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HCR-20 violence risk assessments as a guide for treating and managing violence risk in a forensic psychiatric setting

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Over the past decades there has been a vast development in the research into risk factors for violence and the development of risk assessment instruments. One instrument that has been given special attention is the HCR-20 violence risk assessment scheme. However, little attention has been paid to the clinical applicability of this tool, i.e. how does this assessment scheme perform when utilized in clinical practice as a tool to guide intervention and management in order to alleviate risk of violent behaviour? The present study was a true prospective study into the utilization of the HCR-20 as a clinical routine. Data on forensic psychiatric patients (n = 81) from a forensic unit in Denmark are presented. As part of a clinical routine all patients were assessed for risk of future violence utilizing the structured professional judgement model, the HCR-20. Outcome measures were aggressive episodes during hospitalization and new convictions post discharge. The predictive validity of the HCR-20 was lower compared with previous findings. It is argued that this does not necessarily indicate poor predictive accuracy of the HCR-20. Rather, it may indicate that the HCR-20 is suitable for guiding risk management in order to prevent violent behaviour.

Keywords: HCR-20; forensic clinical practice; structured professional judgement; violence risk assessment; violent recidivism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology,Copenhagen University, Copenhagen, Denmark 2: Department of Psychology,Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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