chapter  3
Working with complicated cases: mental disorder and violence
Pages 32

At its simplest level, violence refers to a wilful or reckless act perpetrated by one person that is likely to result in harm – physical or psychological – to another individual. This can involve ‘actual, attempted or threatened harm’ (Webster, Eaves, Douglas and Hart, 1997, p.24). However, an analysis of violence reveals that it is far from simple. Violence varies across type, nature of association between victim and perpetrator, severity, motivation, frequency, imminence and likelihood. Violence is a complex phenomenon. In contemporary society, violence is a major social ill with far reaching, diverse and often devastating consequences. Violence accounts for a signifi cant cause of injury and premature death across all ages. Violence is a major public health problem (World Health Organization, 2002). Faced with this harsh reality, the practice of violence risk assessment is now embedded in criminal justice and forensic mental health practice. Violence risk assessment refers to ‘the process of evaluating individuals to (1) characterize the likelihood that they will commit acts of violence and (2) develop interventions to manage or reduce that likelihood’ (Hart, 1998, p. 122).