Professor John Doe
3 April 2018
Role of Forensic Psychologists in the Criminal Justice Process
Forensic psychology may be defined as the application of psychology to the system of criminal justice. Forensic psychologists search deeply and laboriously into the vast perspectives of psychology and apply them to the system of criminal justice. These issues weave together the topics of law and psychology; they are also essential to the forensic psychology discipline. The knowledge of forensic psychology is used in different forms. These forms include “treatment of mentally ill offenders, analysis of the behavior and intent of the offender, and their practice within the civil arena” (“Home Learning College” 171).
Prediction has it that there will be “a continued growth in research work, clinical practice, and consultation” over the coming years (“Home Learning College” 173). This is because of the role played by a forensic psychologist in these fields. A forensic psychologist may opt to focus their career on research. The research may range from the testimony of an eyewitness to the development of correctional programs. They may also focus on practical work, like working with the courts of law or working with the offenders to reduce the risk of re-offending (“Home Learning College” 173).
In the United Kingdom, forensic psychologists have four main roles. First and foremost, they perform clinical assessments; this involves a personal interaction with the people related to criminal cases. It helps in making formal assessments; they use objective psychometric measurements, questionnaires, subjective scales and other sources (Genis 22). Subsequently, they have an experimental role; this ensures the acquisition of relevant facts to help a jury.
Thirdly, they have an actuarial role in presenting evidence on the probability of criminal events (Genis 23). The last role is an advisory one; they analyze evidence provided to them by investigators and detectives then present comprehensible facts.
Forensic psychologists play a role of expert witness. They are often called upon for court hearings to provide reports on individuals. The client evaluation by the forensic psychologist often involves consideration of the relationship between relevant legal issues and psychological factors. Forensic psychologists are expected to defend their conclusions in a logical manner. They should use explanations that can be understood by non-psychologists, including barristers, the judge, and members of the jury. Recommendations made by forensic psychologists should be legally sound and practical. Hence, it is critical for the forensic psychologist to possess excellent communication and assessment skills.
1. Criminal Profiling
Criminal profiling is defined as the process by which the available information concerning a crime or a crime scene is used in the composition of a psychological portrait of an unknown crime perpetrator. According to Muller, “it is the use of available information about a crime scene and crime in developing a psychological trait of the perpetrator” (235). It can be both geographical and typological; this helps in connecting the offender with his offences. Geographical profiling focuses on the distribution of various crimes. It focuses on the quantitative, empirical and statistical methods; this is common in the United Kingdom (Sammons). Typological profiling, on the other hand, focuses on behavioral evidence at crime scenes. The information used by the criminal profiler is mainly taken from the crime scene. It takes into account such factors as the kinds of weapons used in a crime, the state of the crime, and the actions and words said to the victim.
It occurs in a four stage process. The data assimilation stage involves the gathering of information from sources such as; police reports, crime scene photos and pathologists’ reports. Crime scene classification occurs when the profilers decide whether scene shows an organized or disorganized offender. Thirdly, crime reconstruction involves the generation of hypotheses on what occurred during the crime. The last stage is profile generation; “profilers create a sketch of the offender showing physical, demographical and behavioral habits” (Sammons).
Psychological profiling should provide psychological and social assessment of the offender, psychological evaluation the possessions found with the suspects and consultation with the officials of law enforcement on strategies to be used when the offenders are interviewed. However, not all crimes are profiled. Crime profiling is appropriate only in cases where the crime is particularly ritualistic or violent. It is also suitable when the psychopathology signs are evident with the offender. Arson and rape are also good candidates for profiling.
Crime profiling is closely associated with crime reconstruction. Reconstruction uses logical reasoning, scientific method, criminology, sources of information on people, victimology, and skill or experience to interpret the events surrounding the crime commission. It may also be defined as the most probable events’ sequence. In the reconstruction, detectives begin by conducting a walk-through of the scene of a crime; this stimulates the events that would have occurred in their minds.
The scientific method of profiling involves six stages according to “Home Learning College for a Brighter Future” (171). Stage one is problem statement; this relates to the crime and its legal elements. Stage two involves the hypothesis formulation; this occurs through a focus on physical evidence and interview of victims and witnesses. Stage three involves data collection from police and interview records.
The hypothesis is then tested through an “evaluation of reliability of information acquired” (“Home Learning College” 172). Various procedures are used in following up the most promising hypotheses. The last stage involves drawing of conclusions supported by court-admissible evidence; this leads to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of criminals.
Terrorism constitutes a variety of acts. For instance, in September 2011, the Midlands Police arrested 12 people on terrorism suspicion. They were charged and later found guilty of the commission, instigation and preparation of terrorism acts in the UK (Secretary of State for Home Department, 9). According to OHCHR, terrorism constitutes acts of violence directed towards civilians in the pursuit of ideological and political aims. It includes the criminal cats calculated or intended to provoke a terror state in the general public. The violence is normally perpetrated against targets that are non-combatant by clandestine groups or subnational groups, in an attempt to influence an audience. There are various types of terrorism, namely “nationalist, state-sponsored, religious, anarchist left-wing, and right-wing” (“Home Learning College” 187).
