Forensic Psychology Revision Notes

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Forensic Psychology
What is crime?
Oxford definition of crime - `an act punishable by law, as being forbidden
by statutes and injurious to public welfare... An evil or injurious act; an
offence, sin; esp. Of grave matter.
Normative crime- On the other hand crime may be act that causes offence to
moral norms or values held by society such as religious beliefs
Social scientist definition- the meaning of crime is a social construction.
Measuring crime
Every year the Home Office publishes the latest crime stats and trends or
crime for England and Wales.
They are based on two sources of data:
o The crime Survey (BSC)
o Official statistics recorded by the police.
Official statistics
Official statistics for 2005-2006 suggest that crime has remained stable
over the last few years, although there has been an increase in violent
crime. E.g. gun crime.
The government claim that despite the peak in 1995, the incidence of crime
has fallen by 44% in the past 10 years.
Rose (2006)- analyzed Home figures and found that the government failed
to report the significant drop in conviction rates.
The media also tend to not publish the increasing number of people in

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The Crime and Society Foundation published a report claiming that official
stats do no show a valid picture of crime
The only purpose of Official stats is to provide the government with a false
set of figures, whereby they can claim that they have reduced crime rates
The Statistic Commission (2006) suggested that the public doubts the
reliability of crime so the government should stop publishing these stats
to win back public report.…read more

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The BCS gives a more accurate picture of crime, because it takes into
account those not recorded by the police.
The amount of crime unreported and undiscovered crime is known as the
dark figure of crime.
Reasons why crime isn't recorded/ reported:
o The crime is seen as trivial (theft of a £5 note)
o Unaware they were a victim of crime (e.g. fraud)
o May fear a revenge attack
o Lack confidence in the police.…read more

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type of offender is likely to be convicted.
Self-report are more likely than official stats to identify types of offenders.
o Unreliable answers-may exaggerates, or embarrassed to answer
truthfully. Or unable to remember what happened.
o Biased selection of offences- Ignore middle class crime, may
uncover trivial offences rather than serious ones
o Biased selection of interviewees- Research may not be able to
interview more dangerous offenders. Or business executives who
are rich/powerful who corporate crime may be excluded from the
interview.…read more

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Definition of offender profiling 2
The FBI approach to offender profiling
Offender profiling, which has its origins in the Behavioral Science unit
during the 70s was developed by the FBI
Profiling techniques known as crime scene analysis were eventually
developed and formed the basis for establishing whether offenders have
committed by `organized' or `disorganized' offenders.…read more

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Crime scene
Pathology reports
Stage 4 Profile generation
Present hypotheses:
Physical characteristics
Behaviour habits
Stage 3. Crime reconstruction
Victim behaviour
Crime sequence
Owing to its emphasis of on intuitions, the FBI has been criticized for
lacking scientific evidence and evaluation
It is therefore regarded more of an art than a science
Alison and Barrett- state that the approach is over-reliant on dated theories
of personality.…read more

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The case of the `Railway Rapist'
Between 1982 and 1986 the metropolitan police investigated 24 sexual
attacks that took place near a railway in North London.
Between 1985 and 1986 3 murders were also committed, again near a
As the victims' bodies had been burnt there was little forensic evidence.
However, the method of attack seemed to be linked between rapes and
The police to assist in the investigation and made an offender profile.…read more

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This narrowed down the list of offenders and led police to John Duffy
He was convicted of 2 murders and 5 rapes and sentenced to life in prison
The profiling was remarkably accurate:
o Duffy lived in North London near where he committed the first 3
o He was separated from his wife
o Had no children
o In his late 20s
o Right handed
o Worked as a carpenter for British rail.…read more

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Assessment of the crime scene involves analysis of the behaviour and social
interactions shown by offender and the victim
Canter- Suggested that certain psychological principles can assist profiling
in the following ways:
o Interpersonal coherence- The actions displayed by the offender
will be the norm to him/her. E.g.…read more

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Paul Britton, who argues for a different approach.
This makes the problem of the lack of consistency in the UK'S approach to
profiling compared to the FBI's approach worse.
The geographical approach to offender profiling
One of the fastest growing fields of investigative psychology
Consists of 3 areas:
o Studies of criminal spatial behaviour
o Development of decision-support tools that incorporate research
o Exploring the effectiveness of these support tools in helping the
police investigations.…read more



Very useful revision notes for Edexcel/OCR Forensic Psychology students.

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