G543 Forensic Studies (turning to crime, making a case, reaching a verdict)

OCR A2 Psychology Key Study Cards for the Forensic section; Turning to Crime, Making a Case, Reaching a Verdict. 

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  • Created on: 19-01-13 17:36

Farrington et al

Farrington et al

Aims: To document the start, duration and end of offending behaviour from childhood to adulthood in families. To investigate the influence of life events; the risk and protective factors predicting offending and antisocial behaviour; the intergenerational transmission of offending and antisocial behaviour, and the influence of family background.

Design: Prospective, longitudinal survey. Interviews at age 8/9 and 48, as well as criminal record searches.

Participants: 411 East London boys aged 8/9, predominantly white working class.

Results: A small proportion (7%) of males were 'chronic offenders' who accounted for about half of all recorded crimes. Self-report showed that 93% had commited a crime at some stage even they were not reported to the police. 161 had official convictions at age 48. The proportion of men leading successful lives (6/9 of the criteria of life success) increased with age.

Conclusion: Offenders tend to be deviant in many aspects of their lives. Early prevention to reduce offending could have wide-ranging benefits with accommodation, relationships, employment, alcohol, drugs and aggressive behaviour.

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1. Criminal behaviour is learned.

2. Criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with other persons in a process of communication.

3. The principal part of the learning of criminal behaviour occurs within intimate personal groups.

4. A criminal has to learn the techniques of the trade from someone, he also learns the attitudes taken and excuses made for behaving in a criminal fashion.

5. Groups of people may see certain laws as pointless or discriminatory and therefore feel they can flaunt them or that it is ok to break them, for example underage drinking laws (favourable/unfavourable laws).

6. The principle of differential association: individuals become criminal due to repeated contacts with criminal activity and a lack of contact with non-criminal activity.

7. Differential association (number of contacts with criminals over non-criminals) may vary in frequency, duration, priority and intensity.

8. Criminal behaviour is learned like any other behaviour.

9. While criminal behaviour is an expression of general needs and values, it is not explained by those general needs and values, since non-criminal behaviour is an expression of the same needs and values.

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Design: A cross-sectional study.

Sample: Nearly 2000 Year 10 students.

Methodology: Interview and data collection.

Selected key findings: 44.8% of the males and 30.6% of the females have committed at least one of the studied crimes (violence, vandalism, shoplifting, burglary, car theft). Offenders are more often victimised than non-offenders and are more often drunk and more often use drugs than other youths.

Explanatory factors: Family social position, individual characteristics, social situation, lifestyles and routine activities, community contexts. 

Conclusions: There are three groups of adolescent offenders: propensity-induced (individual characteristic), lifestyle-dependent (high-risk lifestyle prompts offending), situationally-limited (may occasionally offend if exposed to high-risk; substance abuse a big factor)

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Yochelson and Samenow

Aims: To understand the make-up of the criminal personality, to establish techniques that could be used to alter the personality disorders that produce crime, to encourage an understanding of legal responsibility, to establish techniques that can be effective in preventing criminal behaviour.

Participants: 255 male participants from various backgrounds, from the mental hospital that Yochelson and Samenow worked at, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. No control group.

Methodology: A series of interviews over several years.

Selected findings: Criminals are restless, dissatisfied and irritable. While at school, they considered requests from their teachers and parents as impositions, they are habitually angry and lack empathy and they are poor at responsible decision-making. Most dropped out; only 30 completed the programme and 9 changed as a result.

Conclusion: 52 thinking patterns: "errors" in thinking supposedly unique to criminals but wasn't compared to a control group.

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Aim: To find evidence in support of a progression through stages of moral development.

Participants: 1963; based on 58 boys from Chicago, aged 7, 10, 13 and 16.

Methodology: Each boy had a two hour interview with dilemmas to solve e.g. Heinz dilemma. Some boys followed up at 3 yearly interviews. Study replicated in other countries.

Results: Younger boys performed at stages 1 and 2 but older boys were at stages 3 and 4 showing support for development through the stages. No support was found for stage 6.

Conclusions: Support for the stages, and recent replications with criminal samples support this also.

Level 1 (Pre-morality): Stages 1 and 2

Level 2 (Conventional morality): Stages 3 and 4

Level 3 (Post-conventional morality): Stages 5 and 6

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Gudjohnsson and Bownes

Aim: To examine the relationship between the type of offence and the attributions offenders make about their criminal act and then cross-validate earlier findings on an English sample.

Methodology: Used the Gudjohnsson and Singh Blame Attribution Inventory to measure the offenders' type of offence and attribution of blame on three dimensions: internal/external, mental element and guilt.