Nationalist terrorism aims to form a state that is separate for their national group. Nationalist terrorists achieve this by drawing the attention to fight for the national liberation they think was ignored by the world. This category of terrorism is “the most successful at winning concessions” and sympathy internationally (“Home Learning College” 188).
Religious terrorism use violence to further their own divinely commanded purposes. They often target broad foes categories in order to try to bring sweeping changes. They mainly come from both small cults, as well as major faiths. Experts such as Hoffman argue that acts of religious terrorism may sanction limitless violence against anyone who does not belong to a religious sect or the terrorists’ religion. Examples include the al-Qaeda network, Hamas, and Hezbollah (“Home Learning College” 188).
State-sponsored terrorism is the use of terrorist groups by the radical states as tools of foreign policy. According to Hoffman, radical states term this as a cost-effective way to wage war covertly, using guns for hire or surrogate warriors. When provided with enhanced resources, these groups are capable of conducting deadly attacks, such as airplane bombings.
Narcoterrorism is the act by groups directly or indirectly involved in manufacturing, cultivating, distributing, or transporting illicit drugs. Narcoterrorism generally applies to groups that use the trade of drugs in funding terrorism. It can also be taken to refer to the phenomenon of close ties between the powerful drug lords and the terrorist groups, having a political agenda.
Cyber terrorism is the terrorism that involves networks, computers, and the information contained in them. The damage that emanate from cyberterrorism include blocked internet servers and defaced web sites. Terrorists use cyber attacks to shape public opinion and instill fear on their audiences because of the minimal funds and human resources involved (“Home Learning College” 192).
One of the main aims of terrorism is publicity. Terrorists tailor their attacks to get their messages out via all the available channels and maximize publicity. For instance, the attack on Pentagon and World Trade Center was designed to symbolize U.S. vulnerability with pictures provided to billions of television viewers. These particular attacks were also meant to provide an extensive report on the al-Qaeda group and its Islamic agenda. Previously, experts claimed that terrorists wanted many people to watch, and not die. However, the emergence of religious terrorists with apocalyptic outlooks has provided contrasting information. Modern terror groups possess weapons of mass destruction. This indicates that the primary goal of some terrorist campaigns has changed from publicity to inflicting of mass casualties.
According to experts, terrorism is aimed at attracting the attention of the media. Terrorists are known to design their operations accordingly. According to Timothy McVeigh, a convicted terrorist for the bombing of Oklahoma City in 1995, the reason he chose the particular building was to attract the media attention. Around it, the building had a lot of space that allowed for “the best television footage and the best news photos” (“Home Learning College” 188). Groups of terrorism carefully study the media, with some already having their own operations in of the media. For instance, the Colombian leftists of FARC have their own radio broadcasts. Other groups have numerous promotional websites.
However, some experts argue that coverage of the media is not helpful to terrorists. Terrorist attacks may have unintended consequences or spin out of control. When slaughter becomes too much, potential sympathizers and supports may be alienated. Activities of terrorist have meanings that are different for different audiences. They may be unable to deliver this message since they may be unable to control the coverage of the media. Public discussions and debates may also be provoked by terrorism. These debates may highlight the radical views of terrorists as well as “the visceral anger of the families and victims of terrorism” (“Home Learning College” 188).
It has always been my passion to become a forensic psychologist since I was little. Having a dad who was a forensic psychologist motivated me towards emulating him. He ensured that my performance in social sciences was outstanding. He bought me books on criminal justice and law. This made me develop the urge to investigate crimes in the future.
After doing some research, I also realized that a career in criminology is well paying. This is because the position is in demand since most officials are retiring due to old age. Criminal cases are also on the rise. For instance, cases of terrorism have been on the rise in the recent past.
For the government to cope well with this security threat, more forensic psychologists are required. It is very important for one to take a career path where their passion lies. Passion combined with academic merit motivated me towards taking this particular path. It has been my interest to serve my country and the best way I can do it is by providing services in the justice system. In the future, I am planning to take a masters degree in criminology. I will also enroll a doctorate degree after that. This is because I want to explore more in this field and provide the best services. I want to become a professional profiler in the future.
Genis, Marina. A Content Analysis of Forensic Psychological Reports Written for Sentencing Proceedings in Criminal Court Cases in South Africa. Dissertation, University of Pretoria, 2010, http://hdl.handle.net/2263/23628. Accessed 4 Dec. 2017.
“Home Learning College for a Brighter Future.” Study House, 12 Feb. 2010. pp.171-192.
Muller, Damon. “Criminal Profiling: Real Science or Just Wishful Thinking?” Homicide Studies, vol. 4, no. 3, 2000, pp. 234-264. Sage Journals, doi.org/10.1177/1088767900004003003. Accessed 4 Dec. 2017.
Sammons, Aidan. “Typological Offender Profiling.” The Psychlotron, 2017, pdfs.semanticscholar.org/96bb/b642348cee48ec2d19dc76e03c04791d0c2b.pdf. Accessed 4 Dec. 2017.