David Carson is Reader in Law and Behavioural Sciences at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, University of Portsmouth. He has written extensively on risk-taking, psychology and law. He is co-author of the book, Professional Risk and Working with People: Decision-Making in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
I had asked my social work students what additional topics they would like me to lecture upon. As a law lecturer I had explained how they could be sued for negligence and how easily they, and their evidence, could be misrepresented in court. So I should not have been surprised when they said they wanted to know how to take decisions that would avoid liability, and how to deal with lawyers’ cross-examination that is designed to misrepresent them and/or their evidence. They wanted instruction in how to prevent.
That required me to turn my teaching ‘upside down.’ I had to devise practical guidance on what to do, not merely list things not to do. But, from that (unwise?) question to my students, I developed a number of ideas and then separate workshops on how to take professional risk decisions and how to be an expert witness. Audiences, from many different disciplines, around the country stimulated my thinking and it led to two books: Professional Risk and Working with People (with Bain, A, 2008, London: Jessica Kingsley) and Professionals and the Courts: A Handbook for Expert Witnesses, (1990, Birmingham: Venture Press, out of print).
We do not focus, in the risk book, upon professionals’ specialist knowledge, for example the risk factors for child abuse. Rather we identify ways in which professionals can make decisions they will be able to justify if harm occurs which, because it is a ‘risk,’ it sometimes will. Now I am working with individuals and organisations (including policing), who have noted how the ideas not only tackle risk aversion but identify the critical roles and responsibilities of managers and employers. Prevention has considerable potential, not just for lecturing!
Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2009
David Carson is the co-author of Professional Risk and Working with People: Decision-Making in Health, Social Care and Criminal Justice ®. See the below link for more details.