• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Referring to the John Duffy "Railway Rapist" case to illustrate, discuss the strengths and limitations of offender profiling.

Extracts from this document...


Cassi Axon Referring to the John Duffy "Railway Rapist" case to illustrate, discuss the strengths and limitations of offender profiling. 'Offender profiling' is a general term that has no accepted definition and varies in its use between the USA and the UK. It is based on three strands of expertise: statistical analysis of crime data, behavioural science, and detective expertise. Psychological profiling was in fact used in the Second World War to profile enemy leaders to see if they had weaknesses that could be exploited - for example, William Langer's profile of Hitler and his accurate prediction of suicide after defeat (Langer, 1972). Traditionally police collected hard evidence from the scene of a crime, such as blood, saliva and semen. Other less concrete indicators might be ignored, such as the choice of victim, what was said or not said, the location and the nature of the assault. Psychologists help police to interpret these clues. The basic assumption of offender profiling is that the offender's behaviour at the crime scene reflects something about them as a person. It leaves a 'psychological fingerprint,' particularly where there is a pattern over a number of crimes. For example, tying up a victim suggests a need for control. The aim is to go beyond the facts and develop hypotheses about the offender. The information used includes the analysis of the crime scene, details of the victim and current knowledge about offenders from research. Holmes (1989) suggests that profiling is most useful when the crime reflects psychopathology, such as sadistic assaults. ...read more.


This type of offender believes he is developing some type of relationship with the victim, and mistakenly believes, the sexual assault produces intimacy. 2. Victim as object - blindfolding and/or gagging the victim, while the offender tends to be disguised. The offender is concerned most with control in the interaction of the rape. The woman is seen as a dangerous object that must be 'trussed and coerced' (Canter, 1994). 3. Victim as vehicle - violence (both physical and verbal), which demeans the victim. The actions here are a reflection of the offenders anger. This emphasis on statistical patterns has led to the creation of a database called CATCH'EM (Central Analytical Team Collating Homicide Expertise and Management). The database contains details of over 4,000 child murders, which allows police officers to make statistical predictions about the killer. For example, 62% of killers of females under seventeen are single, but 83% if the victim is male and under sixteen. If the child's body is found without sexual interference, there is around a 70% likelihood that the killer is the guardian or parent, but when there is sexual interference, this figure drops to 1% -2 % (Murder in Mind, 1993). In the UK there seems to have been some resistance to profiling by the police because psychologists have been viewed as 'outsiders' and not being able to offer anything more than what a could practitioner (eg, detective) could. Geberth (1983) feels that 'experts' have very little to say compared with what experienced police officers are likely to work out for themselves. ...read more.


We should also be aware of the danger of the self-fulfilling prophecy with respect to profiling. Detectives should bear in mind that a profile may well fit a number of people and may not be totally accurate. The fact that a suspect happens to fit the profile does not 'prove' that they committed the offence. There may be several people who share the suspect's make-up and so the police should be cautious before making a presumption of guilt. This issue is most likely to be created because psychologists will tend to work on probabilities whereas police may be more likely to operate in absolute terms of guilt and innocence. The danger is that once a person has been labelled as a suspect and brought in for questioning, the police will make a presumption of guilt and see their role as merely to elicit a confession. There is little good scientific research to which one can turn in trying to answer the question of how useful profiling is. Success or failure are not so easily measured when one is dealing with the sort of material used in profiling. If a profiler's information proves to be 50% accurate and 50% inaccurate should this be counted as a success or a failure? In addition if any information provided by a profiler is used that helps in catching a criminal is this success, even if the rest of the information provided was useless? A related issue to this is that profile details may only be considered as useful if it provides a type of detail, which the police could not have reasonably deduced, for themselves. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Crime Data

    Sources: National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS): An analysis of the impact on recorded crime, Companion Volume to Crime in England and Wales 2002/2003, Part Two: Impact on individual police forces, www.homeoffice.gov.uk 7. Which groups in the population are most at risk of becoming victims of violent crime?

  2. Criminal Investigation Procedures

    The NCIS will gather information on future attacks which will involve proving the suspect is guilty in order for the plan to be carried out, thus the NCIS rarely get involved in the investigations as they will only hand potential plans over to the police in order for them to investigate further.

  1. anti-social behaviour

    Section 3: Procedures- 3.1 The methods used in this research are qualitative, as they are an array of interpretivist techniques, which seek to describe, translate and otherwise come to a better understanding of the uses of Anti-social behaviour orders in society.

  2. Critically compare the three main theories of deviance and assess their strengths & weaknesses

    * Chambliss (1976) argues that the greed, self-interest and hostility generated by capitalist society motivate crimes at all levels within society. Members of all classes use whatever opportunities they have to commit crime. * Given the nature of capitalist societies, crime is rational.

  1. The purpose of crime scene investigation is to help establish what happened at the ...

    Evidence should not be handled a great deal after recovery and should be kept down to as few people as possible. Investigators must continuously check paperwork, packaging notations, and other recording of information for possible conflict or errors, which may cause confusion or problems at a later time in court.

  2. Describe what Psychologists have found out about crime-victim interaction.

    They conclude that media coverage of crime misconstrues the frequency of crime in general, particularly violent crime and the ethnicity and age of both the perpetrators and victims of crime. Howitt (1998), in a study on the media's fascination with violent crime states, "The media tend to focus on the exceptional, the bizarre and the horrific..."

  1. The Strengths and Limitations of Left Realism and Right Realism Theories in Explaining Crime ...

    The offenders- it is vital to consider why people offend. What motivates them, and what makes them continue to commit crime? Offenders choose to commit crimes- but to what extent are they driven to it by outside factors and how is this choice influenced by the other three factors?

  2. Describe psychological research on offender profiling and Evaluate psychological research on offender profiling.

    The first is to do with the victim and the way the victim was selected and treated by the offender. The second is the location and timing of the offences and the third is the amount of forensic awareness shown by the offender.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work