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Study shows that false confessions may be more common than previously thought


Dr. Gisli Gudjonsson is a professor of forensic psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College in London. He has recently published a study that demonstrates that almost 20% of criminals that have been convicted were convicted through a false confession.


Dr. Gudjonsson explains these phenomena after a large news flurry spurred deeper investigation into the act. The uproar was due to the case of Sean Hodgson who confessed to murdering a barmaid in 1980, only to be released from prison 27 years later when DNA evidence exonerated him from the crime.


Research has found that in the United States voluntary false confessions are much higher than previously thought. These confessions are being proven incorrect through DNA evidence.


Factors that play into the occurrence of false confessions include a pathological need for attention that many repeat offenders have. Providing a confession for a crime that in many cases is of higher profile than the actual act can illicit a bigger response from law enforcement and the press. Combining this low self esteem and need for attention with law enforcement pressure during interrogation could potentially result in higher rates of false confessions.


Other research links the pathological need for attention with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Dr. Gudjonsson also states though “It is a myth that only people with¬†mental¬†illness or learning disabilities make false confessions to serious crimes. Interrogators do on occasions elicit false confessions to serious crimes from normal individuals. Greater awareness and improved police interview training are important in reducing the risk of police-induced false confession.





Mark Townsend: The Guardian UK

Police warned about rising risk of false confessions


The Star: Police see increase in false confessions