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Criminal Justice Report Example: Eye-witnesses and Suspects Identification

5 pages
1144 words
George Washington University
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Every criminal investigation has the principal role of determining the offenders identity (Temsley, 1999). In some investigations, police usually have no idea who the perpetrator of the crime is while in other cases they are able to discover facts about the individual who carried out the crime. Moreover, in other circumstances, the perpetrator will confess after being suspected of the crime. Forensic science is fundamental in proving the identity of the criminal, but a very significant instrument used in determining guilt is an eyewitness.

The current system in which identification evidence is evaluated through the use of parades has succeeded and failed in different instances due to various factors such as the police procedures involved. Many changes can be put in place to improve the efficiency and reliability of identification parades (Kapardis, 2003).

Research shows that a minimum of seventy percent of crown court cases proceed on a guilty plea and very few of the defendants are provided with the Turnbull guidelines protections as well as the section seventy-eight of the police and criminal evidence act (PACE) of 1984 (Kapardis, 2003). Therefore, it is of extreme importance to make sure that there is fairness and that the procedures used in the period before trial including parade identification are reliable.

The PACE code D contains the principal methods that police officers use in the identification of persons who are connected to offences as well as the storage of reliable and accurate criminal records. The code has a provision for the identification of suspects by eyewitnesses who see the offense being committed and they are then given the chance to identify the suspect either in a video or in a parade.

Eyewitness identification has been said to play a very significant role in twenty-five percent of crown court cases. Some people are of the opinion that the recent advances in scientific identification techniques have led to reduced importance of eyewitness identification but the evidence gotten from identification parades is still considered to be extremely crucial, and it has also been seen to be a significant cause of injustice (Thompson et al., 1998). It is therefore imperative to ensure that the witnesses and suspects enjoy fairness in the identification process. Psychological research is vital because it helps in reducing misidentification of suspects as well as ensuring that the eyewitness evidence retrieved from the identification process is reliable. Different factors that should be put in place are described below.

First, the officers who are involved in the identification process should be well trained on all the stages of the process. Reliable procedures for witness and suspect identification must be highly emphasized because the information deduced from this process is then used in courts of law. Additionally, once this evidence goes to court, no process is applied to get rid of evidence that was improperly obtained under section sixty-seven of the PACE, and there is also no Turnbull warning provided to the jury in most of the cases in which identification is critical (Kapardis, 2003). The officers when properly trained on the identification process will ensure correct outcomes. Emphasis should also be placed on the importance of the principle of integrity in the officers.

Second, the officers should prioritize the rights of the individuals involved, and they should follow the set rules to ensure fairness. Psychological research has shown that most people strive to achieve procedural balance as opposed to prosecutions. Therefore, there is a need for the identification officers to ensure that they protect the rights of the suspects and witnesses through the adoption of principles that maintain law and order (Temsley, 1999). It is also essential for the officers to use additional evidence to support the identification parade evidence.

Psychological research has shown that if a witness views a face for a long period, they are likely to recognize it accurately at a later date. Thus, during the identification parade, it is important for the witnesses to be provided as long a period as they need to be able to accurately identify the suspect (Lushing, 1982). Additionally, for cases where the witness only had a fleeting glance at the suspect, hypnosis procedures can be used to enable the witness to properly recall the entire incident that occurred and therefore make the correct choice in the identification (Kapardis, 2003). This is very important because research has shown that very many witnesses are usually not sure who the criminal is from the parade and they hence guess (Kapardis, 2003). Hypnosis will thereby aid in reducing such situations.

The appearance of an offender is a salient detail in the identification process, but the saliency of different details to eyewitnesses are subject to the eyewitnesses prior experiences and their individual biases. Witnesses encode and perceive salient details in different ways. A study conducted by Laughery ((Thompson et al., 1998), shows that most witnesses mentioned the eyes when describing the offender. Thus the identification parades should put a high emphasis on the suspects eyes since they are one crucial salient detail. The actions of the offender are another critical detail that should be mentioned during the identification process. Additionally, identification parade officers should ask for any other salient features in the suspects such as tattoos, disabilities, and manner of walking. By applying emphasis on such elements during the parade identification, the officers will be able to ensure fairness to the suspects since the probability of correct identification is increased.

Finally, there is usually a waiting period of approximately one month between the time when an identification parade is requested and the actual time that it takes place (Temsley, 1999). One experiment that was carried out by (Thompson et al., 1998) shows that memory gets lost over time. They said that there is usually a quick loss of memory once an event had taken place. After that, the memory of the event continually decreases at a gradual rate. Therefore, given the long waiting period, witnesses are likely to forget some important details of an event. Thus it is essential for a considerable reduction of the waiting period to ensure that witnesses remember all the critical details of the incident correctly.

In conclusion, it is evident that the parade identification process requires improvement to ensure that the exercise is fair to both the witnesses as well as the suspects. The police officers involved in the process should be well trained and different measures should also be put in place to ensure that witnesses are accorded the opportunity to make the right decisions when picking out the suspects.



Kapardis, A. (2003). Psychology and Law: A Critical Introduction.

Lushing, S. (1982). Comparative criminal justicesearch and seizure, interrogation, and identification of suspects in India: A research note. Journal of Criminal Justice, 10(3).

Temsley, Y. (1999). Identification Parades Upholding the Integrity of the Criminal Justice Process? Faculty of Law the University of Birmingham.

Thompson, C., Toglia, M., Payne, D., Bruce, D., Herrmann, D., & Read, J. (1998). Eyewitness Memory: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives.


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