Evaluation of witness credibility

Credibility is not the same as honesty. Two witnesses can give perfectly honest accounts of the same events; one (or both) of them can be totally wrong. It is not uncommon to read as much in civil judgments.

Eyewitness testimony is a legal term. It refers to an account given by people of an event they have witnessed. For example they may be required to give a description at a trial of a robbery or a road accident someone has seen. This includes identification of perpetrators, details of the crime scene etc.

Eyewitness testimony is an important area of research in cognitive psychology and human memory. Judges tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony and generally find it a reliable source of information. However, research into this area has found that eyewitness testimony can be affected by many psychological factors:

  • Anxiety / Stress
  • Reconstructive Memory
  • Leading Questions

Under cross-examination and when giving evidence in general, witnesses are understandably prone to anxiety, and may - unconsciously or deliberately - underplay or exaggerate the extent of their knowledge about certain events or occurrences, or their own role and importance within the context under investigation.

Appropriate assessment of the likely risk of this occurring is paramount to any legal proceedings.

Christopher Stones is available to evaluate witness credibility.

Psychological profiling

Offender profiling is a method of identifying the most likely type of person that could have committed a crime based on evidence and information found at the crime scene along with specific characteristics of the crime itself. It is not a method for finding the specific person who committed the crime. However, it does describe the type of person that most likely could have committed the crime.