Throughout history most societies have assumed a link between mental disorder and violence to others. In recent times there has been increasing concern in the United Kingdom over law and order, specifically the risk of violence, and these issues are now high on the political and mental health agenda. Nurses and staff working in National Health Service Mental Health Service Trusts are the groups most at risk of violence. Many clinical decisions are based on risk. Mental health nurses play a pivotal role in the assessment and management of risk and it is argued that they need to adopt a clear structured approach to violence risk assessment and management, which is evidence-based. The advantages of clinical and actuarial approaches to risk assessment are briefly reviewed and a structured clinical judgement approach is proposed that combines these approaches. A method of linking the assessment process with the management plan via a risk formulation is discussed.