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CRIMINAL PROFILING AND ITS RELEVANCE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM OF NIGERIA

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CRIMINAL PROFILING AND ITS RELEVANCE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE EM OF NIGERIA

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE
“The more outré and grotesque an incident is the more carefully it deserves to be examined, and the very point which appears to complicate a case, is, when duly considered and scientifically handled, the one which is most likely to elucidate it”1

This statement made by the world‘s famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his endearing ability to solve crime by describing the perpetrator from factual deductions is a skill shared by the expert investigative profiler. Evidence speaks of its own language of patterns and sequences that can reveal the offender‘s behavioral characteristics.

Like Sherlock Holmes, the profiler can say âI know who he must beâ.
It is not uncommon to watch in the news, read in the newspapers or in major documentaries about serial killers and violent criminals who murder, rape or assault victims due to certain similar features that the victims all possess or out of certain distorted motive or intentions.

Most serial killers and violent criminals are psychologically impaired based on a peculiar past experience that make them seek some form of personal vendetta against persons who look or act like those that have hurt them in the past or just out of sheer perverse pleasure.

These crimes are committed in peculiar manners with little or no material evidence linking the offenders to the act making it more difficult for the law enforcement to apprehend them. Forensic analysts and psychologists over the years have sought means of identifying such criminals based on their mode of operation, signature behaviour, target victims and material evidence from previous crime scenes.

This is where the process of criminal profiling is applied.
Criminal profiling has been defined in many ways by various scholars based on their distinct backgrounds and as such, been called many names such as criminal personality profiling, criminological profiling, behavioural profiling, criminal investigative analysis2, offender profiling, psychological profiling, crime scene analysis, socio-psychological profiling and linkage analysis3

1 Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle, 1901, Sherlock Holmes “The Hound Of Baskervillesâ
2 A term used by The United States Of America‘s Federal Bureau Of Investigation(FBI) Behavioural Science Unit
3Labuschagne, G.N., 2006, “The Use of Linkage Analysis as Evidence in the Conviction of the Newcastle Serial Murder, South Africa”, Journal of Investigative Psychology & Offender Profiling, 3(3), 183-191.
1
Despite the different names, all of these tactics share a common goal: to help investigators examine evidence from crime scenes and victim and witness reports to develop an offender description. Holmes states that the major function of profiling is to assist in the detection of offenders by extrapolating their personal attributes from information available in crimes.4

Criminal profiling is the identification of specific characteristics of an individual committing a particular crime by thorough systematic observational process and an analysis of the crime scene, the victim, the forensic evidence and the known facts of the crime.

It is acknowledging the skewed validity of the perpetrator‘s perspective to be able to predict him âwithout allowing yourself to become lost in him and his worldâ5. Criminal profiling is a behavioral and investigative tool that is intended to help investigators to accurately predict and profile the characteristics of unknown criminal subjects or offenders.

A basic premise of criminal profiling is that the way a person thinks (i.e., his or her patterns of thinking) directs the person‘s behavior. Thus, when the investigative profiler analyzes a crime scene and notes certain critical factors, he or she may be able to determine the motive and type of person who committed the crime.7

All the information from the crime scene is a reflection of the criminal‘s behavior and this behavior can create a surprisingly accurate picture of the offender.8 This technique has been used by criminal psychologists who are experts in this field to examine criminal behaviour and to evaluate as well as possibly predict the future actions of criminals.

Described as psychological profiling, it is a method of suspect identification which seeks to identify a person’s mental, emotional, and personality characteristics (as manifested in things done or left at the crime scene)9
Criminal profiling is a relatively new enforcement practice. It newly emerged in the last two decades and still remains a highly controversial tool.10

It has become part of public consciousness even though
4 Holmes R.M, 1989, Profiling Violent Crimes: An Investigative Tool; Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications.
5 Wayne Choniki, Of The Arcane Research Group, United States Of America
6 Kocsis R. N., 2009, Applied Criminal Psychology: A Guide To Forensic Behavioural Sciences, Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2009, Pp.226
7 Douglas et al., 1986; Criminal Profiling From Crime Scene Analysis; Behavioural Sciences and The Law 403. Vol 4, Number 4.8 http://forensic.thedatabase.org/faq.html Accessed March 21. 2011.
9 Berg Bruce, 2008, Criminal Investigation, 4th edition.

