Forensic Science Psychology Conference
The Social Science department are immensely proud of our sixth formers who showed great maturity, poise and sensitivity whilst at the annual forensic psychology conference. Our students behaved impeccably and they were eloquent and dignified in their questioning of the ex-offenders. Please take the time to read their testimonials and discover what they learnt.
Testimonial 1 - ‘I Don’t Care’
One ex-offender was a burglar who displayed a calm, relaxed attitude. Throughout his speech, St Thomas More students soon realised that person X had a very simplistic mind-set and possessed a ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
He served over 10 years across multiple prisons for stealing antiques, he believed that prisons do not actually reform the convicts but rather help criminals improve their skill set by learning from other offenders. Person X also declared himself as a ‘bad boy’ and this was shown when he addressed the fact that he had eight children from five different women. He is currently living with his partner and daughter who is at university.
Despite his emotionless and careless character, person X stated that he strongly disliked sexual predators and that he had a zero tolerance of them.
His ‘I don’t care’ attitude to life is further emphasised by the statement that he ‘would not care if he went to prison tomorrow’ and that he was happy with his current life as a coal delivery man – just being alive makes him happy. Person X’s speech, whilst not being emotional like some of the others was more on the humorous side, but still compelled us to listen.
His strong and proud character was shown throughout the way he presented himself and the fact that he would not change his past as his past is what he claimed defined him.
Testimonial 2 - Plot Twist
Psychology and sociology students from St Thomas More Sixth Form attended the conference. We sat in an auditorium and the conference manager began to speak to us, we shall call him Case A. He was dressed smartly, with a white shirt, trousers and a red tie. Case A seemed lovely.
We expected that we would be sitting and talking to ex-offenders but we did not expect the plot twist that was to come. Towards the end, there was a powerpoint playing in the background and we started to discuss jobs in prison. We were shown many photos of prisons and the different types of torture and jobs that they had to take part in. After a while a photo of a young man appeared on screen.
He had dark hair and was wearing the typical prison uniform of the time. He was knelt next to a woman on a bike and an older man in formal dress stood behind her. He then suddenly announced that the photo was of him during his 12 years as a prisoner, his charge was for murder. There was an immediate gasp and then a silence. Personally, I know that my mind was blown. I feel that my perception of the way that he looked and spoke convinced me that he could never have been a prisoner. It made me reflect on the idea that you can never judge a book by it’s cover.
Case A went on to explain how a drunken incident on his birthday led to disastrous consequences. Whilst in prison, he said how he had a job restoring old bicycles and selling them to guards, how he used to brew alcohol in a fire extinguishers and he recalled how he once sat and ate a takeaway whilst watching Hamlet in a locked room thanks to one of the guards he had restored a bike for.
He also told us many stories about his wife and her daughter and about the licence he was given when he left prison. After the conference had ended we had the ability to ask questions and we learnt how he still enjoyed a drink and that this year was the first time he had celebrated his birthday since being in prison.
For me it was an amazing experience and I learnt so much about prison life and the life of a criminal. I now know that not all criminals are the same. Some feel remorse, some do not; some hate what they did, some think it made them who they are today; and some even wish they were dead instead of their victims.
Testimonial 3 - Manipulative murderer?
In 1993, case X who was 18 at the time murdered the neighbour of his girlfriend after a confrontation when he attempted to break into her ground floor flat.
The victim had questioned the offender after she failed to respond to his “secret knock”. At the time, he was highly intoxicated after spending the evening at his local pub.
Case X was arrested following a report from a neighbour who had witnessed him approaching the flat. His victim died in hospital and case X was arrested on suspicion of murder. He pleaded not guilty for 9 months until photographs of the deceased were shown to him, after which he changed his plea to guilty. He was charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with a tariff of 12 years.
Case X claimed that the crime had a massive impact on his life – that he “can’t lead a normal life” due to the daily struggles within society since his release in 2005.He experienced abuse in the workplace and can no longer see his daughter due to the risks he may encounter. Case X is on licence until his death.
Although case X lives his life based on his past, we believe that he was manipulative and was using his story to extract sympathy from the audience. For example, his past was used as an excuse not to see his daughter even though legally he could see her without any barriers.
Rebecca Jackson, Thomas Hill and Katrina Duff.
Testimonial 4 - Autism - The fight against crime -inside the mind
Person Y spoke about the importance of raising awareness for those on the autistic spectrum who go on to commit crime. People higher on the autistic spectrum and those who suffer from conditions such as ADHD and Asperger’s are far more likely in current society to struggle with the justice system and the law according to the speaker. Person Y openly shared his story and experiences with crime and punishment as he struggled from early adolescence through to adulthood. He struggled to cope with his hypersensitivity and social aptitude, turning to violence and drug use rather than reasoning and control.
Person Y highlighted the need for support networks and greater understanding in society to provide for the needs of people living with autism and mental health disorders. He quoted that ‘once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met but one person with autism’, a quote that has resonated with him, person Y explained that everyone is different and that if you meet one person with autism then you cannot claim to know all there is about autism as each case Is unique.
He found this quote to be useful for educating audiences about the diversity between people on the autistic spectrum. Supporting him was a forensic psychologist who revealed a high proportion of people on the spectrum commit crime, particularly heinous crimes such as sexual and often violent crime. This shocking revelation stirred questions within the audience and both the psychologist and person Y were happy to answer with honesty and insight. Person Y continued to talk of his experience with suicide and drugs and he urged the need for tolerance and understanding for those on the autistic spectrum.
Testimonial 5 - Nature or nurture?
One of the criminals that we met at the conference was an ex drug dealer who had never been to prison, but had had many run ins with the law. Drug dealing started out of necessity to keep him afloat, but it soon became out of control with him making thousands of pounds a week.
He spoke truthfully and candidly about his past and how certain experiences had influenced his criminal behaviour. As a child, he had a rough background with no father figure and an emotionally absent mother. At age 7, he was put into the social care system and this maternal deprivation could be a reason as to why he acted out at school and had difficulty maintaining adult relationships. Interestingly, he spoke of his brother whose life played out completely differently; he was placed into care at aged 2 and had a starkly different experience, being adopted into a secure family soon after entering the care system.
His brother has never committed a crime and has a highly paid job. This made us wonder whether environmental factors were more important than genetics in this case.
We found his talk to be humorous and light hearted as he detailed his struggles, and expressed gratitude to a specific foster carer who had enriched his life by being caring and supportive. She impacted his life hugely and assisted him in becoming more accepting and widened his outlook on life.
As an audience, we gained a genuine insight into his perspective and how he felt that his upbringing led to his early demise.
Chloe Robinson and Anouk Smith