The time in between a case of ‘wrongful’ and ‘rightful’ conviction in the UK: miscarriages of justice and the contribution of psychology to reforming the police investigative process

Sam Poyser, Becky Milne

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Abstract

Wrongful convictions or miscarriages of justice are experienced by justice systems worldwide. At the centre of each miscarriage lies a complex mix of causes. The contribution of the police investigative process and particularly the interview process, to this mix is, however, significant and enduring. Nevertheless, in the UK important inroads have been made with respect to reform in this regard. This has occurred partly in response to revelations of dreadful miscarriages of justice and the findings of ground-breaking psychological research. This research began in earnest in the 1970s, the decade when Noel Jones, a vulnerable young man falsely confessed to, and was wrongfully convicted of, the killing of schoolgirl Janet Commins. It has continued through to the second decade of the 21st century when following a case review, Stephen Hough was rightfully convicted of the same crime; the justice system acknowledging that the original police investigation was flawed and that Jones was ‘wholly exonerated’ (Evans, 2019). Taking these wrongful and rightful convictions as rough ‘start’ and ‘end’ points in time, this article critically examines the contribution of psychological research to bringing about reform of the investigative process and particularly the interview process, in the UK. In doing so, it argues that miscarriages of this nature are now less likely, but that further psychological research and policing reform are required to continue progress already made.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Police Science & Management
Early online date30 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 30 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • miscarriages of justice
  • reform
  • psychological research
  • investigative process
  • interview process

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