Research shows why silence isnt always golden

28 June 2013

Saying ‘no comment’ in a police interview can make you look guilty.

This is the finding of research by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Stella Bain and Siobhan Finnegan that was presented at the Division of Forensic Psychology annual conference in Belfast.

Psycholgist Stella and Forensic Psychology graduate Siobhan co-authored the paper, which is entitled 'No comment, no guilt? The influence of suspects' verbal responses, during police interviews, on jurors' believability decisions’.

The study focussed on juror’s perceptions of a suspect’s believability and whether this was affected by the suspect’s verbal responses in a police interview.

Siobhan explained: “Given the instruction that defendants have the right to remain silent it is important to understand jurors’ perceptions of a suspect’s believability based on whether they choose to comply with police during their interview.”

Four police statements were given to 34 participants who rated each for believability and then also gave their verdict. The scenario given was based on an incident in a bar where a man was attacked by four men and suffered life threatening injuries equivalent to a charge of attempted murder.

The results showed that suspects who choose to say little or nothing were seen as more likely to be guilty and less credible.

Siobhan explained: "Compliant suspects were generally perceived to be more believable and found not guilty whereas the opposite was the case for those who refused to cooperate. This research has not sought to question the strengths evident within current legal practice or the rights of a defendant, however it has provided insight into how a suspects’ chosen behaviours in a police interview can influence how they are perceived in court."