Monday, March 03, 2008

The Colin Stagg Case

Forensic Psychology

With respect to the application of psychology within a legal context, the Colin Stagg case is a very important one as it raises the issue of ethical practice and questions the efficacy of criminal profiling and expert evidence within forensic psychology.

Background To The Case

In September 1992 Colin Stagg was arrested on suspicion of murdering Rachel Nickell. Following his release without charge, the police in conjunction with the psychologist Paul Britton began a "covert operation" which involved an undercover female police officer befriending Colin Stagg. According to Gudjonsson & Haward (Gudjonsson assessed Stagg while on remand), the operation was designed to elicit a confession from Stagg. The covert operation continued for several months during which time Stagg consistently denied the murder but revealed fantasies that could possibly be seen as incriminating.

However, following a detailed psychological assessment of Colin Stagg, it was concluded that:

"There is no doubt that Miss James subjected Mr Stagg to psychological manipulation in order to elicit responses from him that fitted Mr Britton's profile of Miss Nickell's murderer. His 'fantasies' involving domination, humiliation and aggression were clearly a product of a subtle process of influence and should not be relied upon as representing Mr Stagg's genuine sexual preferences and fantasies."

As a result of the psychological reports, the judge ruled that the correspondence and tape recordings elicited from the covert operation were inadmissable and no evidence was entered against Colin Stagg.

Related Reading

To find out more about the case from the perspective of Colin Stagg himself, you should get hold of Pariah, described by Dr. Laurence Alison, an expert in psychological profiling at Liverpool University as “An important book and a bloody good read”. See following link for full details.

Pariah: Colin Stagg

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The Colin Stagg Case

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