KEY NOTE SPEECH Forensic Psychology: Its usefulness in serious crime investigation

Authors: Cole, T.

Conference: International Conference on Current Trends in Forensic Sciences, Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

Dates: 26-28 October 2018


TALK : Forensic Psychology – Its usefulness in serious crime Investigation.

Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour – it looks at describing, explaining and predicting human behaviour. This talk will briefly explain how forensic psychology has grown as a sub discipline within psychology in recent years. Originally this was by the provision of domain specific advice to courts (for example if someone is mentally capable of understanding what they did was wrong or understanding the court process). The discipline then expanded to assist post trial - with the assessment and treatment of convicted offenders. As such many forensic psychologists in the UK today work in both prisons and forensic hospitals. Offenders are sent to either depending on the disposal granted by the court – generally to prison unless the perpetrator has an obvious mental disorder requiring specialist treatment. Focus in prison is on psychological treatments – for example group work to treat anger issues or skills to cope with pressures of life in society, whereas in hospital it may also involve more one to one counselling and medical help. A lot of work is also undertaken in relation to risk assessment in terms of assessing the risk the individual may pose to themselves or others if/when released back to into society. As such psychologists are often asked to provide reports in order to ascertain if perpetrators are ready to be released.

An even newer sub discipline of forensic psychology – is that of ‘investigative psychology’ which has grown in use in UK policing. This has incorporated assistance in areas such as how good (or bad) witnesses are at identifying and recalling events, reliable (and unreliable) interviewing techniques for suspects and witnesses, how to control crowds, skills police officers need, and advice to investigations. My specialism involves assisting hard to solve serious crime investigations of murder and serious sexual offences. I will explain the brief history of offender profiling, or Behavioural Investigative Advice as it is now known, and consider how its usefulness has grown, from utilising case study experience of clinicians; to include a body of research and expertise in order to provide practical advice to serious crime investigations.

Integrating some case examples from my work with the police in this field as a Serious Crime Analyst and Behavioural Investigative Adviser for a number of years, this talk will identify how looking at offender and victim behaviour can assist investigations, in conjunction with other disciplines such as forensic science and geographic profiling (identifying geographic areas of interest to investigations). The methods discussed will include behavioural crime scene assessment to consider hypotheses of what may have occurred in the crime; offender profiling, to indicate the type of person who may be responsible; and offence linkage, to consider if a serial offender is responsible (where no conclusive forensic evidence exists). In this way, psychology can assist serious crime investigations, bringing together research, experience and statistics and applying it into police practice.

Source: Manual