Author: Herschel Prins

Publisher: Waterside Press

‘The psychopath… is a type which has only recently come under the notice of medical science… Beside his own person and his own interests, nothing is sacred to the psychopath.’

This quote is taken from a piece written in 1885 about what was then thought of as a new malady described by Russian psychiatrist Balinsky. Despite being one of the earlier references to this condition, it is one of the most accurate.

There is a continuing debate about whether offenders are ‘mad or bad’. Think about the recent public tribunal for the Moors murderer Ian Brady (pictured). What drives people to commit horrific crimes? Bad means lock them up; mad implies they are ill so can be treated, but are still locked up. Governments have spent a lot of money on trying to deal with such people by opening specialist units. One unasked question is whether society itself has lost its moral compass. Are right and wrong still taught in an increasingly secular world? It is not only criminals who take what they want and do not care for the consequences. Offenders are simply the ones who get caught.

Now society is trying to remove temptation by controlling internet access to pornography and violence. The theory is that if you remove the stimulus then you will reduce the number of crimes. Presumably, if you banned window displays it would reduce shoplifting.  

This little book looks at the development of study into this disorder, what it is and how to deal with sufferers. It will be of interest not only to mental health practitioners but also crime, private and family lawyers who advise people suffering with the consequences. It is not an easy subject and the book deals with it clearly and engagingly, although sometimes there is an overuse of literary quotations.

David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott