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Purpose. Assessment is a core skill of clinical and forensic psychology practice and forms the basis of all ongoing engagements with offender/patients. In forensic settings, assessment involves the systematic gathering of reliable data on the characteristics of offenders and the offences which they have committed in order to develop understanding of the dynamics of offending and relevant intervention strategies. However, whilst the assessment process is aided by various protocols, no such instrument appears to exist for the assessment of an offender/patient's index offence. This paper presents a draft ‘index offence analysis guide’ designed by the present authors for this purpose and which has been piloted on prisoners and patients in secure settings.

Argument.  Evidence suggests that for various reasons, many clinicians do not routinely review crime scene data while working with offenders. However, this practice is arguably questionable, because how can decisions about admission, amenability to treatment, risk of reoffending, and discharge be made if there is limited awareness of what the offender/patient has done? The present authors argue that knowledge of the index offence is important to understanding the offender and suggest this can be obtained using a guide such as the one presented here. This is illustrated with an anonymous case.

Conclusion. Index offence analysis should be a core task of any forensic clinician engaged in the assessment of offender/patients as it can provide a better understanding of crime scene actions and offence motivations. This can help guide treatment planning and improve risk assessments.