Participants: 80 criminals from Northern Ireland; 40 violent offenders, 20 property offenders and 20 sexual offenders. 

Results: Those who had committed sexual offences showed most remorse. Little difference in mental element for all offenders. Highest external attribution in violent offenders. Correlation between English and Irish prisoners.

Conclusion: Strong consistency across offender groups. Only real difference in violent offenders which could be due to the 'troubles' in NI at the time.

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Aim: To take a multi-factorial approach to understanding antisocial and aggressive behaviour in children with a biological focus.

Methodology: A review article.

Procedure: Reviewed and summarised findings from a selection of brain-imaging and neurological studies and reported them.

Results: In summary, Raine draws together many different threads. He believes that a low resting heart rate is a good predictor of someone who will seek excitement to raise their arousal level (e.g. risk-taking). In addition there is new research to suggest that the adolescent brain is still forming its final connections in the pre-frontal lobes right up to the early twenties. Activity in the pre-frontal lobes has been shown to be lower in impulsive individuals who are aggressive. This may explain why offending peaks during adolescence. Birth complications and poor parenting adds to the risk of turning to crime.

Conclusion: Raine concludes that early intervention and prevention may be an effective way of reversing biological deficits that predispose to antisocial and aggressive behaviour.

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Brunner et al

Aim: To explain the behaviour of a large family in the Netherlands where the males are affected by a syndrome of borderline mental retardation and abnormal violent behaviour.

Participants: Five affected males from the family.

Methodology: Data were collected from analysis of urine sample over a 24 hour period.

Results: In each of the males a point mutation was identified in the X chromosome of the gene responsible for production of MAOA.

Conclusion: MAOA is involved in serotonin metabolism. A lack of serotonin can lead to the inability to regulate aggression and anger. 

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Daly and Wilson

Aim: To find out if the homicide rates would vary as a function of local life expectancy in Chicago.

Methodology: A correlational study using survey data from police and school records, and local demographic records collected by population census.

Procedure: The study examined local communities in Chicago which had lower than average male life expectancies.

Results: Life expectancy was the best predictor of neighbourhood-specific homicide rates (a negative correlation of -0.88). Another key finding was that truancy from school correlated with life expectancy. In the case of females, the median age of new mothers was younger in the communities with lower life expectancy. Daly and Wilson beleive that young adults are still driven by ancient adaptive traits, such as risk-taking and early reproduction, which is a rational response to the unique local circumstances that these young people grow up in, leading males into crime.

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How to reconstruct a stranger's face: Bruce's rese

1. Humans can recognise familiar faces in very low resolution faces (e.g. CCTV).

2. This effect increases with the familiarity of the person. (e.g. the success of Crimewatch and other TV programmes like it)

3. Facial features are processed holistically which has implications for facial reconstruction.

4. Of the facial features, the eyebrows and hairline are most important.

5. Illumination changes influence recognition (good/bad light).

6. Motion of the face helps recognition (facial reconstruction is static presently).

7. There appear to be specialised neurones for face recognition which appear to be developed in infancy - everyone has the ability to recognise faces.

8. Face identity and expression may be processed by two different systems: present day facial composites are emotionless.

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Frowd et al

Aim: To investigate the relative recognisability of internal and external features of a facial composite.

Methodology: Lab experiments.

Participants: All from Stirling University: exp. 1 had 30 staff and students, paid £2,         exp. 2 had 48 students, all volunteers. 

Procedure: Exp. 1 was matching composites to celebrity faces. There were three sets: full faces, internal features only and external features only. Exp. 2 was a photo line-up with distractor faces. Some distractors were easy (e.g. very different) and some were hard (e.g. very similar). Participants had to pick the celebrity face from the line-up that matched the composite.

Results: External features are were easier to identify than internal features.

Conclusions: This could indicate that there is something about the internal features of a face that does not work well when trying to create a reconstruction. This effect holds true even when the face is familiar, which sheds some doubt on previous research.

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Loftus et al

Aim: To provide support for the 'weapon focus' effect when witnessing a crime.

Methodology: Lab experiment.

Participants: 36 psychology students from the University of Washington.

Procedure: Two sets of slides were shown, showing people queueing in a Taco Time restaurant. In the control group, person B (second in line) hands the cashier a cheque and in the experimental condition person B pulls a gun. All other slides were identical. The participants answered a multiple choice questionnaire where they had to pick the suspect and rate their confidence on their identification.

Results: In the control group, 38.9% chose the correct person against 11.1% in the experimental condition. Eye fixation data showed an average of 3.72 on the gun and 2.44 on the cheque.

