Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) has seen an increase in requests for informal advice from P&I Clubs when investigations into marine incidents are taking place. As psychologists, the team has insight into the human psyche and can often identify anomalies that would be missed by laymen.
As a result, and what is seen as an industry first, MHSS has launched a forensic psychology service that will aid investigators in getting to the truth of potential crimes, accurately and efficiently.
Headed up by Clinical and Forensic Psychologist Julia Oppermann, the service will interest investigations teams at P&I Clubs, Shipowners and Flags. Julia has spent time working on cold cases for the German police, and has the expertise to examine crime scene photos and identify where the image suggests that it may have been staged or that initial conclusions may not be entirely correct.
Charles Watkins (pictured), CEO and Founder of MHSS, sees this service as vital if maritime is to offer victims the same level of investigative zeal as would be received on land. “Currently we find that there is less likelihood of a prosecution if events happen onboard – not through the fault of any specific agency but because of the fragmented nature of responsibility which involves the owner, manager, flag, insurer and potentially other bodies too.
“What’s more, maritime is a sector that requires specialist knowledge and understanding, particularly in that seafarers are unique in that their place of work is also their home for months at a time. This gives rise to stresses that the rest of the population will never experience and can have an impact on behaviour at sea. Julia is uniquely qualified to lead this service as she has experience both on land and working with seafarers.”
MHSS has long been a champion of the seafarer, proactively improving the mental health of mariners and offering support at times of need. This new forensic service takes this one step further, providing the insights and understanding that may lead to justice for victims of crime at sea. Mr Watkins continues, “Much of the in-depth forensic crime scene analysis can be undertaken at the office and before the vessel gets to port, looking at photographs of the scene and studying documentation. The result is that investigators will be able to receive guidance on areas to pursue on arrival, saving time and resources. We will also make ourselves available on site if that is required.”
Julia Oppermann adds: “Forensic psychologists are trained to spot where things don’t ring true and can apply their knowledge of human behaviour to evaluate what is likely to have taken place. We can not only help to identify wrong doing but also help ensure that lessons are learned for the future so that future occurrences are prevented.”