Witnesses 'pick those they dislike'
Witnesses may point the finger at a suspect in a line-up simply because they do not like the way they look, scientists have said.
Psychologists Dr Hartmut Blank and Dr Jim Sauer, of the University of Portsmouth, have been awarded £100,000 to examine what may influence people when picking out a possible perpetrator in an identification parade.
Their initial research suggests that people are more likely to identify line-up members they dislike and less likely to identify someone they like.
They say that such decisions are automatic and spontaneous rather than thought out.
Dr Blank, a specialist in memory and the effect of social influences on how and what we remember, said: "It's natural that we don't enjoy creating trouble for someone we like by identifying them as a perpetrator.
"The feeling of liking can definitely influence judgment.
"The liking bias is a subtle effect though otherwise the justice system would have long been aware of it."
Dr Sauer said that this "liking bias" might be behind a growing number of documented cases in which mistaken identifications contributed to the convictions of people who were later proved innocent through DNA testing.
He said: "The legal system finds eyewitness identification evidence compelling but it has contributed to many wrongful convictions over the years.
"Eyewitness error represents a significant cost to society and criminal justice system."