Forensic Psychology and Law

Forensic Psychology and Law

Despite being different fields, law and psychology have a lot in common. While psychology seeks to comprehend behavior and law seeks to regulate it, both disciplines set standards on human motivations. This means that persons who are interested in the study of human behavior should not limit their job options to ones that may not initially appear to be related to psychology.

The fields of psychology and law investigate legal presumptions to see whether they are in fact true and consider ways to broaden them using resources, research techniques, and findings from social, cognitive, developmental, and clinical psychology.

For proper functioning of society a legal system is necessary. Legal system tries to solve many problems which exist in today‘s society. Psychology is not considered relevant by some legal authorities but it is relevant and important as law deals with theories of behavior.

Benefits of Including Psychology in Law

  • It helps in improving and shaping the decisions of decision makers by giving them much more accurate images and pictures of human perceptions and preferences.
  • It helps in checking the integrity of the witness as in many cases eyewitnesses can be influenced easily or can be threatened.
  • It helps in reduction of false confession.
  • Examination of various legally and socially significant areas is included in psychological studies.
  • True justice is ensured when the judgments are made after considering the psychological aspects of accused‘s mind.

There are two units of psychology which influence law and justice: legal psychology and forensic psychology, which together form psychology and law.

Legal Psychology

It deals with social and cognitive principles and their usage in legal system. Empirical and psychological research of law along with legal institutions is the basis of legal psychology. Forensic psychology is based on clinical orientation on experimentation unlike legal psychology.

Legal psychology importance can be seen in legal proceedings in various manners:

  • Academics and Research:– Legal psychologists basically conduct empirical research on new legal topics, which are yet to be popularized. They also work as mentors and guide the upcoming legal representatives.
  • Advisory Role:– Many a time it is seen that legal psychologists plays an advisory role in court systems. They advise the judges and legal decision makers on some psychological issues pertaining to the concerned case.
  • Trial Consulting– Sometimes, legal psychologists also work for trial consulting. In some cases, a psychologist who works as an academician is called up as a trial consultant when their expertise is helpful in any particular case. Trial consultants play different roles such as picking up the jurors, performing mock trials, etc.
  • Policy Making and Legislative Guidance:– A legal psychologist‘s work is based on empirical research and many a time there is a need to establish some policies based on empirical research. Hence, in those times of crises they help the state and national lawmakers.
  • Amicus Briefs:– Amicus briefs primarily means to provide opinions with a scientific backup and statistics. But the assistance which a legal professional provides in the form of amicus briefs is questionable.
  • Expert Witnesses:– Legal psychologists are well trained to handle legal issues even though they have no formal training. They are helpful in testifying the witnesses. They also test the memory of eye witnesses whereas the forensic psychologist particularly testifies the competency of the defendant.

Various Laws Related to Psychology

There are various acts and laws which are related to psychology. These are:

  1. Section 84, IPC
  2. The Mental Health Act, 1987
  3. The Lunatic Act, 1912

Section 84, Indian Penal Code

Act of a person of unsound mind:— According to this act if a person has committed an offence because of unsoundness of mind and does not understand the nature of his/her act. He/she does not realize that he is doing wrong or contrary to law.

Indian Lunacy Act, 1912

It is an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to Lunacy. There are certain definitions used in this Act which is as follows:

1. Asylum: An asylum or mental hospital for lunatics established or licensed by the Central government or any Stale Government.

2. Cost of Maintenance: In an asylum includes the cost of lodging, maintenance, clothing, medicine and care of a lunatic and any expenditure incurred in removing such lunatic to and from an asylum together with any other charge specified in this behalf by the State government in exercise of any power conferred upon it by this Act.

3. District Court: It means the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in any area outside the local limits for the time being of the Metropolitan towns.

4. Criminal lunatic: Any person for whose detention in, or removal to an asylum, jail or other place of safe custody, an order has been made in accordance with the provisions of section 330 or sections 335 and 336 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 or of section 30 of the Prisoners Act, 1900, or of section 103A of the Indian Army Act, 1911.

5. Magistrate: A Metropolitan Magistrate, District Magistrate, Sub-divisional.

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