Eye witness testimony; understanding post identification feedback and witness confidence inflation as system variables: a review of police practice

Head, M. (2014) Eye witness testimony; understanding post identification feedback and witness confidence inflation as system variables: a review of police practice. M.Phil. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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The confidence witnesses experience in their selection decisions, when participating in formal identification parades, has been the subject of much criminological research. The findings suggest that confidence is far from being a static construct; instead it is understood to be highly malleable and capable of being ameliorated by post-identification information. Although the effects of post-event feedback are well documented, no research has been conducted that establishes the nature and extent of information passed to witnesses by police investigators in real crime case scenarios.

The dissertation reviews the current training provision for detectives and establishes an absence of any official guidance in regard to the information that should or should not be provided to witnesses post-identification. This is indicative of the current belief that witness confidence is conceptualised as being outside of the control of the criminal justice system. The research in this thesis challenges this position and suggests that information provided by police investigators is capable of affecting witness confidence, and, in addition, is also wholly capable of being placed within the scope of statutory control.

The research establishes the views and practices of operational investigators and concludes that witnesses are frequently provided with positive reinforcement. The altering of witness confidence in this way has serious ramification for the judicial system, meaning that the confidence a witness displays at trial is unlikely to be indicative of that they experienced at the point of identification.

In my conclusion I suggest that witness confidence should be understood as being equally susceptible to contamination as any other form of forensic evidence. That being the case, its management should be safeguarded within a legal framework and subject to intrusive scrutiny to establish its integrity at court.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV7551-8280.7 Police. Detectives. Constabulary
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2015 10:26
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2016 01:32
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/13224

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00