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REAL life “crackers” who attempt to penetrate the minds of serial killers were yesterday accused of being “worthless” purveyors of bad science.
Criminal profilers, such as the Fitz character portrayed by Robbie Coltrane in the Cracker TV series, were said to be “dragging down” psychology and almost on a par with fortune tellers.
The assault came from consultant psychologist Dr Craig Jackson, co-author of a damning critique of the profession soon to be published in a legal journal.
He argues criminal profiling is unscientific and potentially harmful.
“Behavioural profiling has never led to the direct apprehension of a serial killer or murderer, so it seems to have no real-world value,” said Dr Jackson. “There have been no clinical trials to show that behavioural profiling works. It’s given too much credibility as a scientific discipline and I think this is a serious issue.”
Profiling involves building up a picture of an as-yet unidentified suspect from the offender’s methods, choice of victim, and clues left at the crime scene.
Britain’s best known criminal profiler is Paul Britton, who has been involved in high-profile cases such as the Fred and Rose West killings, and the murders of James Bulger, schoolgirl Naomi Smith and Rachel Nickell.
In 2002 Mr Britton was cleared of professional misconduct by the British Psychological Society after the collapse of the case against Nickell suspect Colin Stagg.
Serial rapist Robert Napper eventually admitted murdering Nickell in 1992.
Dr Jackson will voice his criticisms this week at the British Festival of Science, at Aston University in Birmingham.
The technique of behavioural profiling was first adopted by the FBI in 1972 and had been “going non-stop ever since”, he said.
“This is an appeal to use better science in this field, otherwise it will go the same way as parapsychology and reading tea leaves or tarot cards,” said Dr Jackson.
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