Sunday, April 29, 2007

Evidence: New procedure to improve accuracy of witness recollections

BBC Focus Magazine has an article about a technique, called self-administered interview (SAI), that is said to improve the accuracy of witness recall by 42 percent.

Under current UK police procedure, there is apparently a two step process for interviewing a witness - first a brief (summary) interview and then a more detailed one. The proposed procedure instead makes the initial process much more intensive and has the witness record as many details as possible using a questionnaire. The work is by Dr Lorraine Hope (University of Portsmouth, UK) and other researchers at University of Abertay and Florida International University.

In contrast to what the current common perception of what crime scene investigation can accomplish is, in reality there are a large number of crimes where the crucial evidence is testimony by an eye, or ear, witness. This makes accurate recollection extremely important, particularly since detailed memory does degrade rapidly with time in most people and eye/ear witness testimony, as currently "managed", is at least occasionally later found to be erroneous.

Additional Link: The Daily Telegraph (UK, center-right newspaper) also has a write-up with a few more details.

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