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NCJ Number: 62578 Find in a Library
Title: THEIR CANDLES ARE ALL OUT (MACBETH) ... OR ARE THEY? - SOME REFLECTIONS ON ARSON AND ARSONISTS
Journal: ROYAL SOCIETY OF HEALTH JOURNAL  Volume:98  Issue:4  Dated:(AUGUST 1978)  Pages:191-195
Author(s): H A PRINS
Corporate Author: Royal Soc of Health
United Kingdom
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 5
Sponsoring Agency: Royal Soc of Health
London, SW1X 7EN, England
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: THE BACKGROUND AND EXTENT OF ARSON IN GREAT BRITAIN AND CHARACTERISTICS OF ARSONISTS ARE EXAMINED.
Abstract: ALTHOUGH HUMANS' FASCINATION WITH FIRE DATES FROM ANCIENT TIMES, MEDICAL INTEREST IN PATHOLOGICAL FORMS OF FIRE SETTING DATES ONLY FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY. UNTIL THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 1971 CRIMINAL DAMAGE ACT, ARSON WAS A COMMON LAW OFFENSE. NOW ARSON IS PUNISHABLE WITH A MAXIMUM SENTENCE OF LIFE IMPRISONMENT. CRIMINAL STATISTICS FROM THE HOME OFFICE SHOW THAT THE NUMBER OF ARSON CASES KNOWN TO THE POLICE HAS GROWN FROM 3,562 IN 1971 TO 7,468 IN 1975, BUT ONLY ABOUT ONE-THIRD OF THE CASES REACHED THE COURTS IN 1975. LOCAL STATISTICS DURING FIREMEN'S STRIKES REFUTE THE HYPOTHESIS THAT A MOTIVATION FOR ARSONISTS IS THE EXCITEMENT GENERATED BY THE ARRIVAL AND ACTIVITY OF THE FIREFIGHTERS. PEOPLE WHO SET FIRES CAN BE GROUPED IN THE FOLLOWING PATHOLOGICAL CATEGORIES: (1) SUBNORMAL INDIVIDUALS, (2) POLITICAL SELF-IMMOLATORS, (3) PSYCHOTICS, (4) THOSE MOTIVATED BY REVENGE, (5) HEROIC OR VAIN INDIVIDUALS, (6) THOSE WHOSE ACTIONS REPRESENT A CRY FOR HELP, (7) SEXUALLY MOTIVATED INDIVIDUALS, AND (8) CHILDREN WHO ARE EITHER EXPERIMENTING OR ARE SERIOUSLY DISTURBED. THE MOST RECENT STUDY OF ARSONISTS EXAMINED 50 MALE ARSONISTS DETAINED IN A PSYCHIATRIC PRISON. DATA SHOWED THAT REVENGE WAS A MOTIVE IN 26 PERCENT OF THE CASES, DRINKING PRIOR TO THE OFFENSE WAS INVOLVED IN 46 PERCENT OF THE CASES, ALCOHOLISM HISTORY WAS INVOLVED IN 44 PERCENT. RESULTS ALSO INDICATED THAT PSYCHIATRIC SYMPTOMS EXISTED IN ADOLESCENCE OR ADULTHOOD IN 80 PERCENT AND 40 PERCENT HAD A PSYCHONEUROSIS OR BEHAVIOR DISORDER BEFORE AGE 12. IN ONLY 10 OF TH 50 CASES WERE THERE COMPLETE PARENTAL HOMES WITHOUT PATHOLOGY. ABSENT FATHERS OR BAD RELATIONSHIPS WITH FATHERS PREDOMINATED; 37 PERCENT ALSO DESCRIBED AFFECTLESS MOTHERS. MOST ARSONISTS STUDIED HAD PROBLEMS IN RELATIONSHIPS WITH WOMEN. IT WAS CONCLUDED THAT ARSONISTS' SOCIAL DYSFUNCTIONING IS SEVERE, BUT THAT ARSON IS ONE ASPECT OF A MULTIFACETED HANDICAP THAT SHOULD RECEIVE INTENSIVE THERAPEUTIC EFFORTS. TABLES AND A REFERENCE LIST ARE INCLUDED. (CFW)
Index Term(s): Arson; Arson factors; Arson statistics; Arsonists; Behavior typologies; Great Britain/United Kingdom; Personality assessment
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