Psychopaths are said to lack empathy- in other words, they have an absence of feeling guilty while being extremely impulsive.

Only 1% of the general population, and about 25% of the prison population are made up of psychopaths.

Believe it or not, but every person on earth have some psychopathic traits, but they have it at different levels. Some of those are very good at masking it, while others are more callous.

Some can actually have psychopathic tendencies without being a psychopath.

Not every psychopath is violent. The kinds of psychopath’s that everyday people are aware of are the one’s depicted in crime shows, such as Dexter.

The following are 5 interesting facts about psychopaths.

(1) More likely to commit crimes

Clinical psychologist Joseph Newman from the University of Wisconsin says, “Criminal psychopaths are about 3-times more likely to commit acts of violence than other offenders, and about two-and-a-half times more likely to commit other antisocial acts such as lying and sexual exploitation”.

(2) Psychopaths cannot recognise fear

Psychopaths recognised and understand most emotions-except for fear and sometimes sadness. They also have difficulty in expressing fear themselves. This means that they simply do not know how to respond to horror in normal humans.

A researcher from Georgetown University, Abigail Marsh reportedly discovered from research that there is a malfunction of the amygdala in psychopaths- the amygdala is a part of the brain which controls response to fear. The research purports to reveal that in psychopaths, the outer layer of the amygdala is thinner and smaller than that of a normal brain. This causes that part of the brain to be less active explaining why psychopaths aren’t able to understand expressions of fear.

(3) Higher dopamine levels

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter activating the reward centre of a brain. Psychopaths are dopamine seekers. Joshua Buckholtz of the University of Vanderbilt in Nashville believes that psychopaths brains produce more dopamine while it also overvalues it. That desire for dopamine is why psychopaths are so obsessed in getting his/her own way, even if it is at the expense of someone else.

(4) Psychopaths get harsher penalties on sentence in criminal cases

A research conducted by researchers from the University of Utah approached a group of 181 Judges. Those Judges were asked to sentence a fictitious character named Jonathan. They were told that this man was guilty for committing a violent armed robbery offence in a fast food restaurant.

The Judges were given further details, that Jonathan had no remorse, he bragged about it while at on the run.

The Judges were each asked to sentence Jonathan for aggravated battery.

Each of those Judges were told that Jonathan was a psychopath, but only 50% of those Judges were provided with a biological explanation of the disorder.

Most Judges said they would normally give about 9-years imprisonment in the ordinary case of an offender without the disorder. On the other hand, that sentence increased to about 14-years imprisonment to an offender with the disorder.

(5) Businesses and psychopaths

Kevin Dutton, an Oxford researcher in two thousand and thirteen collected number of professions which attract the largest number of psychopaths. Amongst those are police officers, surgeons and lawyers. The highest portion of psychopaths in a profession, however, was CEO’s.

The Real Life “Dexter”

Not all violent psychopaths are as evil as you would think.

Pedro Rodrigues Filho, also known as the real-life Dexter, was a serial killer who actually killed other killers.

Pedro has murdered at least 70 people. He committed 10 of those 70 people before turning 18 years old. He only went after killing criminals or those that had crossed him.

He was born in 1954, in Brazil. His mother was beaten by his father while she was pregnant- resulting in Pedro being born with an injured skull.

His First Murder

His first taste of blood was at the age of 14. He shot the Town’s Vice-Mayor for firing his father who was accused of stealing food from the school he was working as the school guard in.

Pedro’s next murder wasn’t long after this one, when he hunted down and killed the real culprit who stole the school food.

From there, Pedro continued killing victims who were all criminals.

Some of the most passionate killings by Pedro was following the murder of the love of his life- his partner Maria Aparecida Olympia who was killed by some gangsters.

This led to Pedro’s killing spree- he was committed to find the gang member who killed his Maria.

The next most passionate murder Pedro committed was the stabbing of his father twenty-two times before cutting out his heart and chewing on it. He did this in vengeance- after learning his father had killed his mother with a machete.

When he was finally arrested and placed into custody, Pedro then committed most of his murders when he was arrested and placed into custody surrounded by convicted offenders. During this time, he killed at least 47 inmates.

In an interview, Pedro was reported saying that he received a thrill and joy from killing other criminals. His most desirable way of killing was by hacking or stabbing with blades.

Pedro was technically sentenced in Brazil to four hundred years in jail for all the crimes committed, however, the law there only allows for a maximum of thirty-years prison. In 2007, Pedro was released.

The Law and Penalties for Murder in NSW is different.

Penalties for Murder Charges in NSW

In NSW, anyone guilty of murder will face a maximum penalty of up to life in prison. (section 61 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW)).

The Sentencing Judge has the discretion (option) to not impose a life sentence for murder in certain circumstances.

A Judge will only impose a life sentence for murder if it can be established that the degree of criminality by the convicted offender was extreme enough that it would only be appropriate to impose a life sentence in light of the purposes of punishment- protection of community, deterrence, retribution and community interest to punish.

As an example, the criminality for murder becomes more extreme in seriousness where there is greater premeditation and extent of violence. It can become less extreme where it is committed impulsively and/or with provocation.

Pushing in favour of not imposing a life prison sentence, includes features personal to the convicted offender referred to as ‘subjective’ factors, and include remorse, contrition, insight, mental illness and prospects of rehabilitation to ensure that the community would be protected if the convicted offender is ever released back into the community.

The final decision as to whether or not to impose a life sentence will ultimately be based on the Judge balancing on the one hand, degree of criminality, and on the other, ‘subjective’ factors.

If the Judge decides not to impose a life sentence to a convicted offender, a ‘non-parole’ and ‘parole’ period will need to be set.

The ‘non-parole’ period is the minimum period of Full time jail an offender will be required to spend before being eligible for release back into the community on ‘parole’. While on ‘parole’ the offender will be supervised with a range of other conditions to ensure the community is protected and he/she is rehabilitated sufficiently.

If the Judge decides not to impose a life sentence for murder, where the murder occurred after 1 February 2003, the Judge will also be required to consider the ‘standard non-parole period’ of twenty-years as a guidepost or yardstick.

The 20-years standard non-parole period only applied to offences of murder that fall within the mid-level of objective seriousness for offences of this kind (murder). The 20-years non-parole is not compulsory-only a guide for Judges to consider.

Factors in determining whether the murder falls in the mid-level of objective seriousness include the factors already discussed earlier, including extent of pre-meditation, extent of violence, period of time the violence took place, any provocation etc.

Read our previous blog on ‘what are the defences to a murder charge in NSW?’ for an outline on this.

What the Police Must Prove to Secure a Guilty Verdict in a Murder Charge

Under section 18 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person will be guilty of murder if the police can prove beyond reasonable doubt, each of the following elements:

  • The accused person voluntarily did something causing death to the victim; and
  • At the time of doing this, the accused person:
    1. Had the intention to cause grievous bodily harm (permanent or serious disfiguring or really serious injury); or
    2. Had the intention to kill; or
    3. Foresaw the probability of causing the death, but did it anyway; or
    4. Committed a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 25-years imprisonment (Constructive murder).

The accused person’s murder charge will be dismissed if any one of the above elements are not capable of being proven.


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AUTHOR Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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