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Death Row Case and Forensic Hypnosis

Death Row Case and Forensic Hypnosis

For many in the UK this title will seem odd on two fronts. The first is that we have abolished the death penalty in 1965, (1973 in Northern Ireland). The second part of the title will seem odd as well, the use of hypnosis forensically (ie in criminal investigations). Here in the UK, a confession of an accused person is considered inadmissible in court under sections 76 or 78 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Also under no circumstances should suspects or persons who may be implicated in the commission of an offence be hypnotised.

This is not the same in the US, for there are several states which allow law enforcement or other trained individuals to use hypnosis in the investigation of criminal activity. The case the is often quoted is the 1976 Chowchilla Kidnapping, in which the conviction of the individuals involved was based in part on forensically refreshed hypnotic testimony.

There is a death row case in Texas under appeal as hypnosis was used in order to secure the conviction. I have to agree that the use of hypnosis by persons not trained appropriately should be viewed with suspicion. This is especially true when a person’s life is at stake. Hypnosis is a tool, not a solution and if not utilised properly or competently there is a risk that whatever information obtained in this manner as being unsafe. This is why I agree with the current Home Office and CPS views on the use of hypnosis in criminal investigations.

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