Lawrence Suspects' Interview: `Key indicators of violence' obvious

Body Language

I HAVE interviewed over 150 convicted violent men and last night's programme revealed five individuals with key indicators of violence.

First off was the very obvious point that they had been part of a gang engaged in anti-social behaviour from a young age - almost all violent teenagers were anti-social children. As Gary Dobson put it: "We were a group of little bastards. Rascals, lovable rogues. I never said we were angels."

But the most striking evidence was their repeated belief that they were the victims, not perpetrators of violence. A paranoid belief that their violence is in self-defence is an absolutely classic indication of the cast of mind found in offensively violent people.

When he was asked why he had spat in the face of a bystander and lashed out at others, Neil Acourt replied: "It was in self defence. Someone gobs in your face, what do you do? I'm a natural defender, I fight fire with fire."

His brother James was asked repeatedly why he carried knives. Initially he replied: "I don't know." Eventually he offered the following reply: "Protection, I suppose, is the only answer."

This belief system is typical of violent men. The most common comment preceding a violent city-centre incident is "what are you looking at?". In many cases the person to whom this is addressed is "looking" at nothing, but that is not how the assailant sees it. His paranoid fantasy is that the victim poses a threat, is humiliating or being critical.

Experiments on violent psychopaths show that they are much more likely to attribute malign intentions when confronted by mildly annoying situations than non-psychopaths - in other words, they are more paranoid. That this paranoia starts in early life has been proven by similar experiments on boys. Young males were asked questions about motives in a number of seemingly neutral situations, such as: "Another boy's ball bounces towards you and hits you in the face - did he mean to hurt you?" Aggressive boys were much more likely to assign malign intentions and to say they would react to such situations with aggression.

It was clear that these five men formed a sub-culture of violence, using knives and racism, to bring power and excitement to their otherwise insignificant selves. But most dangerous of all, they genuinely believe they are the victims when launching their assaults. Maybe they once were victims in their schools or childhood homes, but in believing that their victims are a threat which must be met with even greater violence, they are murderously deluded.

Oliver James

Clinical Psychologist

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions