Does Psychological Profiling Assist Criminal Investigations?

The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI lay claim to creating offender profiling and although there is no universally agreed definition (Snood et al. , 2007:439), the fundamental idea Is the same throughout. Profiling aims to offer the probable description of a likely offender, after an analysis of a crime scene, the victims and the evidence available. Dwyer describes it as “one of the most controversial and misunderstood areas of criminal detection” (2001 :47), and It Is agreed that profiling does not solve crimes, but narrows down the range of potential suspects (Dwyer, 2001 :49; Insinuators, 2013:8).

Due to the definition being so broad, It is also relevant to note that “not all claims are equal” and there are factors within profiling that are “unverifiable” and “open to misinterpretation” (Alison et al.. 2007:503). Broadly speaking there are two types of offender profiling; the geographical profiling and psychological profiling (Mueller, 2000:235). This paper will be split into four parts and focus on psychological profiling throughout in order to give a more in depth analysis.

We will write a custom essay sample on
Does Psychological Profiling Assist Criminal Investigations?
or any similar topic specifically for you
Do Not Waste
Your Time

Only $13.90 / page

The first part of this paper will give a brief analysis of psychological profiling and review the concerned literature, whilst explaining the effects that profiling has on miscarriages of Justice. The second part will look at the ways the psychological profiling helps to avoid miscarriages of Justice. However, due to the shortage of literature, the paper will evaluate a number of relevant cases. The third part of this paper proposes suggestions for future research; it will then summaries and conclude.

Psychological profiling is one of the key aspects within criminal Investigation and Its prevalence has Increased over the last 30 years (Snood et al. , 2007:437). Controversy about the different types of psychological profiling has minded unabated for years (Insinuators, 2002:143) and It is only over the past decade that research has developed more reliable profiling methods that Justifies the recent increased frequency in profiling use (Alison et al. , 2007:497).

Although offender profiling has its advantages such as predicting the vulnerability or risk of an offender, thus saving the criminal Justice time and money, the disadvantages are two- fold (see: Melee, 1954). The criminal Justice system Is naive in when It comes to profiling (Alison et 2002:11 5, Alison et al. , 2007:497), not taking into account the orations of Individuals which seemingly do not correlate with socio demographic features (Alison et 2007:499). Alison and Egan (2006, cited in Alison et al. 2007:498) argue this and suggest that human behavior should not be categorized and go on to propose a more dimensional outlook, describing a range of levels. Their research takes into account maturity levels of the individual by discussing ages, intelligence levels, and socio economic groups. Canter et al. (2004:312) research further supplements this, in their study concerning the typology of serial murderers, and they conclude that the majority of examples contained both elements of disorganized’ and ‘organized’.

However, any profiling of this type still needs consistency for it to work and this is assumed, throughout all types of profiling. Although contentious, (Alison et al. , 2007:499) ‘homology’ delves further into the that would be linked with other types of profiling could in fact be two different offenders with similar personalities. This however, also has downfalls, in its assumption that a particular personality will behave in a particular way.

There are a number of studies that have consistently failed to find a relationship in any of the rotational methods that have been described above, for example Beauregard sexual polymorphism study (2010:2). It is also valuable to note the frequency of the word ‘assume’ or ‘assumption’ in the concerned literature, since as it has already been mentioned that investigators are naive, and it could be concluded that offender profiling is taken for granted as being accurate. This in itself could lead to miscarriages of Justice. Alison et al. 2002:122) state two key assumptions made by profilers; consistency and homology of offense behaviors, both which could achieve a miscarriage of Justice. Studies show (Alison et al. 2002:124), that contextual features must be taken into account when profiling due to individuals behaviors varying in different environments, or having had a change in circumstances. Insinuators states a similar notion, explaining that genetic factors and environmental influences affect behavior (2002:135). All of these different factors need to be taken into account in order for profiling to become reliable.

However, science has improved reliability, compared to the early research concerning profiling, when academics tended to focus on one particular element to explain criminal behavior (for example Essence, 1964). Profiling has been known to impede cases (R v. Stag) and although investigators argue that profiling helps to ‘narrow the suspect search’ (Alison et al. , 2002:127), the over reliance of profiling could lead to miscarriages of Justice because it relies on a generalization of behavior, too precise statements on likely characteristics and the motivational reasons of the offender.

This could in turn lead to a concentration on a possible group of ‘innocent’ suspects and therefore hinder investigations. Recent scientific research into offender profiling is being used more frequently, as it evolves more reliable profiling methods. These methods contribute more to the ways in which evidence is collected, or decisions are made and commits to the national policing initiatives rather than being broad and open to interpretation and thus leading to a ‘Barnum Effect’ (see: Dickson and Kelly, 1985).