10 Wilson, P., Lincoln, R., Kocsis, R. (), Validity, Utility and Ethics of Profiling Serial Violent and Sexual
Offenders. Retrieved from:  http://epublications.bond.edu.au/hss.pubs/24,/ Accessed December 1st, 2014.
many people are not really sure what it is and the great majority of people have no idea at all of how it is done. This ignorance is just as prevalent in professional circles as amongst the lay public.11

Despite the widespread use of criminal profiling in serial crime investigations, the practice continues to endure fierce criticism from researchers, who almost unanimously agree that profiling lacks scientific foundation and depends on flawed methodology.

As a result the validity and utility of criminal profiling is compromised to the extent where evidence is not admissible in court, and serious miscarriages of justice are caused. Profilers are often characterized as being socially alienated individuals, deeply troubled by their own selfless insights into the minds of the unknown offenders that they are hunting.

This view presented by fiction and the media not only is ly false but also vehemently misleading.12
The question whether criminal profiling is a science or an art has been a common topic of debate by psychologists and experts. It is frequently asserted that profiling is more art than science, and evidence for its validity is limited.

Holmes reports 1981 FBI data indicating that in 192 cases of profile generation, arrests were made in 88, but in only 17% of these did the profile contribute to arrest.13 Canter and Heritage cite more recent FBI claims of 80% accuracy, although this has been disputed.14

As Canter notes, if psychological profiling is to achieve a firmer basis than astrology or spiritualism in aiding the police, âpsychologists need not only to establish the predictive validity of the process, but also why it worksâ.15

There is also a popular myth that profilers are âpsychic‘, have special metaphysical and supernatural powers, and are born with an intuitive gift. Although there is a quiet consensus that intuition is an asset to the profiler, the rest is basically a myth, untrue.

Turvey dismisses this myth by advocating a discipline that entails the careful evaluation of physical evidence, collected and properly analyzed by a team of specialists from different , for the purpose of systematically reconstructing the crime scene, developing a strategy to assist in the capture16. The contents of this project will however discuss the controversies, issues and doubts and also highlight the importance and expediency of criminal profiling.

The basic idea for a profile is to gather a body of data yielding common patterns so that investigators can develop a description of an unknown suspect. Offender profiling is grounded in the belief that it is possible to work out the characteristics of an offender by examining the characteristics of their offences.

It helps investigators examine evidence from the crime scenes and victim and witness reports to develop an offender description. These descriptions may include the analysis of psychological variables such as personality and behavior patterns, as well as demographic variables such as age, race or geographic location.

Investigators use profiling as a means to narrow down the suspect pool, or in structuring an interrogation of a suspect once apprehended.17 It involves the psychology-trained experts using their knowledge on human behavior, motivation and patterns to create a multi-dimensional report.

Although it does not provide the specific identity of the offender, it indicates the kind of person most likely to have committed the crime by focusing on certain behavioral and personality characteristics.

It should encompass the integration of material from the crime scene (i.e., blood stain evidence), witness statements, autopsy findings, photographs, related materials such as cameras seized at the crime scene, weapons, items used for torture, and a host of suggestions derived from â storming sessions with forensic experts and police detectives.
Criminal profiling is done by the employment of both tangible and intangible tools.

The tangible tools involve the crime scene, the offender‘s modus operandi (mode of operation), his signature behavior, clues he or she may have left behind in the commission of the offence as well as insight into the possibility of having more than one person involved in the crime, victimology.

Five behavioural characteristics that can be gleaned from the crime scene include: the amount of planning that went into the crime, the degree of control used by the offender, the escalation of emotion at the scene, the risk level of both the offender and victim, and the appearance of the crime scene (disorganized versus organized)18.

