Police detectives' perceptions of giving evidence in court
Purpose - The aim of this paper is to review common methods used by English lawyers when questioning police witnesses, and to identify training issues for preparing officers for giving evidence in court. Design/methodology/approach - A questionnaire was administered to 48 police detectives concerning the last time they gave evidence in court, the types of questions they were asked during cross-examination, lawyers' tactics, and what they believed to be personal attacks. Findings - The findings indicated that detectives perceived they were questioned in a consistent manner, and asked questions that they felt at times were difficult to understand, difficult to answer, upsetting, and distorted their evidence. Nevertheless, they were generally satisfied with their experiences in court. Research limitations/implications - The current study in this paper uses self-report methodology that may be less objective than independent observation. A potentially fruitful avenue of research might be the study of court cases where police officers give evidence to measure the influence of lawyers' questions directly. Practical implications - The results indicate a number of training issues for preparing police officers to give evidence in court. Officers should be trained to deal with confusing or constraining questioning, and to thoroughly prepare. Officers should also be trained concerning how to deal with inconsistencies in evidence, mistakes, and having their character attacked. Originality/value - This is the first survey, to the authors' knowledge, of police officers' experiences of giving evidence in court and suggests some ways of improving the overall accuracy of police witnesses' accounts in court.
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management