It is something I should be championing you’d think, wouldn’t you? Yet I have more questions than ever about this move here in the UK whereby Police are being funded to go on a hypnosis course.
This hypnosis article in the Telegraph states:
Officers are being encouraged to sign up to a course by Tom Silver, who is better known as a ‘celebrity hypnotherapist’ on American chat shows, in an attempt to gain more information from suspects.
Mr Silver, who has appeared on the Montel Williams and Ricki Lake chat shows on US TV, where he gave a guest an “orgasmic handshake”, normally charges £1,000-a-day for courses in his home country.
But after being contacted by PC Mark Hughes, of Cheshire police, Mr Silver – a master hypnotist – agreed a ‘free one day taster course’ for cops before they sign up to his six day course, costing £1,500.
First up, I’d say that the UK has some of the world leading and foremost authorities in the field of hypnosis, people who have contributed masses of empirical evidence and research to the body of material on this subject. The UK homes some of the most progressive and highly respected schools in the world. Why oh why would they not seek out someone like Graham Wagstaff, Michael Heap or at the very least someone whose main claim to fame is not going to milked and criticised in the media as a ‘celebrity hypnotherapist’ who did an ‘orgasmic handshake’ on the Rikki Lake show? When we have such a plethora of brilliant minds, authors, researchers and teachers here in the UK, people with vast backgrounds and experience in forensic hypnosis and the theory underneath it… Why oh why do we not spend money on them? They are on our doorstep!
Ok, so next up, the article goes on to say:
The course will teach students ‘cutting edge techniques’, including an introduction into Electroencephalography (EEG) and will be paid for out of police coffers, according to respected industry magazine Police Review.
EEG is the recording of electrical activity in the brain gathered by placing sensors on the scalp which monitor ‘neuron activity’ – which cops believe can help ‘encourage’ suspects and witnesses to tell the truth.
PC Mark Hughes, an investigative skills trainer with Cheshire Constabulary, personally organised Mr Silver’s trip to the university in June next year.
He said that ‘forensic hypnosis’ is a the ‘next logical step’ for investigators to use when other ‘more traditional methods’ fail and said officers interested in new techniques should sign up to the course – despite its cost.
PC Hughes told Police Review: “Putting people in a receptive brainwave state makes it likelier that the truth would come out.
“Forensic hypnosis is a scientific approach as helmets monitor brain activity and anyone who is lying would have wide-awake brainwave patterns.
“Forensic hypnosis does not prove guilt but it can give new lines of enquiry when traditional methods have failed.
“I have studied neuro-linguistic programming where you look at language patterns and eye movements to see if someone is lying.
“For me it is the next logical step for investigators to take.
“It is the next frontier.”
Oh my oh my… This is exasperating to read, isn’t it? There is a very large body of evidence to demonstrate and indicate that there is no set of eye-movements that indicate truth or lies. There is empirical evidence to suggest as much. They eyes do move when people think and communicate, but it tends to be different for all of us… There is much evidence online to show as much, let alone if people actually looked deeper and further. It is even conceded by many NLP training schools, my own included.
As a basic starting point, have a look at Kevin Hogan’s research on the subject of eye-accessing cues and then to explore further, consider some of the sources and evidence given here at the NLP and Science page on Wikipedia.
Yet this basic premise has been overlooked and a top police officer is making claims. It goes on…
David Pickover, a former assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Police Review’s legal editor, said: “It is difficult to imagine circumstances where hypnotism is sensible or necessary but there is nothing to prevent officers from suggesting it to witnesses.
“The notion of regressing a witness so that a more accurate record of events is stimulated sounds an attractive proposition but we must recognise that the boundaries of hypnosis and its worth are still vague, at the least viewed with suspicion and at the worst with total scepticism.
“Evidence obtained under hypnosis would unquestionably be intensively examined by courts and viewed with extreme caution.”
Well quite right. Hypnosis has been dismissed by courts of law all over the world in recent years due to its lack of efficacy and reliability in ‘extracting’ the truth from alleged crminals. Again, there are huge bodies of evidence to suggest that it is not best used in this manner. Hypnosis is not some truth serum that can be applied and people suddenly spill their guts, again much, MUCH evidence indicates this. The article ends like this:
Silver has previously appeared on Ricki Lake, where he gave a woman an “orgasmic handshake”.
He hypnotised a woman called Jamaica to “sleep”, before he told the audience he would give her the “greatest orgasm” of her life when she woke up and shook a man’s hand. She then woke up and lunged on men getting more excited.
Well, that is just marvellous… Hopefully he’ll show our police force how to do this trick, eh? Maybe the stereotypes of stage hypnosis that mislead public opinion could be lessened if a more suitable person be chosen. I rate Tom Silver, his work is great… Yet we have some incredibly well respected authors and researchers in this country who have devoted years to the field of forensic hypnosis, who have appeared in court on many occcasions and have experience in this field… Yet, such a police initiative, which should be delighting people like me and correctly educating the public about it’s virtues is being promoted (even by the broadsheets) as being run by the ‘orgasmic handshake’ trainer.
