Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science

Complex criminal behaviour

Forensic clinicians have an important role to play in assessing and treating people who engage in criminal acts that are driven primarily by psychological and social problems. Such acts include stalking, harmful sexual behaviour, family violence, uttering threats, abnormal complaining and deliberate fire-setting.

Over the past two decades, researchers from the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science have investigated why these behaviours occur (or are sustained) and what approaches are most effective for managing them. Our clinicians and researchers are internationally recognised for their leadership in developing innovative service models for assessing and treating these complex criminal behaviours.

Our research in this area focuses on:

  • Development and evaluation of risk assessment instruments appropriate to different complex criminal behaviours
  • Clarifying the contributory role of mental disorder in complex criminal behaviours
  • Understanding and developing effective interventions for stalking
  • Increasing knowledge about deliberate firesetting
  • Understanding different forms of family violence, and the links between intimate partner violence and stalking
  • Investigating the psychological factors that are common to and differentiate between different types of complex criminal behaviour.

We have partnered with staff from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health (Forensicare) for over a decade to improve knowledge and practice in this area. This partnership led to the Problem Behaviour Program, a clinical forensic service in Melbourne that works specifically with people who engage in these behaviours. This close collaboration has underpinned a large body of clinical research into stalking and threatening and, more recently, deliberate fire-setting and family violence. We have also frequently partnered with Victoria Police in our research, allowing us to evaluate whether structured risk assessment tools are effective in predicting recidivism of complex criminal behaviours.

Research staff

Chair: Dr Troy McEwan

Indicative publications