Uncritical acceptance of eyewitness evidence by

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[Uncritical] acceptance of eyewitness evidence by police officers may be misleading and hinder the appropriate investigation of crimes. On the other hand, the police may minimise the disruptive potential of incorrect information if they are critical of eyewitness memory. Kebell and Milne (1998:324) This critical approach to eyewitnesses should extend to include an honest recognition of the processes through which statements are constructed. This would mean that witness statements would be seen, by the police and by other legal specialists (judges, barristers and solicitors) and lay people (jurors) downstream of the witness interview, as functions of their productive processes. If, for example, the processes of statement-taking were acknowledged, they could be explored in court rather than being used as a weapon against the witness who may, as the system stands, find themselves under pressure to conform to the version provided in the statement. Any statement-taking session risks creating an incorrect or incomplete record. The only way to guard against these risks completely is to make, and use audio-recordings of witness statement-taking sessions. It could be that these issues have already been played- out and fully assessed in the arena of the audio-recording of statements with suspects. If this is the case, by analogy, incentives for the audio-recording of witness statements include clarity and justice but disincentives include demands on time and resources. Use of audio-recordings would need to be considered carefully to avoid wasting time and money and to avoid abuses, particularly the creation of an impression of improved practice where improvements have actually not occurred. Statement-taking is in a formative stage and the introduction of audio-recording of some witness statement-taking sessions has been an exciting development. It will be interesting to see whether this trend gathers pace and if so, how these recordings come to be used and how, indeed whether, applied linguists become involved in their use. References Baldwin, J. and Bedward, J. 1991 ‘Summarising tape recordings of police interviews’ Criminal law review 671-679
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Barton, D. 1994 Literacy: An introduction to the ecology of written language Blackwell Publishers Ltd: Oxford Clifford, B. and George, R. 1996 ‘A field evaluation of training in three methods of witness/victim investigative interviewing’ In: Psychology, crime and law 2 231-248 Coulthard, R. M. 1993 ‘On beginning the study of forensic texts: corpus, concordance, collocation’ In: Hoey, M. (ed) 1993 Data, description, discourse HarperCollins: London 86-114 Coulthard, R. M. 2000 ‘Suppressed dialogue in a confession statement’ In: Coulthard, R. M., Cotterill, J. and Rock, F. (eds) 2000 Working with Dialogue Niemeyer: T bingen 417-424 Director of Public Prosecutions 14 August 1992 Advice to chief police officers on disclosure of unused material CPS Headquarters: London Fox, G. 1993 ‘A comparison of ‘policespeak’ and ‘normalspeak’: a preliminary study In: Sinclair, J. M., Hoey, M. and Fox, G. 1993 Techniques in
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