Psychologist in Stagg case faces misconduct charge

One of the country's leading criminal profilers faces being struck off after being accused of misconduct by the man cleared eight years ago of murdering Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common.

Paul Britton, 56, is due to appear this week before a preliminary disciplinary hearing of the British Psychological Society (BPS), which will examine complaints made by Colin Stagg, 37, that the criminal psychologist acted unprofessionally when advising police on the inquiry.

Mr Britton was criticised by other psychologists for his part in the "honey trap" scheme in which an undercover policewoman wrote to Mr Stagg, encouraging him to swap sadomasochistic fantasies. Mr Britton helped script the letters.

Mr Stagg claims the psychologist ruined his life and did not carry out his duties in a proper and scientific manner. He was cleared of stabbing Ms Nickell, a former model, in front her two-year-old son, at an Old Bailey trial in 1994.

If found guilty of professional misconduct, Mr Britton, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, could be expelled from the British Psychological Society, which would prevent him working in the public sector. Mr Britton has worked on dozens of police cases including that of mass murderer Fred West. the kidnapping of Stephanie Slater and the murder of James Bulger

The murder of Ms Nickell in July 1992 generated huge media interest and police came under strong pressure to find the killer. Their prime suspect was Colin Stagg, but they had little evidence.

They turned to Mr Britton to draw up a profile of the killer. They also asked him to help design a covert operation aimed at testing whether the suspect would eliminate or implicate himself. An undercover policewoman known as Lizzie James – not her real name – began exchanging letters with Mr Stagg as part of Operation Edzell. He did not confess to the murder but detectives believed he had revealed details which could lead to his conviction.

Mr Britton concluded that both the suspect and the killer "had a sexually deviant-based personality disturbance". Mr Stagg was arrested in 1993 and charged with the murder. Mr Britton's report, which concluded that the defendant was one of a very small sub-group who suffered from this particular sexual deviation was produced as evidence, a first for a British court.

When the case reached the Old Bailey the judge, Mr Justice Ognall, threw out Mr Britton's evidence. He described the undercover operation as "wholly reprehensible". He said police had shown "excessive zeal" and had tried to incriminate a suspect by "deceptive conduct of the grossest kind".

The prosecution withdrew its case and Mr Stagg was acquitted. Ms Nickell's killer has not been brought to justice.

The BPS's disciplinary committee will begin a three-day hearing tomorrow to consider whether to order a full inquiry. Mr Britton says he acted with "complete professional and personal integrity".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee