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Violence Risk Assessment with the HCR-20V3 in Legal Contexts - A Critical Reflection (1 CE)


The HCR-20V3 is a violence risk assessment tool that is widely used in forensic clinical practice for risk management planning. The predictive value of the tool, when used in court for legal decision-making, is not yet intensively been studied and questions about legal admissibility may arise. This article aims to provide legal and mental health practitioners with an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the HCR-20V3 when applied in legal settings. The HCR-20V3 is described and discussed with respect to its psychometric properties for different groups and settings. Issues involving legal admissibility and potential biases when conducting violence risk assessments with the HCR-20V3 are outlined. To explore legal admissibility challenges with respect to the HCR-20V3, we searched case law databases since 2013 from Australia, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the UK, and the USA. In total, we found 546 cases referring to the HCR-20/HCR-20V3. In these cases, the tool was rarely challenged (4.03%), and when challenged, it never resulted in a court decision that the risk assessment was inadmissible. Finally, we provide recommendations for legal practitioners for the cross-examination of risk assessments and recommendations for mental health professionals who conduct risk assessments and report to the court. We conclude with suggestions for future research with the HCR-20V3 to strengthen the evidence base for use of the instrument in legal contexts.

Goals and Objectives

  1. Identify the practical applications of using structured risk assessment tools like the HCR-20 V3 in legal contexts
  2. Identify the most relevant problematic issues associated with using structured risk assessment tools like the HCR-20 V3 in legal contexts

Skill Level 



Image of Vivienne de Vogel

Vivienne de Vogel, PhD | Hogeschool Utrecht, de Forensische Zorgspecialisten, Universiteit Maastricht
Vivienne de Vogel is a psychologist and works as professor of Forensic Mental Health Care at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (endowed chair), Maastricht University and at the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, with the research group Working with Mandated Clients. Furthermore, she works as researcher at the Van der Hoeven Kliniek De Forensische Zorgspecialisten, a forensic psychiatric center in Utrecht, the Netherlands and as Scientific Advisor Adviescollege Verloftoetsing TBS. Her research focuses on gender-responsive working in forensic care, violence risk assessment, trauma-informed care, inpatient violence, and mental resilience of forensic mental health professionals. She developed several risk assessment tools together with colleagues, like the FAM for women and the SAPROF for protective factors.
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Tamara De Beuf, PhD | Ottho Gerhard Heldring Institution
Tamara De Beuf is postdoctoral researcher at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and Maastricht University, the Netherlands. She is trained as a clinical and forensic psychologist and recently received her PhD from Maastricht University. Her research focuses on forensic risk assessment and legal psychology topics such as cognitive bias in expert work. She has worked as an implementation coordinator to implement risk assessment in Dutch secure youth care. Tamara is associate editor for the Dutch section of the Inquisitive Mind. She can be followed on Twitter.
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