Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sure I've Met Huhne Before

I got a funny feeling whilst watching now-disgraced Chris Huhne as he announced on the steps of Southwark Crown Court his intention to resign his parliamentary seat. Having very, very, very, very reluctantly agreed to plead guilty to perverting the course of justice, and thus confirming that he had lied to us all consistently for the past 18 months, he hardly appeared contrite.

Indeed his reference to having to accept something that he had done some ten years earlier was clearly designed to make us all feel that the passage of so much water under the bridge made the whole thing a complete waste of time and hardly worth the bother. But of course he is rumoured to have spent some £350,000 on hiring England's top lawyer trying to prove it was not really worth the bother, but to no avail. 

He was completely cornered. Up shit creek without a paddle, the 'gossamer thin' evidence apparently irrefutable and he was found to be well and truly 'bang to rights' in planting his speeding points onto his wife's licence. All this was obvious to some, including his son, and felt to be highly likely by many, so why continue to lie when the game is clearly up? After all, the scorned wife was not likely to change her mind when it was clear from the beginning that she wanted nothing less than revenge for his walking out on her. 

Well, it all comes back to that funny feeling of mine. I've come across this sort of behaviour quite a few times before when dealing with psychopaths. Interestingly I find that several psychologists have been researching the extent to which people with psychopathic traits exist in main stream society and in particular what kind of jobs they gravitate towards. Psychologist Kevin Dutton has written a book on the subject 'The Wisdom of Psychopaths - what Saints, Spies and Serial Killers can teach us about Success.'  US Amazon describes it thus:-

Dutton argues that there are indeed “functional psychopaths” among us—different from their murderous counterparts—who use their detached, unflinching, and charismatic personalities to succeed in mainstream society, and that shockingly, in some fields, the more “psychopathic” people are, the more likely they are to succeed. Dutton deconstructs this often misunderstood diagnosis through bold on-the-ground reporting and original scientific research as he mingles with the criminally insane in a high-security ward, shares a drink with one of the world’s most successful con artists, and undergoes transcranial magnetic stimulation to discover firsthand exactly how it feels to see through the eyes of a psychopath.

As Dutton develops his theory that we all possess psychopathic tendencies, he puts forward the argument that society as a whole is more psychopathic than ever: after all, psychopaths tend to be fearless, confident, charming, ruthless, and focused—qualities that are tailor-made for success in the twenty-first century. Provocative at every turn, The Wisdom of Psychopaths is a riveting adventure that reveals that it’s our much-maligned dark side that often conceals the trump cards of success.

It seems that amongst the occupations with the highest tendency of attracting psychopaths are CEO, lawyer, media, sales, surgeon, journalist, police, clergy, chef and civil servant. On the other hand certain jobs have the lowest likelihood, such as care assistant, nurse, therapist, crafts, beautician, charity, teacher, artist, doctor and accountant. Members of Parliament and probation officers are not mentioned, but educated guesses can be made.

Another academic who has looked into this issue is Lisa Marshall of Glasgow Caledonian University, quoted here in The Independent back in 1996, confirming that politics and stock market trading are attractive occupations for psychopaths:- 

"Politicians and stockbrokers share many of the same characteristics as criminal psychopaths. The only difference is that career high-flyers usually stay within the law. Some could be defined as "successful psychopaths", according to Lisa Marshall, a psychologist at Glasgow's Caledonian University.

In a three-year research project that involved interviewing 105 long- term offenders in Scottish prisons, she discovered that upbringing appeared to be an important factor in whether a child became a psychopath, as well as genetic make-up.

To discover which offenders were psychopaths she questioned them and compared their answers to a widely used list of 20 characteristics of a psychopath, the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's criminological and legal division were told. To be considered a psychopath, they needed to display a number of the 20 core characteristics. Ms Marshall added that people in some high-powered careers, such as stockbroking and politics - she did not rule out journalists - had enough of the 20 characteristics to be defined as psychopathic.

She said: "Successful psychopaths included people with careers such as stockbrokers, where a lot of action was happening and where they had a lot of power. "They have to be quite cold and callous. You could say a politician. [They] might be in control and have power. They are risk-takers. They have the characteristics of psychopaths but without the criminal intent." She added that psychopaths made good fraudsters.

So, food for thought as a probation officer somewhere prepares to interview and write quite a memorable PSR. In passing, I feel I ought to say I've been genuinely surprised by the degree of sympathy Mr Huhne has attracted in certain quarters. I've even had someone remark that the matter was 'trivial.' Well, perverting the course of justice is extremely serious indeed (maximum sentence life imprisonment) and every report I've written involving the charge has resulted in custody. 18 months to two years would be my hunch.  

PS Here is a handy check list should readers feel the need to conduct their own personal psychopathy assessment at home - it's best to answer as truthfully as possible:-

o Selfish
o Callous
o Remorseless user of others
o Pathological liar
o Glib and a con artist
o Lacking in remorse
o Shallow
o Fails to accept responsibility for actions
o Has high sense of self-worth
o Is chronically unstable
o Is anti-social
o Has socially deviant lifestyle
o Needs constant stimulation
o Has parasitic lifestyle
o Had childhood problems
o Was juvenile delinquent
o Is irresponsible
o Has unrealistic goals
o Promiscuous

PPS - to sign the petition go here.     


  1. So how do you deal with psychopaths that you come across in your work? Appealing to heir better natures or expecting empathy for their victims isn't going to work.

  2. In my (very limited) experience, you have to get them to the point where they realise that it is in their best interest not to re-offend (i.e. the cost to THEM is too great). Once they get that, and most eventually do, they are much easier to manage. They are not all axe wielding maniacs... mostly.

  3. The moral of this matter is simple. Don't piss off your missus!

  4. Just so long as he doesn't do a few weeks in Ford and then re-invent himelf as a "penal expert" like Aitken and that guy who writes the airport novels.

    Pity too that the missus has chosen to use some archaic 1920's law, a quaint defence available only to missus's.