Eyewitness confidence is key to safer convictions

Eyewitness confidence is key to safer convictions

New research into eyewitness memory could increase the accuracy of suspect identification and save millions of pounds in police and court costs.

Every year thousands of police suspects are identified by eyewitnesses, but the way that line-ups are administered can mean some of those identified are innocent. Misidentification has played a role in more than 70% of cases in the US where a suspect was subsequently exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence.

The research, led by Professor Laura Mickes, Reader in the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, found that collecting eyewitness confidence in their identification straight after the line-up was very important. Eyewitnesses who were confident in their identification were more likely to have accurately identified the offender. Those who were not so confident, were less likely to have identified the offender.

Professor Mickes explains: “The research shows without a doubt that confidence expressed during the initial identification procedure is predictive of accuracy. By not collecting confidence we are losing so much important information."

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