Confessions basically refers to the admission of any fact by the wrongdoer in such a manner that the same can be used against him in the criminal proceedings initiated against him. If a confession relating to any offense is made by a person who is not guilty of that offense, it is known as a False Confession.
There can be number of reasons for which, a person can give a false confession and admit to a crime for which he/she is not guilty of. The common reasons involve threat from the investigating authorities, use of unfair means by the police during interrogation and many more. The Confession of an accused can be considered as one of the most important evidence as far as a criminal trial is concerned and hence, it is necessary to make sure that such an evidence is kept free from all the fallibilities.
Vulnerable suspects to false confessions
Although, when it comes to the interrogation practices and collection of false evidences by the police officials, false confessions can be taken from any person irrespective of the fact whether he/she is vulnerable or not, yet, there exists a particular class of people which can be considered defenceless within this practice either due to some physical atrocities or mental retardation.
Vulnerable suspects generally include juveniles and individuals with cognitive impairments or psychological disorders. Under custody, these people face a lot of problems since they are not able to express the truth as well as their concern and reasons for hiding the truth if any leading to a situation where it becomes an obligation for them to accept their guilt (which may or may not be true).
False confessions in India
In India, the law provides that the confessions that are given before the police officials are not admissible in the court of law and cannot be a mere ground for confession. Section-161 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 talks about the admissibility of the statements made in front of the police.
Such limitation on the police reduces the scope of carving out false confessions from any person in custody since his/her statement will do no good. Secondly, the custody of any accused to the police is given only for a maximum period of 15 days to ensure safety and protection. Medical examination of the accused before and after custody also ensures safety to the accused in jail.
False confessions abroad
The United States of America-
In the U.S., the Supreme Court from time to time has renounced and made it an established principle that the confessions taken by virtue of force and violence cannot be considered as an appropriate evidence for the conviction of the accused. A number of rules and regulations have been introduced in the U.S. in order to reduce the percentage of false confessions which includes:
a. DNA Testing and exoneration
It ensures that no one is wrongfully convicted on the basis of a confession which has been taken by undue influence. DNA testing helps to determine whether that person was involved in a particular offense or not (specifically the offenses involving physical contact such as rape).
b. Reduction of Third-degree Treatment
Interrogation by means of brutal and inhuman practices was prevalent in the U.S. in earlier times but was later on reduced to a great extent and minimized by the end of the 19th century.
c. Rights of the Accused
Nowadays, the people are made aware of their rights which include informing them about the charges imposed on them and providing them with a lawyer in order to defend their case.
d. Involuntary confessions (Unreliable)
If a court finds out that a confession made by a person is involuntary, the court tends to reject such admissions which ultimately gives a moral support to the accused and make sure that the authorities invoking the rights serves no purpose.
The United Kingdom-
a. Training of officers
In the late 20th century, the police officials in England were given training as to how an interrogation must be done by taking into account fair means and practices which lead to subsequent reduction in the amount of false confessions.
b. Reforms in interrogation
The process of interrogation should be structured in theory and in practice to produce outcomes that are accurate, as measured by the observed ratio of true to false confessions. Determination of the time and place of the custody also helped in dealing with this scenario.
c. Tape recorded interviews
Whenever a surveillance is put forward, it acts as an appropriate technique to curb the existing problems. Forceful confessions were put to an end by recording of the interrogations by the police.
a. Uniform Evidence Act
In Australia, the Uniform Evidence Law has over recent years provided a robust framework to restrict the admission of evidence to what has not been properly obtained.
Different countries have different methods to deal with the problem of false confessions and with the advancement in the technology and the IT sector, several methods have been discovered, opted and inculcated in the legal network. The fact cannot be denied that this problem still exists in our society because of some unwanted elements who discourages the rightful practices and due procedure that must be followed.
From the above discussion, it can be made out that awareness among the people about their existing rights is equally important as it is to implement the laws. In India, the restrictions on the days of custody as well as the medical examination of the accused reduces the risk of false confessions and such methods have proved to be appropriate in the Indian scenario.
Taking into consideration the global scenario, it seems that the developed countries have a well-established legal framework and guidelines to prevent false confessions but when we talk about the developing or the under developed nations especially of the African as well as the South-Asian sub-continent, there is a lot of scope of improvement.
“The views of the authors are personal“
Frequently Asked Questions
Cases relating to convictions due to False confessions?
There are several cases which determine the gravity of these false confessions and what can it ultimately lead to:
- The case of Christopher Abernathy who spent almost 30 years in the prison due to false confession given by him under the misapprehension of the police officials who made him do so on false grounds.
- The case of Kenneth Adams who was charged with murder and gang rape along with his three friends spent 18 years in jail after which it was determined that he was charged on the false confessions of his girlfriend made in front of the police as she was drugged and told by the police what to say.
How many states in the U.S. requires a recording of the custodial interrogations?
Following are some of the states which require a proper recording of the interrogations in order to avoid false confessions:
Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma etc.
What do you mean by the Misclassification Error?
It means that when a person, without any investigation is held guilty by a particular group of people. It increases the chances of a false confession as it builds a pressure upon the authorities. Media trials can be considered as a part of the Misclassification error sometimes.
“The views of the authors are personal“