Essay about Eye Witness Testimony

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Eye Witness Testimony

The language used by the police when interviewing witnesses and barristers during a trial may influence answers given by witnesses, this language may affect initial perception and subsequent recall. Both of these effects are shown in the study by Loftus & Palmer {1974).

My experiment into this field showed the leading question with the `verb` contained the information about what the answer should be, thus language can have a distorting effect on EWT, which can lead to inaccurate accounts of the witnessed account. This was most certainly true in the study carried out, most participants gave a higher estimation of speed when the word in the critical question was changed
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Current serving police officers of today state they use The Cognitive Interview Technique when interviewing witnesses. With this approach the witness is asked to recall details of the incident in various different orders and to recall everything they remember whether they feel it is relevant or not, recall the event from a different perspective, such as that of another witness. Before the nineties, questioning was done very much on `critical questioning sometimes oppressive questioning which could produce unsafe information thus sometimes leading to false arrest and imprisonment, it was realised from previous studies into this field things had to change. Today the police have different policies, interviews are based on single questions and open replies and the technique changed on the advent of tape recorded interviews and change of style. Serving Police Officers have voiced only one disadvantage of this type of interview in that it can be time consuming.

When starting an interview police go back to the time where the witness is relaxed and comfortable before the event and a picture is built up from there, police are encouraged to avoid making judgmental and personal comments, to encourage witnesses to speak slowly, minimise distractions, tailor the complexity of language to suit individual witnesses to allow a pause between the
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