This gives the greater need for an approved process, which could be used in order to assess the soundness of a profiler report and educate investigators and reduce their naivety, which could lead to less ‘tunnel vision’ and decrease the probability of a miscarriage of Justice occurring. Young and Canter (2003) state that ” ‘Investigative psychology (P) is the framework for the integration of a diverse range of aspects of psychology into all areas of criminal and civil investigation” concerned with “psychological input to the full range of issues that relate to the management, investigation and prosecution of crime”.

Canter’s (2003) ten “classes of operational questions” that investigators are frequently confronted by; salience, suspect elicitation, suspect procrastination, offender location, linking crimes, prediction, investigative decision-making, information retrieval, evaluation of information and preparing cases. At the centre of these questions are what known as ‘profiling equations’ (see: Canter, 1995).

These ‘equations’ ensure that the conclusions that detectives make about suspects ‘likely’ characteristics will become more Justifiable because they are supported by the ‘profiling equations’. However, as profiling reports become rationalized the effects of ‘romanticism’ could be amplified and an increase in miscarriages of Justice could occur. Although, offender profiling can help in a number of investigative processes, namely; decision making, intelligence led policing, investigative interviewing, informant middling and suspect procrastination (Alison et al. , 2007:501).

There are aspects that investigators need to be made aware of, such as ‘tunnel vision’ or ‘noble cause corruption’ within an investigation process have been described as ‘insidious’ and are also noted by Williamson (2006:87) to be a major contributing factor to miscarriages of Justice. It could be compared to the pre-PACE times, when there was a heavy reliance on confession and a distinct lack for a ‘truth search’, in the view of the fact that early research demonstrated that the questioning of a suspect was only inducted after an assumption of guilt (Williamson, 2006:91).

This is further supplemented after his analysis of the Home Office Paper 1992 where the misuse of offender profiling techniques is contributory factor to miscarriages of Justice (Williamson, 2006:96). The research concerning the effects that offender profiling has on miscarriages of Justice is sparse. This paper therefore focuses on analyzing some of the relevant, previous cases to explain how offender profiling can avoid miscarriages of Justice. Firstly, it is pertinent to note the key rule for the admission of expert evidence seen in the cases Folks v.

Chad, 1782, R v Turner, 1975 and R v. Rob, 1991 (see: Sinker, 2010; Boss et al. 2010). The first time that a Professor of Psychology used offender profiling within a police investigation in the UK was in 1986, it was used to find the prolific “Railway Rapist”, John Duffy. Canters report was extremely useful in this case, Insinuators (2013:11) noted that this could be due to the investigators involved, using profiling as a tactic rather than using it to prove an assumption that Duffy was the offender. Whilst offender profiling is viewed as a form of expert evidence, the R v.

Stag case in 994, demonstrated that psychological profiling was in fact inadmissible and the evidence was thus refused on the grounds that “there were doubts as to whether psychological profile evidence had achieved widespread acceptance or had been adequately established as to be sufficiently reliable like scientific evidence” (Boss et al. , 2010:189). This eventually led to Stag being acquitted. Following this, he sued for wrongful prosecution and subsequently highlighted the dangers of profiling its effect on miscarriages of Justice. Ruder of his pregnant wife, who on the outset was thought to have had committed suicide. During the original case, although his evidence was declined by the court, Professor Canter gave his opinion that Gullible did in fact pressurize his pregnant wife to write a suicide note and then force her to put a rope around her neck, after an analysis of her handwriting in a note found at the scene. He now “rejects this crucial evidence” after being allowed to speak to Gullible in person (Canter, 2008). This highlights the errors that can be made in cases such as this.

Gullible spent 18 years in prison because of a number of serious police errors at the scene of the event The Times, 2012), and the apparent evidence, that had a major influence “behind the scenes” given by Canter (Canter, 2008). It has been noted that there is a ‘lack of detective skills’ (Williamson, 2006:97) when it comes to offender profiling, and this could be due to investigators not having an agreed systematic approach or model to follow (Alison et al. , 2007:497). Although the Police Reform Act 2003 helped professionalism the investigative process, there is still a requirement for an established framework for investigators to follow.

How to cite this essay

Choose cite format:
Does Psychological Profiling Assist Criminal Investigations?. (2017, Jun 29). Retrieved August 21, 2019, from
A limited
time offer!
Get authentic custom
ESSAY SAMPLEwritten strictly according
to your requirements