Fitness To Be Interviewed 91 Introduction

The custodial interrogation of suspects is an essential component of all criminal investigation systems. The confessions and other incriminating state ments that are obtained during these interrogations have always played an important role in prosecutions and continue to be relied on as evidence of guilt in a substantial number of trials. For example, in England and Wales, confessions provide the single most important piece of evidence against defendants in the Crown Court, being crucial in approx 30% of cases (37). Similarly, an influential American observational study found that interrogation was necessary for solving the crime in approx 17% of cases (38). The quest to obtain confessions from suspects' mouths has seen a slow and uneven move away from the inquisitions aided by torture and oppression of the Middle Ages toward the doctrine that:

A free and voluntary confession is deserving of the highest credit, because it is presumed to flow from the strongest sense of guilt and therefore it is admitted as proof of the crime to which it refers; but a confession forced from the mind by the flattery of hope or by the torture of fear comes in so questionable a shape when it is to be considered as the evidence of guilt, that no credit ought to be given to it; and therefore it is rejected (39).

In the years since this judgment, considerable effort has been expended attempting to regulate the custodial interview to minimize the risk of false confessions while preserving the value of interrogation as a means of solving crime. In this section, the important psychological aspects of interrogation and confession are considered and the role the forensic physician can play in ensuring that suspects are fit to be interviewed is discussed.

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