Discussion: As expected, the participants spent longer looking at the weapon and therefore had more difficulty picking the suspect from the line-up. A second experiment using the same procedure supported the findings. The influence is likely to be further enhanced in reality where the witness will be more aroused and have increased attentional narrowing.

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Fisher et al

Aim: To test the cognitive interview (CI) in the field.

Methodology: Field experiment with actual interviews of real witnesses by serving police detectives.

Participants: 16 Florida detectives. 

Procedure: All detectives recorded a selection of their normal interviews. 7 detectives were then trained in CI techniques and all detectives recorded interviews after this. These were analysed by blind researches at the University of California.

Results: After training, the trained detectives elicited 47% more information than before and 63% more information than the untrained detectives. CIs do take longer but are more effective.

Discussion: Strong support for the effectiveness of CIs in the field. It has since been applied to other clinical settings with therapists using it to develop medical histories. It is used by police forces in the UK.

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Mann et al

Aim: To test police officers' ability to distinguish truths and lies during police interviews with suspects.

Methodology: Field experiment.

Participants: 99 Kent police officers.

Procedure: Participants saw video clips of 14 suspects showing their head and torso so expression and movement could be seen. The police officers then filled out a questionnaire about their experinece in detecting lies. They watched the clips and indicated whether each one was a truth or lie, and in addition how confident they were. Finally they were asked to list the cues used to detect the liars.

Results: Difference between mean lie and mean truth accuracy is not significant but boths levels of accuracy are greater than chance. Experience in interviewing was correlated with truth accuracy. The most frequently mentioned cue to detect lying was gaze, second was movemenet; vagueness, contradictions in stories and fidgeting were also mentioned.

Conclusion: Police officers can detect liars above the level of chance. The levels of accuracy found in this study exceed those found in other studies and are the highest for a group of ordinary police officers. A control group of normal people could not be used due to ethics. Police officers pay attention to cues that are not diagnostic cues to deceit: maybe because they appear in police manuals.

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Inbau et al

The Reid 'nine steps' of interrogation in brief

1. Direct confrontation: the suspect is told directly that they are thought to have committed the offence.

2. The suspect is offered the chance to shift the blame from themself by being offered some suggestions or justifications for what happened.

3. The suspect should never be allowed to deny guilt. Interrupt any denial.

4. Ignore any reasons why they could not have committed a crime. Eventually they will give up.

5. Reinforce sincerity to ensure the suspect is receptive by staying close, using first names and keeping good eye contact.

6. The suspect will eventually becoming quieter and listen. If they cry, infer guilt.

7. Pose the 'alternative question': two choices, one more socially acceptable than the other - whichever they choose they will be admitting their guilt.

8. Get the suspect to admit guilt in front of witnesses.

9. Document their admissions and get them to sign a confession so they cannot retract it.

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Gudjohnsson et al

Aim: To document a case of the false confession of a youth who was at the time distressed and susceptible to interrogative pressure.

Methodology: Case study.

Subject: FC; 17 years old, accused of the murder of two eldery women in 1987.

The interviews: The first interviews was nearly 14 hours. He was questioned by officers. To start with he denied being near the scene but he agreed after being repeatedly accused of lying. There were many leading questions and he was accused of being sexually impotent which he found distressing. In the second interview he retracted his statement only to confess again under pressure. There were three further interviews.

Psychiatric examination: In prison he was examined by psychiatrists who found no evidence of mental illness.

Conclusion: This is a case of 'coerced compliant' false confession meaning that he gave in to pressure during the interviews in order to escape from an intolerable situation.

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Canter et al

Aim: To test the reliability of organised/disorganised typologies.

Methodology: A content analysis was applied to 100 cases of US serial killers.

Results: Twice as many organised as disorganised crime scene actions were identified suggesting that organised offenders are more common or, alternatively, easier to identify. Only two crime scene actions co-occurred in the organised typologies in a level significantly above chance: the body was concealed and sexual activity occurred.

Conclusion: Canter concludes that instead of there being a distinction between two types of serial murder, all such crimes will have an organised element to them, as we might expect from the fact that the killers were not caught after three killings. He suggests a better way is to look at the individual personality differences between the offenders.

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Canter and Heritage

Aim: To identify a behaviour pattern from similarities between offences.

Methodology: A content analysis of 66 sexual offences from various police forces. 

Analysis: The data were subjected to a smallest space analysis.

Results: The following variables were found to be central to the 66 cases of sexual assault: vaginal intercourse, no reaction to the victim, impersonal language, surprise attack, victim's clothing disturbed. This suggests a pattern of behaviour where the attack is impersonal and sudden and the victim's response is irrelevant to the offender. 

