Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power

The ability of profiles to retrospectively produce psychosocial details seems ridiculous to many psychologists who find crime scene 'reconstruction' beyond the capacity of behaviour science research and theory alone. Godwin (1978) stated: 'Playing a blind man's bluff, groping in all directions in the hope of touching a sleeve'. He felt that the generalities did not help the police who required hard data like names, dates, times, etc. which profiles cannot offer.

Levin & Fox (1985) in their book 'Mass Murder: America's growing menace' state that psychological profiles are essentially vague and general and thus virtually useless in identifying a killer. Campbell (1976) believed that profiling will cause investigators to focus all of their attention on searching for a suspect and corroborating evidence to match the profile. Therefore, if the profile is wrong, the investigation can easily be led astray, e. g. Wimbledon Common case (Colin Stagg).

Liebert (1995) labels the profiling process as "superficial, phenomenological and, perhaps, even worse, distracting". He believed each case should be distinguished by its uniqueness rather than reducing it to a few observable parameters. These and several others have been highly critical of this technique or the methods used as they argue that federal agencies have little experience in actually investigating murder cases. They feel it would be better for local agencies to train their own officers in the intricacies of such investigations.

Among the methods outlined earlier, the FBI method and Investigative psychology rely heavily on statistics which makes their application (in settings other than those in which these statistics were developed) severely limited. A number of conditions can result in an organised offender leaving behind a disorganised crime scene and would lead to incorrect assignment of the offender to the wrong group. Besides the 'circle hypothesis' of Canter has little to say in terms of applicability to an actual investigation as the original study was retrospective.

Behaviour Evidence Analysis requires a great deal of time as well as training on the part of the Profiler and the quality of the final product is directly influenced by the amount of information available to the analyst. Research and empirical evidence for its usefulness has been limited. Cross-checking a profile once the offender is apprehended can occasionally be extremely difficult as the offender may never be apprehended, may be apprehended elsewhere and not be available for cross-checking or may have simply ceased criminal activity.

The rate of solved cases represents less than 50% of cases profiled and so this stage may never be tested. Conclusion It seems to be generally accepted that psychological profile can be an invaluable tool that aids criminal investigations tremendously. This is particularly so in unusual cases or serial offences by a single offender. However, it must be remembered that it is only a tool, it cannot take the place of rigorous investigative work and cases are not solved by profiling or profiles but co-ordinated effects of profilers and the investigators.

Also, not all cases are eligible for profiling as it is more suited for serial or extremely violent crimes that are different in nature such as motiveless homicide, multiple rape and child molesting (Porter, 1983). Arguments have been put forth that before profiling is discarded due to the paucity of empirical evidence, researchers need to methodologically study its principles and either refute or build on them. Just because a field is in its infancy does not mean it is not useful. The field is attempting to become more science than art by:

Development of a Crime Classification manual (Douglas et al, 1992) to operationalise the underlying concepts in a comprehensive and practical format. Encouraging research in the area to try and address 'what determines if profiling is beneficial to crime investigations or not' as different agencies involved having differing perspectives leading to confusion. Enhancing the use of rigorous statistical tools and analysis such as Chi Squared Automated Interaction Design (CHAID) to analyse data and display links graphically (Magidson, 1993) and computerised programs.

Proposing to introduce standardisations, regulations and strict guidelines for those professionals intending to train and practice in this field. In conclusion, profiling appears to have merits in certain cases but much more research and standardisation is needed to substantiate its continued use and its future appears unclear until this happens. It is said that victims of crime have had, at best, a marginal influence on Criminal Justice. Do you agree? Introduction

In the nineteenth century, prior to the establishment of a national police force and a formal Criminal Justice system, the victim had a crucial role in initiating criminal prosecution when a crime was committed. In more recent times, the victim still has the legal right to bring a prosecution but the system on the whole is more geared towards the official agencies dealing with crime. As a result of this, it has often been stated, in the last fifty years that victims were the forgotten element in the Criminal Justice process.

