Eyewitness testimony: tracing the beliefs of Swedish legal professionals

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Abstract

This paper examines beliefs held by Swedish legal professionals about eyewitness testimony. In a survey including questions about 13 key issues of eyewitness testimony, three groups were investigated: police officers (n = 104), prosecutors (n = 158), and judges (n = 251). The response rate was 74%. Examples of findings are that the beliefs were in line with scientific findings concerning the weapon focus effect, but were not in line for simultaneous vs. sequential lineups. Between-group differences were found for seven items. Judges were much more sceptical than police officers about the reliability and completeness of children's testimonies. The groups seldom agreed about one answer alternative, and they reported not being up to date about scientific research on eyewitness testimony. The results suggest that some important research findings have reached those working on the field. However, they hold many wrongful beliefs about eyewitness testimony, beliefs that might compromise the accuracy of legal decisions. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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