world.