Eyewitness Evidence Is Even More Unreliable After A Bit Of A Chase


Witnesses to a crime might recall events and faces less accurately if physically exhausted at the time of the incident. That’s the conclusion from a study in which 52 police officers were asked to recall events and identify suspects from ID parades after reconstructed crime. Lorraine Hope of the University of Portsmouth, UK, and colleagues gave all participants a briefing about a pretend burglary. Half of them then exercised for around a minute, to the point of exhaustion. A minute later, all the police officers were taken to a house where they were confronted by the prime suspect of the burglary.

Only 27 per cent of those who had exercised were later able to identify the suspect in an ID parade, compared with 54 per cent of those who had not (note the  already massive failure of even trained eyewitnesses). Those who had exercised also recalled just 56 per cent of the required details about the suspect compared with 84 per cent from the non-exercisers.

This issue does not appear to have received any particular attention within the legal system, which continues to allow highly unreliable notions such as ‘credibility’, something people are useless at, to decide on evidence.