The intangible tools include the profiler‘s intuition, knowledge, experience, the uncommon ability to objectively get âinto the mindâ of the criminal and think like him or her and an analytical mind. This technique might be considered a âpaper tiger.â It can be powerfully aggressive in helping forensic scientists focus on an investigation, or it can be destructive in leading investigators astray. At best it is an adjunctive guide to a forensic and criminal investigation and a team

4 effort.19 The investigator goes through the following steps or phases in the profiling process: the evaluation of the crime and the criminal act or acts itself; comprehensive evaluation of the specifics of the crime scene(s); comprehensive analysis of the victim; evaluation of preliminary police reports; evaluation of the medical examiner‘s autopsy protocol; development of a profile with critical offender characteristics, investigative suggestions predicated on the construction of the profile; and finally, the possible apprehension of the suspect.

1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Investigating violent crimes especially murder can be a very difficult and hopeless process when there are no experts or trained personnel, biodata databases, Automated Fingerprint System (AFIS), no DNA database or equipment, and no modern technological infrastructures.

To many jurisdictions, a criminal investigation system without these mentioned above may sound like a place in an epic tale from some time long past, but it is not. This is the reality in some places such as Nigeria.
The recent upsurge in violent crimes in Nigeria has created enormous uncertainty in the security of lives and property of individual and of social stability in Nigeria.

The incidents of traditional crimes such as armed robbery, arson, murder, kidnapping, rape, hired assassinations and ritual killings are examples of the most serious and violent crimes, which have been on the increase in the recent past.

In Nigeria, many crimes go unsolved because of a lack of adequate equipment and training. Very rarely do the police take fingerprints, there are no DNA laboratories, and there is an extreme paucity of forensic and ballistics experts in the country.

With almost 160 million people, Nigeria is Africa‘s most populous nation and also one of its longest democracies but even Nigerians admit their criminal justice system is woeful. Many criminals have gone scot and many innocent people have been condemned by our justice system because there was no forensic linkage to the crimes to convict and vindicate them respectively.

Experts have linked the many cases of unsolved crimes that dot Nigeria‘s criminal justice system to the absence of forensic evidence. Besides inadequate equipment, lack of regular training has also largely inhabited investigations and the solving and prevention of crime. The poor training that police officers go through lacks global competitiveness.

The practice of psychological profiling remains very much a virgin area and largely unpopular amongst law enforcement agencies in Nigeria particularly by the Nigeria Police Force in the course of their various investigations. Contrary to this, the practice has become widely used in unraveling crimes by counterpart law enforcement agencies in developed nations particularly the Federal Investigations Bureau (FBI), USA and other western nation sister agencies.

This technique has to be inculcated into the practices of the Nigerian criminal justice system in criminal investigations because its numerous benefits cannot be overemphasized and our criminal justice system is in dire need of all the help it can get to improve in crime prevention and detection.

1.3 MS AND OBJECTIVES OF CRIMINAL PROFILING
A criminal investigation of any kind should start with the assumption that every human on the planet is a suspect. That is to say, the suspect set is universal. One of the purposes of criminal profiling is to assist an investigation, at any phase, in moving from that universal set of suspect characteristics to a more discrete set of suspect characteristics.

It cannot typically point to a specific person, or individuate one suspect from all others. It can, however, give insight into the general characteristics of the offender(s) responsible. This type of insight can be used to educate an investigative effort, as well as attorneys, judges, and juries in a forensic context (e.g., criminal proceedings, civil proceedings, and public hearings).

Criminal profiling is mainly used when the offender does not leave any physical trace at the crime scene. As Douglas and Olshaker have pointed out, “criminal profiling is used mostly by behavioural scientists and the police to narrow down an investigation to those who possess certain behavioural and personality features that are revealed by the way a crime was committedâ20.

Continuing, Douglas and Olshaker also maintained that “the primary goal is to aid local police in limiting and refining their suspect list so that they can direct their resources where they might do the most good”.
20 John. Douglas, J., and Olshaker, M., , hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, New York Pocket Books 1996.

 

CRIMINAL PROFILING AND ITS RELEVANCE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE EM OF NIGERIA

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