Preserving eyewitness accounts with iWitnessed

Dr Helen Paterson1, Dr Celine van Golde1, Dr Chris Devery2, Professor Nicholas Cowdery1, Professor Richard Kemp3
1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2NSW Police Force, Sydney, Australia, 3UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia

In the immediate aftermath of an incident, limited police resources often restrict opportunities for police to thoroughly interview witnesses for several days or even weeks after the incident. Additionally, sometimes witnesses do not come forward to report incidents immediately after they occur. Such delays are problematic because research on memory shows us that forgetting occurs very rapidly and that our memories are susceptible to contamination. Inconsistencies or inaccuracies in eyewitness accounts can hinder investigations and undermine the perceived value of this evidence, leading to failed prosecutions. In response to this issue, a team of researchers in the fields of psychology and law have worked with the NSW Police Force to develop iWitnessed, a free smart phone application designed to collect and enhance the quality of eyewitness evidence. Using our collective expertise in empirical memory research, policing practices, legislation and admissibility of evidence, we have developed a tool that will facilitate police investigations and prosecutions. In this presentation we will describe the background to the development of iWitnessed. We will then present promising findings from recent empirical studies investigating the efficacy of iWitnessed in terms of usability, memory preservation, and impact on psychological well-being.


Dr. Helen Paterson is a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Sydney. She is an expert in the areas of applied social and cognitive psychology. She has published over 30 scientific papers, predominantly in the area of eyewitness memory. She has experience working with the New South Wales Police Force, Fire and Rescue NSW, and WorkCover NSW. She regularly gives presentations about eyewitness memory to judges, lawyers, and police officers.



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