SHE Level 4
SCQF Credit Points 20.00
ECTS Credit Points 10.00
Module Code MHC822392
Module Leader Phil Dalgarno
School School of Health and Life Sciences
Subject Psychology
  • A (September start)

Pre-Requisite Knowledge

Any level three Psychology module

Summary of Content

The aim of this course is to consider some of the major themes in the application of psychology in criminological and legal settings. The course is concerned with a variety of topics, including the development of criminal behaviour in general, and the development of specific types of criminality such as violent offending, sex offending, and drug use as well as the application of psychological principles in a variety of forensic settings with particular focus upon how psychology contributes to the assessment and treatment of offending behaviours and in police and court work.


The syllabus considers possible causes of crime, aggression and violence from a psychological viewpoint and examines specifically the range of issues presented by different offenders and offence types. Topics include: serious and persistent offending; juvenile delinquency and gang membership; domestic violence; sex offending , stalking, and fire raising . Individual characteristics and lifestyle choices which might contribute to criminality such as gender, mental disorder and disability, psychopathy and substance misuse are discussed, whilst possible socio-environmental influences (such as abuse experiences and exposure to violence) are also a focus in terms of their potential influence on offending behaviours. An overview of key aspects of forensic practice is also provided in terms of risk assessment and management and the treatment of offenders and the role of forensic psychology in legal settings .

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:- demonstrate a knowledge and critical understanding of key areas of forensic psychology - demonstrate an understanding of the importance of psychological theory in explaining criminal behaviour, and in developing intervention strategies to prevent and reduce offending- have the ability to reflect upon and critically evaluate theoretical arguments and research evidence-awareness of forensic psychological practice and the importance of ethical practice in line with BPS guidelines

Teaching / Learning Strategy

2 x 1 hour lectures per week and hour long seminars running week 2-11 Lectures and seminars are delivered by members of the forensic team here at GCU with guest lecturers from services such as the State Hospital (Carstairs) and the Scottish Prison Service and from visiting academics specialising in research in forensic settings. This mix of speakers ensures that information is relevant and up to date in terms of forensic practice. Seminars involve a combination of tutor presentation, student debate and practical exercises providing the opportunity to apply knowledge to real life scenarios. Online support is available through Blackboard (e.g. lecture presentations/additional materials/discussion groups).

Indicative Reading

Blackburn, R. (2001) The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (2nd edition). Chichester: Wiley. Davies, G., Hollin,C. & Bull, R. (2008). Forensic psychology, Chichester: Wiley Gudjonsson, G. H. (2003). The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions - a Handbook. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons. Howitt, D. (2009) Introduction to Forensic and Criminal Psychology, Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd Hollin, C. R. (2006). Offending Behaviour Programmes: Development, Application, and Controversies, Chichester, Wiley. Milne, R., & Bull, R. (1999). Investigative Interviewing: Psychology and practice. Chichester: Wiley Roberts, A (2007) Handbook of Forensic Mental Health with Victims and Offenders: Assessment, Treatment and Research , New York: Springer. Please note these are introductory texts only. Much of the reading for this module will be in the form of current journal articles in the area. Supplementary reading lists will be provided by individual speakers or posted on blackboard. Key Journals Addiction, Psychology, Crime and Law; Criminal Justice and Behaviour; British Journal of Forensic Practice; British Journal of Criminology; Aggression and Violent Behaviour; Legal and Criminological Psychology.

Transferrable Skills

Through a combination of taught lectures, seminars and private study students will learn: to think critically and independently about psychological theories and empirical research in forensic psychology; evaluate research and journal articles in a systematic manner; look for the applied value of research and become aware of some of the challenges faced by forensic psychologists and researchers working in the field. In combination this will allow students to understand more about the role of forensic psychology in real world settings.

Module Structure

Activity Total Hours
Seminars (FT) 10.00
Lectures (FT) 24.00
Independent Learning (FT) 144.00
Assessment (FT) 18.00
Tutorials (FT) 2.00

Assessment Methods

Component Duration Weighting Threshold Description
Exam (Exams Office) 2.00 40.00 35% 2 hour formal examination
Coursework 1 n/a 40.00 n/a 2000 word essay
Coursework 2 n/a 20.00 n/a Group presentation