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Forensic psychologist explains why Christchurch NZ is target for arsonists

A professor of forensic psychology who developed a theory to explain why people set deliberate fires has explained the psychological motives that may be responsible for arson in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Professor Theresa Gannon, who developed the first standardised treatment for convicted arsonists and firesetters in UK prisons and hospitals, is Director of the Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology at the University of Kent, UK. Currently on sabbatical at Victoria University of Wellington and as a previous resident of New Zealand she has been keeping up to date with the dramatic increase in fires reported in the Christchurch region since the most recent earthquakes. She said:

'It is very sad to see that people are setting deliberate fires to buildings in Christchurch. It is not uncommon for individuals who hold a particular interest in fire to set fire to all manner of things; especially in the context of boredom and stress.

'The large number of unoccupied buildings in Christchurch, and the increased stress that people are experiencing as a result of the earthquake can both be used to explain the increase in deliberate fires.

'For people who have an interest in fire, Christchurch now sadly holds many opportunities for these individuals to act on their interest by setting a deliberate fire.'

In addition, for those individuals who are susceptible to set fires when stressed, Professor Gannon believes it possible that stress created by the earthquake may well have increased some individual’s urges to set fires.


Story published at 10:27am 27 February 2013

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Last Updated: 12/06/2013