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- Peer Reviewed practice
The Netherlands Institute of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology (NIFP) is the Dutch centre of expertise for forensic psychiatry and psychology. It is a national service of the Ministry of Justice, incorporated in the Dutch National Agency of Correctional Institutions (DJI). The NIFP provides independent psychiatric and psychological expertise (diagnosis, care and advice) for children, juveniles and adult detainees in the Netherlands. The NIFP advises the judiciary on suspects, establishes high-quality forensic diagnostic assessments, sound and equal psychiatric care and treatment for detainees, and carries out scientific research, and education and training for professionals so that they may develop, obtain and promote professional forensic standards.
The NIFP has the expertise in developing and handling forensic datasets. The NIFP has know-how on transferring and implementing research findings into the practical field of forensic psychiatry and psychology, and professionals in prisons and probation services. Since the attack on the Dutch qQueen in 2009 and the shooting spree in a shopping centre in Alphen in 2011, expertise has been gained on extremist attacks, psychiatric autopsy and incident-handling in a public space and within the family.
Type of Organisation: Governmental institution
The Violent Extremism Risk Assessment, version 2-Revised (VERA-2R), is specifically designed, via the structured professional judgment (SPJ) approach, to analyse the risk of violent extremism. The first VERA was developed in 2009 and arose from the increasing need to assess the danger and risk posed by ideologically motivated violent individuals.
Existing risk-assessment instruments, used to assess risk factors associated with common forms of individual violence, were not — and are still not — sensitive to known characteristics of terrorists and violent extremists.
The first VERA was introduced by Pressman. The indicators used in the protocol were based on existing knowledge of violent extremists and terrorists, and were integrated into a structured professional judgment methodology. VERA was introduced by Pressman as a consultative approach.
Following feedback from terrorism experts, national security analysts, and law enforcement operatives working on terrorism offences — as well as the application of VERA with convicted terrorists in high security prisons, VERA was revised as the VERA-2. Reliability and validity data (Pressman & Flockton, 2012) were also integrated.
The current VERA-2R is a revised and enhanced version of the VERA-2, made possible through literature research. VERA-2R uses more specified dynamic indicators known to be consistent with the radicalisation process to violent extremism. The status of these risk indicators and risk-mitigating indicators can change over time at an individual level. The monitoring of these indicators at successive points in time permits the establishment of risk trajectories that are crucial for assessing, increasing or decreasing risk at an individual level.
VERA-2R can be used as a supplementary approach by psychologists and psychiatrists with knowledge of violent extremism. It can also be used by analysts of security and intelligence services, forensic social workers, including social rehabilitation professionals, and police forces or others tasked with assessing people suspected of violent extremist or terrorist criminal offences. Users must be trained in the methodology and interpretation of VERA-2R before using it. They must also understand the role and effect of ideologies that justify the use of violence, of behavioural indicators and of the impact of digital and other communication systems. In addition, assessors should be familiar with the risk indicators relevant to violent extremism, the criterion definitions, and the advantages and limitations of the VERA-2R approach.
VERA-2R contains 34 indicators specifically related to violent extremism. They are divided between five domains: Beliefs, attitudes and ideology; Social context and intention; History, action and capacity; Commitment and motivation; and Protective / risk-mitigating indicators. There are 31 additional indicators based on the scientific literature about general violence, radicalisation, jihadism and terrorism. They are divided between five domains: Criminal history; Personal history; Radicalization, Personality traits; and Psychiatric characteristics.
The assessor should use all objective information available in rating the indicators. Each VERA-2R indicator has criteria for three levels of rating (low, medium, high), consistent with other SPJ risk-analysis instruments. For reasons of standardisation, the user must carefully read and apply the operationalisations for each of the three risk levels. The final professional judgment is based on the weighting of all available information and data related to the risk indicators. The final decision is not made based on a numerical overall score.
The instrument is presented in an elaborate handbook. The handbook comprises an introduction to the subject, academic contributions, methodological guidelines and limitations, information on reliability and validity of the instrument, and of course the instrument itself.
The instrument consists of an assessment form in which all indicators are clarified by lead-questions, operationalisations and scientific relevance.
A standardised and two-day training course is required to use the instrument. Further requirements are frequent usage of the instrument and structural refresher days. For the Netherlands the training and refresher days are developed and organised by the NIFP.
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