Why? * Victims' Experiences Throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s, the majority of criminological research restricted their focus to offenders and largely ignored the plight of victims. Subsequently, a number of studies conducted in the 1970s and 1980s (including the British Crime Survey) revealed that victims were significantly affected by their experiences and often dissatisfied with many aspects of their encounters with Criminal Justice Agencies (Maguire & Pointing, 1988). * The Police

The police play an important role as they are the first point of contact for victims. However, they have been criticised on the grounds of failure to provide information on crime prevention, insurance, compensation, progress of the investigation, prosecution and trial decisions. Victims found that once they had reported their case to the police, little else seemed to happen despite their need for practical (e. g. repairing damage, reinstalling locks) as well as emotional support following the trauma they had endured.

They also found the police to be insensitive in their questionings or dealings with the victim and perceived their attitudes to be unhelpful. As a result, there were numerous complaints about the lack of information in terms of progress in their case and these other aspects. Unless summoned as witnesses to court, victims often remained unaware of when the case was due for trial and even as witnesses, they were ill-informed by the police about their role or what was expected of them.

The police were also seen as inefficient as a number of crimes went unsolved and at times, despite conviction about the offender's guilt, nothing could be done due to lack of admissible evidence. Although initially the victims were reasonably satisfied with the police, their dissatisfaction increased as the case progressed (Shapland et al, 1985; Newburn & Merry, 1990). The Crown Prosecution Service has also played a role by the delays and unexplained decisions in pursuing a case or dropping it due to lack of admissible evidence, despite victims' beliefs about the guilt of the accused.

* The Courts When summoned to court, victims often had to share waiting rooms with offenders' friends and relatives in addition to waiting for interminable periods of time without adequate explanations. Also, their role seems to have been little more than as a source of evidence. Besides, the adversarial system of justice (practised in England and Wales) has seemed by some to favour offenders and disempower victims as it places victims in a vulnerable position at the mercy of rigorous questioning by both prosecution and defence counsel.

This is especially evident in the plight of rape victims (as well as children and those with learning difficulties (Temkin, 1987; Soothill & Soothill, 1993)) who had to relive their trauma in addition to having their own background and character open to scrutiny in the defence lawyer's attempt to discredit their story. British witnesses also do not enjoy the privileges of legal representation or protection by statutes which further disadvantages them in court. * Financial Compensation

Despite the setting up of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) in 1964, claims for compensation were evaluated under certain strict criteria. This process seemed to embody the notion of a 'discerning victim' which was far from helpful (Walklate, 1989) and definitely needed altering to benefit victims more. Recent Developments In the last two decades, considerably more attention has been directed towards the role of the victim amongst criminologists and policy makers. * Victims' Groups

What came to be called the Victim Movement drew attention to the problems faced by victims at all stages of the Criminal Justice process. Victims' needs began to get support from the growth of Victim Support Schemes (first set up in Bristol, 1974) which is nationally regulated by the National Association of Victim Support Schemes (NAVSS) and receives financial support from the Government. Helen Reeves (Director of Victim Support) wrote in a letter to The Times (1995): 'Offenders have clear rights in our system of justice but victims have no enforceable rights under the law.

Victims should have the right to be protected and respected and know what is happening in their case and why. ' The 'Victims Charter' (Home Office, 1990) laid down provisions about the rights of victims, how they were to be treated and what standards they could expect. It stressed the importance of passing information to victims about details of police investigations, court decisions, compensation and civil court options. Also, it made a commitment to improve facilities for victims/witnesses in court to reduce waiting times, provide separate waiting rooms, etc.

Its message was reinforced by other publications, e. g. Crown Prosecution Service 'Statement on the Treatment of Victims and Witnesses' (1993) and 'Court Users Charter' (1994). Following these, the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice (1993) made certain recommendations which have subsequently been accepted by the government and implemented in practice. Additionally, there has also been pressure from international organisations with the adoption of a 'Declaration of the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power' by the United Nations in 1985.

Women's groups have put forth their concerns about the plight of women victims' which was followed by the establishment of the first refuge for victims of domestic violence in Chiswick (Erin Pizzey, 1972) & Rape Crisis Centres from the 1970s (Zedner, 1997). A recent array of new lobby groups have been seeking to promote victims' interests, e. g. Justice for Victims (for families of homicide victims), Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Zito Trust (victims of Mentally Disordered Offenders) and SAMM (Support after Murder and Manslaughter) focusing on particular types of victims.