Criminal Profiling

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Critically evaluate the claim that offender profiling is “more of an art than a science”. Criminal profiling attempts to understand the characteristics and personality of an offender and has now gained recognition as a useful investigative tool. To be able to use profiling effectively you must be able to understand the categories of violent and sexual crimes and how they are described within convictions within court. Holmes 1989 stated that profiling is more helpful when there is a sadistic element to the crime. Profiling originates from as early as 1888 during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror upon the Whitechapel area of North London. These murders are now some of the most infamous within the UK. Doctor Phillips who was investigating the Jack the Ripper crimes presumed some elements of the killer’s personality based upon the wounds of the victims. From this evidence he concluded that Jack must have had some skill within the medical profession, however even with some attempts at profiling they were unable to speculate who Jack the Ripper was. The American “Top Down” approach uses known information to link behavioural qualities shown within crime scenes and information from both victims and witnesses. This was challenged by profiler David Canter as serial or sexual killers may be manipulative to get attention. The British “Bottom Up” approach works with detailed information taken from the crime scene and information about the crime. A suggestion of the criminal profile is then provided. British profiler David Canter began working as a profiler in 1985 during a search for a serial rapist known as the “Railway Rapist” who committed 24 sexual assaults near railways between 1982-1986. Canter created a profile for the offender. He suggested that the rapist lived within an area surrounding the first three cases with his wife or girlfriend, without children. He predicted his age to be between 24-29, right handed and working within a skilled job with weekend work; a...
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