Last week the Eton Community welcomed Professor Allison D. Redlich to the Psychology Society, who spoke about the ‘who, what and why of Psychology and the Law’.

The fascinating topic of psychology and the law includes the determination of legal insanity which, as Professor Redlich explained, is secured through the M’Naghten test. This test was developed after the attempted assassin of Prime Minister Robert Peel in the Nineteenth Century was decided to be criminally insane. His claim that ‘the Tories were pursuing him through Europe’ help to birth the rule determining that a suspected criminal should escape conviction on the basis of insanity.

Professor Redlich explained key moments in the interdisciplinary field of psychology and the law, including Brown v Board of Education in 1954, the foundation of the American Psychology-Law Society in 1969 and the European Association of Psychology and Law. She also outlined methods adopted by psychologists to assess risk in defendants, explaining the importance of this practice in measuring the impact of incarceration on prisoners.

Questions from the audience broadened the discussion to include the possibility of racial bias in legal proceedings and psychological analysis, the validity of guilt pleas being challenged and contested in court, and the issues with the same plea form being used for both juvenile and adult defendants.