Conclusions: Canter believes that the usefulness of this method is that all five aspects have now been shown to contribute to all sexual offences, but in different patterns for different individuals. This can lead to an understanding of how an offender's behaviour changes over a series of offences, or more usefully still to establishing whether two or more offences were committed by the same person. This has become known as his '5-factor' theory.

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  • Case study of John Duffy 'the Railway ******'
  • Offences committed between 1975-1986
  • Accomplice: David Mulcahy
  • Canter became involved in police operations in the early 1980s
  • He used acetate film to layer the locations of crimes 
  • 'Marauders': those who commit crime around where they live
  • 'Commuters': those who leave their area to commit crime
  • Preliminary profile included residence, age, occupation
  • Duffy turned out to be already on the police database and different how the witnesses had described him
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Aim: To examine whether there is a primacy effect or a recency effect in relation to witness testimony.

Methodology: A simulated courtroom procedure. This is an experimental design with independent measures.

Participants: 192 undergraduate students eligible for jury service in the UK.

Procedure: Some participants heard witnesses give guilty testimonies first and others heard witnesses give innocent testimony first. Overall, each participants was exposed to exactly the same material but in a different order.

Results: The group that heard the guilty witnesses first produced more guilty verdicts than the other group. They were also more confident in their judgements. This suggests strong primary effects in courtroom decision-making.

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Aim: To investigate whether hearing about psychological research from an expert witness which casts doubt on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony would affect a juror's decision-making by making them more sceptical about such testimony.

Methodology: A laboratory experiment using a videotaped mock trial.

Participants: 538 psychology students.

Procedure: Participants viewed a robbery trial. Afterwards they completed a questionnaire including the verdict, a memory test and rating scales for how confident they were. The independent variables were WIC (witness identifying conditions: good = no disguise, bad = heavily disguised), witness confidence (the witness was either 80% or 100% sure she had identified the robber), form of testimony (how descriptive the expert psychologist described the results of eyewitness research) and expert opinion (in half of the trials the expert expressed his opinion of how likely the witness was to be correct; coincided with WIC conditions). 

Results: When WIC were good, more guilty verdicts were given and this effect increase if the testimony was descriptive. 85%+ recalled the testimony with no problems, so memory cannot be blamed for any lack of effect on jurors' judgement. Under good WIC the jurors had more confidence in themselves. This effect was stronger if the witness was 100% sure of their identification.

Discussion: Expert testimony improved jurors' knowledge and made them pay more attention to WIC. With expert testimony, juror sensitivity to problems with evidence is improved and may help to prevent miscarriages of justice.

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Aim: To examine the effect of information being ruled inadmissibile by a judge. Is it possible that for at least some jury members, being told to disregard information makes it even more important?

Methodology: Lab experiment.

Participants: The research was conducted at the University of Chicago Law School. The individuals who participated were actually on jury service at the time and agreed to serve on mock juries formed by the researchers.

Procedure: The mock juries listened to tapes of evidence from previous trials and were asked to deliberate as if they were hearing the case. In one part of the research, they listened to the case of a woman who was injured by a car driven by a careless male driver.

Results: When the driver said that he had liability insurance, the jurors awarded the victim $37,000 over $33,000 when he did not. This suggests that juries make larger award to victims if an insurance company will have to pay. When he said he was insured and the judge ruled the evidence in admissible the award increased to $46,000. 

Conclusions: When juries are told to officially disregard the information, it stuck in their minds more and this research is supported by many other studies.

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Aims: To test the hypothesis that an attractive defendant is less likely to be seen as guilty. Secondly, when the victim is attractive, the defendant is more likely to be found guilty. Finally, to look for any gender differences in jury verdicts depending on attractiveness.

Methodology: Lab experiment using the mock trial format.

Participants: 71 male and 74 female psychology students from East Carolina University.

Procedure: Participants were told that they would be reading a sexual harassment case and had to give the guilty/not guilty verdict and rate the defendant on 11 bipolar scales e.g. dull-exciting, nervous-calm.

Results: Physically attractive defendants and victims were rated positively on other personality variables. When the defendant was attractive, guilty verdict were found 56% of the time against 76% of the time for an unattractive defendant. 

Conclusion: Appearance has an powerful effect, and this finding has been supported by other research.

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Penrod and Cutler

Aim: To examine several factors, including confidence, that jurors might consider when evaluating eyewitness identification evidence.

Methodology: An experiment using a mock trial scenario. Independent measures design.

Participants: Undergraduates, eligible and experienced jurors.