This should be a massive step forward, a way of showing the true efficacy of hypnosis and hypnotherapy… instead we get soudbites of inaccuracies and petty nuances likely to have people questioning why on earth it is being done.
This has made me go all ‘bah humbug’ this morning… Better go and find something to laugh at… 🙂
I totally get where you’re coming from on this one, Adam. Here in the states we have an expression: “You can’t be an expert in your own town.” I suspect this principle is part of what’s going on here. Bringing in an outsider seems to make people pay attention to the message more. It’s why consultants get paid so much to come in to corporations and tell them what the employees have been saying to management all along. We don’t seem to trust the vision and experience of those close to us as much as we think we do.
Thanks for that Paul, I agree with you here.
The issue we are now facing with this story, especially now that the tabloids in the UK have latched on to it, is that this could have been an opportunity to celebrate and to be proud of moving the field of hypnosis forward.
Instead, we have police being quoted making unsubstatiated claims, and the flag bearer for the programme is most famous for an ‘organsm handshake’ – our media currently overly scrutinise any kind of public spending following MP’s expenses claims and furore at the BBC all coupled with our inability to shake off the recession… The police force and government agencies should have known how this hypnosis initiative would get portrayed, at least they could have had some well thought-out PR and some credible evidence-based facts to support the whole thing.
Paul, we have to do something together sometime soon….
Best wishes, A.
I have to agree with you, this could have been a really great opportunity for some really good press on hypnosis. There are so many hypnotherapist doing really great work in the UK. Why on earth bring in some US celebrity
Thank you Brian, good to hear from you.
This blog and article came across my timeline while doing some research of forensic hypnotism . Do you know if this ever took of with the Police in the U.K.? Were there any stories of its use in criminal cases that came to public knowledge? Thanks
As far as I am aware, it did not take off, no. If you really examine the research, you’ll see that any notion of hypnosis being ‘forensic’ is typically flawed before it starts due to the way that hypnosis is conceptualised by the majority of academia and research on the topic. The use of hypnosis in criminal cases is virtually non-existent today as a result and in fact many cases and convictions that used ‘forensic’ hypnosis in the past are being questioned, re-examined and in many cases thrown out due to the proven fallibility of hypnosis in this respect. Look to the work of Michael Heap in particular, but in particular the use of hypnosis with memory related applications – any good evidence-based hypnosis textbook will highlight the problems with hypnosis and memory. Best wishes to you, Adam.
Adam, I agree with all of your points. Here in America, Tom Silver is most widely known for his stage and entertainment hypnosis work. He is not known for any sort of academic pursuit or therapeutic hypnosis applications. I simply cannot imagine a police force hiring him.
To me, this is comparable to the police force in, let’s say Richmond, Virginia, hiring Ken Webster from Blackpool to come and do training in forensic hypnosis with its officers. Ken Webster is a great stage hypnotist because he has stage presence and can play the comedian, but I am sure even he would admit that he is not qualified to teach anything about forensic hypnosis.
What a shame that this is the path they selected. I have many hypnotherapist friends in the UK that I correspond with regularly, and so many of them would have been glad to have this opportunity to work with their own local police forces. It’s just a real shame.
Thank you Donald, I appreciate your contribution 🙂
(Have a fab festive season my friend)
I’m always a big fan of checking up on stories that press my buttons – I’ve seen how even a small local paper can take a situation and change it out of all recognition, and my experience is that it’s a good idea to check with the source. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a few minutes to email someone about a story doing the rounds, only to discover that they’re baffled that anyone could have come up with such a tale (no, the council didn’t ban the St George’s flag from its buildings; no, the St George’s day parade was never a council organised parade that got banned because of “political correctness”; no, the HSE never made councils put all gravestones flat for fear of them falling… the list goes on).
In this case, I did a quick Google. After all this time, there was still an official statement from Cheshire police saying that this story is a total misrepresentation. Took me under 2 minutes 🙂
“Spokeswoman Shelley Williams said: “Cheshire Constabulary does not utilise any form of hypnosis techniques with individuals as part of a criminal investigation, or invest in any form of hypnosis training for officers.
“The views expressed in the Police Review magazine are the personal views of PC Mark Hughes and not the views of the Cheshire Constabulary.
“Furthermore, the costs of the training is not funded by Cheshire Constabulary.””
Thank you for those references karen, they are very much appreciated.
Though I would note, my issue with this story is nothing to do with the Police using hypnosis. In fact I have written in great depth here on many occasions highlighting the lack of efficacy in hypnosis being used for eyewitness testimony, for example.
It was simply that if someone such as a police force were looking for training of a certain ilk, then perhaps they should/could consider looking elsewhere for something with a bit more congruency.
What’s more, if there was no sense of media misrepresentation, then we’d not get to discuss this subject with as much fervour, would we? 😉