Repeated arson: Data from criminal records

Department of Psychiatry, University of Heidelberg, Germany.
Forensic Science International (Impact Factor: 2.14). 05/1999; 101(1):49-54. DOI: 10.1016/S0379-0738(99)00012-2
Source: PubMed


The criminal careers of all arsonists convicted in former West-Germany between 1983 and 1985 who were found not to be responsible due to diminished responsibility for psychiatric reasons and a random sample (every third) of all criminally liable arsonists during the same period of time were followed up until 1994 by means of their trial records. Reappearance before the court for arson did not differ between the groups. When subjects are grouped by the additional occurrence of crimes other than arson, however, arsonists with diminished responsibility are the most problematic group: In comparison with all other subgroups, the arsonists who were partly responsible who did not commit any crimes other than arson showed the highest number of fire-setting incidents. Among the arsonists who committed other crimes as well, arsonists with diminished responsibility had the highest number of additional offences.

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    • "Consistent with past research, the rate of general recidivism (55.4%) among the sample of firesetters was much higher than the rate of firesetting recidivism (5.3%) (Puri, Baxter, & Cordess, 1995; Quinsey et al., 2006; Rasanen, Hakko, & Vaisanen, 1995; Soothill & Pope, 1973; Soothill et al., 2004). The rate of firesetting recidivism in this sample was similar to other large criminal justice samples from different jurisdictions (Barnett et al., 1999; Soothill & Pope, 1973; Soothill et al., 2004). Doubtless, the recidivism rates returned are an underestimation of the true rate of firesetting, given evidence from other studies that self-reported firesetting incidents in both offenders and the community is substantially higher than the number of official charges or cases of firesetting (Doley, 2009; Gannon & Barrowcliffe, 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: PurposeFiresetters have traditionally been considered dangerous repeat offenders. However, the specific risk factors associated with firesetting recidivism have not been consistently tested in representative samples. It is also unclear whether individuals whose offending is limited to firesetting are at increased risk of reoffending when compared with firesetters who have more versatile offending. This study aimed to: (1) determine the rate of firesetting recidivism in a representative sample of firesetters before the courts; and (2) determine the psychiatric and criminogenic factors that are related to firesetting recidivism.Methods The study employed a data linkage approach to examine the psychiatric and criminal histories of 1052 firesetters convicted of arson between 2000 and 2009 in Victoria, Australia. The characteristics of those who reoffended, over a follow-up period of 2.5–11 years, by committing arson and arson-related offences were compared with those who went on to reoffend in other ways but not arson. An improper model was used to determine which of the tested variables could meaningfully predict firesetting recidivism.ResultsThe rate of firesetting recidivism, based on charges, was very low (5.3%) compared with the rate of general recidivism (55.4%); the vast majority of firesetting recidivists were mixed (criminally versatile) offenders (91%). The study found that general criminality, firesetting history, and psychiatric disorder were associated with firesetting recidivism.Conclusions When assessing risk of firesetting recidivism, clinicians need to consider general criminality in addition to fire-specific history, and the potential impacts of mental disorder on recidivism.
    04/2014; 20(1). DOI:10.1111/lcrp.12052
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    • "Mentally disordered fire-setters have higher rates of recurrence of fire-setting than nonmentally disordered fire-setters and commit fewer common offences other than fire-setting [5]. In the study by Barnett et al. [6] arsonists who were only partly responsible and who committed no crimes other than arson showed the highest number of fire-setting incidents. Arson recidivists have rarely been thoroughly characterized, but their psychiatric disorders appear to be heterogeneous and include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, personality disorders as well as mental retardation [7-9]. "
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    ABSTRACT: As pyromania is a rare diagnosis with questionable validity, we aimed to describe a forensic psychiatric population of arson recidivists. The medical records as well as the forensic psychiatric examination statements of 90 arson recidivists referred for pretrial psychiatric assessment in Helsinki University Hospital Department of Forensic Psychiatry between 1973 and 1993 were reviewed. The most important diagnostic categories of arson recidivists were personality disorders, psychosis and mental retardation, often with comorbid alcoholism. In all, 68% of arsonists were under alcohol intoxication during the index crime. Psychotic as well as mentally retarded persons with repeated fire-setting behaviour were mostly "pure arsonists"--persons guilty only of arsons during their criminal careers. Arson recidivists with personality disorder, in contrast, often exhibited various types of criminal behaviour and arson appeared to be only one expression of a wide range of criminal activity. Comorbid alcoholism was apparently a more rarely observed phenomenon among pure arsonists than in "nonpure arsonists". We found only three subjects fulfilling the present diagnostic criteria for pyromania. Using the criteria of the DSM-IV-TR, pyromania must be regarded as an extremely rare phenomenon. Especially the question of substance intoxication as an exclusion criterion for pyromania should be reconsidered.
    BMC Psychiatry 02/2005; 5(1):47. DOI:10.1186/1471-244X-5-47 · 2.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This paper replicates a 1973 study of the criminal careers of arsonists (Soothill and Pope, 1973). It compares the original series of those convicted at the high court of arson in England and Wales in 1951 (n=74) with three new series of all those convicted in any court in England and Wales in 1963-5 (n=1352), in 1980-1 (n=5584) and in 2000-1 (n=3335). The profile of convicted arsonists has significantly shifted over the years, with an increasing proportion of females and a rise in the average age of both males and females. Previous convictions for violence and criminal damage (including arson) are much more evident in the later series. The proportion of medical disposals has declined, while the 1:2 ratio for custodial/non-custodial sentences has remained constant. With a 20-year follow-up the proportion reconvicted for arson has more than doubled--from 4.5% in the 1951 series to 10.7% for the 1980-1 series. The indications are that the situation in relation to arson has deteriorated significantly over the past forty years.
    Medicine, science, and the law 02/2004; 44(1):27-40. DOI:10.1258/rsmmsl.44.1.27 · 0.53 Impact Factor
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