Procedure: A videotaped trial of a robbery was presented in which eyewitness identification played a key role. The witness was either 80% or 100% confident that she had identified the robber. Nine other IVs were introduced.

Results: Witness confidence is the only statistically significant effect of all the 10 IVs. In a further nine studies, Cutler looked at the relation between confidence and accuracy: it has a weak correlation.

Conclusion: The evidence in the field is consistent in showing that confidence is a poor predictor of witness accuracy. 

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Ross et al

Aims: To find out if the use of protective shields and videotaped testimony increases the likelihood of a guilty verdict. To investigate the effect of protective devices on jury reaction to testimony - do they experience credibility inflation or deflation?

Methodology: Mock trial based on real court transcript. Three versions of the case: child in full view, child behind a screen, child giving testimony via a videolink.

Participants: 300 psychology students; 100 in each condition.

Procedure: Participants watched a version of the case. The judge read a warning before the shield and videolink were used, telling the jury not to imply guilty by their use. After the case, which was about potential sexual abuse, the participants gave their verdicts and rated the child on the credibility of the story.

Results: The guilty verdicts were no different between the conditions. However 20% more females than males (58.6% against 38.6%) found the defendant guilty.

Conclusions: There is no effect of using the shield or videolink so they can be used as needed. 

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Hastie et al

Stages and influences on decision-making

Orientation period

  • Relaxed and open discussion
  • Set the agenda
  • Raise questions and explore facts
  • Different opinions arise

Open confrontation

  • Fierce debate
  • Focus on detail
  • Explore different interpretations
  • Pressure on the minority to conform
  • Support for the group decision is established


  • Attempts to smooth over conflicts
  • Tension released through humour
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Aim: To investigate the effects of conformity to a majority when the task is unambiguous.

Methodology: Lab experiment.

Procedure: Naive participants in a room with confederates. They are asked to the question 'Which of the three lines, A, B or C mathces the stimulus line X?'. The confederates clearly choose the wrong line.

Results: Asch found that individuals conformed in one out of three (32%) occasions. When one confederate disrupts the conformity this falls to 5%. Another finding is that majorities bigger than three make very little difference to the conformity effect. 

Discussion: The conventional view to conformity says there are two reasons why we conform: the need to belong to a group and the need to be right. 

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(related to Asch's majority influence study)

  • 'Calling a Blue Slide Green'
  • Lab Experiment
  • Groups of 6; 4 real participants and 2 confederates
  • They were shown 36 slides of varying shades of blue and asked to say out loud what the colour was.
  • Condition 1: confederates called all 36 slides green
  • Condition 2: confederates called 24/36 (2/3) slides green
  • Results: in the consistent condition 8% moved across to the minority position whereas in the inconsistent condition only 1.25% moved across.
  • Conclusion: in order to influence others a minority needs to be consistent.
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Nemeth and Wachtler

Aim: To investigate the influence of perceived autonomy (choosing where to sit at a table) and consistency on minority influence.

Methodology: Lab experiment as a mock trial.

Participants: Groups of five participants (one is a confederate); all adult students.

Procedure: They have to deliberate on the amount of compensation due for a victim of an injury. After hearing the facts they go to a room with a rectangular table. One seat is at the end, and the others down the side. In half the groups the confederate chooses to sit at the head of the table (perceived autonomy). In the other half they are told where to sit. During the discussion, the confederate consistently adopts a deviant position, suggesting a figure of $3000 in compensation instead of $10,000-$25,000 which was the majority view.

Results: The confederate exerts influence when he consistent and when he perceived as autonomous because he has chosen his seat, whereas when seated by the experimenter he has little influence. 

Discussion: This has interesting repercussions for the jury room where people sit around a long table.

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The cognitive interview (links to Fisher's study)

There are four basic principles according to Fisher et al., of the cognitive interview.

1. Interview similarity: Memory of an event such as a crime is enhanced when the psychological environment at the interview is similar to the environment at the original event. Thus the interviewer should try to recreate the event in the witness' mind, including the external (e.g. weather), emotional (e.g. feelings of fear) and cognitive (e.g. relevant thoughts) features that were experienced at the time.

2. Focused retrieval: The interviewer should not interrupt the chain of thought and plenty of encouragement to try hard should be given.

3. Extensive retrieval: Witnesses should be encouraged to make as many retrieval attempts as possible. Different angles should be taken to get all information.

4. Witness-compatible questionning: Interviews should be adapted to each witness so that they can successfully retrieval information.

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thank you this is good



This is great, thank you :)



Thank you! Glad it's helped you :)






Thank you so so much. I love how you've summarised the Farrington study, I had no idea how to condense that one.

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