Expert attacks 'Cracker' profilers
Real life "Crackers" who attempt to penetrate the minds of serial killers have been accused of being "worthless" purveyors of bad science.
Criminal profilers, such as the Fitz character portrayed by Robbie Coltrane in the Cracker TV series, were said to be "dragging down" psychology and almost on a par with fortune tellers.
The assault came from consultant psychologist Dr Craig Jackson, co-author of a damning critique of the profession soon to be published in a legal journal.
He argues that criminal profiling may be surrounded by a media-driven mystique but is unscientific and potentially harmful.
"Behavioural profiling has never led to the direct apprehension of a serial killer or murderer, so it seems to have no real-world value," said Dr Jackson.
"There have been no clinical trials to show that behavioural profiling works and there have been major miscarriages of justice. It's given too much credibility as a scientific discipline and I think this is a serious issue."
Profiling involves building up a picture of an as-yet unidentified suspect from the offender's methods, choice of victim, and clues left at the crime scene.
Britain's best known criminal profiler is Paul Britton, who has been involved in high profile cases such as the Fred and Rose West killings, and the murders of James Bulger, schoolgirl Naomi Smith and Rachel Nickell.
In 2002 Mr Britton was cleared of professional misconduct by the British Psychological Society after the collapse of the case against Nickell murder suspect Colin Stagg. Serial rapist Robert Napper eventually admitted murdering Ms Nickell on Wimbledon Common, south-west London, in 1992.
Dr Jackson will voice his criticisms this week at the British Festival of Science, which opened on Monday at Aston University in Birmingham.