Disputed confessions and the Criminal Justice System

Paper No.2
Gisli H. Gudjonsson and James MacKeith
Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London



This paper outlines the contributions that forensic psychology and psychiatry have made in recent years to the understanding of 'unreliable' confessions. There is now an improved scientific base from which experts can testify in cases of disputed confessions. The status of the expert in these cases is no longer in dispute. The Courts increasingly rely on expert testimony. What is controversial is the nature of the expert's contribution in judicial proceedings. The authors argue that expert testimony is sometimes inappropriately applied to cases and misused by the legal profession to attempt an acquittal. While the Courts should accept that psychological vulnerabilities and mental disorder can in certain circumstances result in unreliable confessions, the tesimony of experts must be scrupulously balanced and be open to careful scrutiny.

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