The Forensic Psychiatric Report

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Abstract

The construction of a written forensic report is a core component of forensic practice, demonstrating the evaluator’s skill in conducting the evaluation and in communicating relevant information to the legal audience in an effective manner. Although communication skills and quality of written documentation are important in clinical psychiatry generally, they form the sine qua non of successful forensic work, which consists in telling complex stories in a coherent and compelling fashion. High quality forensic reports require careful preparation from the earliest stages of work on a case. They generally follow an expected structure, which permits the evaluator to provide all the data necessary to form a carefully reasoned opinion that addresses the legal questions posed. Formats and content of reports vary according to the type of case and the circumstances of the evaluation and so require flexibility within customary frameworks. The style and quality of writing are critical to the crafting of forensic reports. The effects on legal decision-makers of various approaches to the presentation of information in reports has not been studied empirically, but guidance from experienced forensic psychiatrists is available. There is a small body of research on quality improvement in forensic writing, and further empiric study is warranted. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2015;21:67–71)

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