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Children as alibi witnesses: the effect of age and confidence on mock-juror decision making

Fawcett, Hannah and Winstanley, Kate (2018) Children as alibi witnesses: the effect of age and confidence on mock-juror decision making. Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 25 (6). pp. 957-971. ISSN 1321-8719

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Abstract

This study investigated the influence of child alibi witness age and confidence upon mock juror decision making. Participants (N D 145) read a mock murder trial transcript containing the evidence of a defendant and a corroborating child alibi witness. Six versions of the trial transcript were created manipulating the alibi witness’s age (8, 12, 16 years of age) and the confidence they displayed (high, low) while giving evidence. Despite a tendency towards returning not-guilty verdicts, no associations between alibi witness age, confidence and verdicts were found. However, confident alibi witnesses were perceived as more honest, accurate and reliable than unconfident alibi witnesses. The findings do not support the twofactor model of witness credibility, but do suggest that the alibi scepticism commonly found towards adult alibi witnesses may not extend as strongly towards children corroborating the defendant’s alibi. More research is required before policy recommendations can be made.

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