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FALSE CONFESSIONS AND THE WAY OF DEALING WITH THEM IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.

Author :- Eshika Singla

INTRODUCTION

In order to understand the topic better let’s first understand the meaning of the word “confession”. In criminal law, word confession is defined as a statement given by a person to acknowledge his or her guilt of committing a particular crime. There is no particular Act defining confession. Mr. Justice Stephen defined it for the first time in his digest for Law of Evidence “Confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the interference that he committed that crime”. Confessions are considered to be part of admissions since they are defined under the category of commission. Section 24 to 30 of Indian Evidence Act deals with confession. Although confession is a species of admission but both the terms are well distinguished from each other.

A confession is said to be irrelevant and cannot be used against the maker if it comes within the four corners of section 24 of Indian Evidence Act.

Ingredients of Section 24 –

  1. Confession made by a suspect should be totally free and voluntary; it should not be the result of any kind of force, inducement or threat. A confession derived out of fear by authorities will not be admissible in court of law. The word inducement however has not been defined properly anywhere and not rules have been laid as to what constitutes inducement and what does not.
  2. Inducement can be both expressed and implied it not to be done on suspect himself however it should be in mere knowledge of the suspect while making a confession.
  3. Mere sufficiency of the inducement, force or threat is enough to exclude the confession that the knowledge of it would have affected the confession of a suspect. It is in the hands of the judge to decide whether the words used were enough to convey a message to the accused that it will be good for him to confess that he is guilty of a crime or else may cause a worst situation for him.
  4. The important point to be noted is that any confession derived or obtained by moral exhortation is not to be excluded as per section 24 of Indian Evidence Act. Therefore, when an interrogator makes any statement like ‘You better kneel down boy and tell me truth in name of Almighty God’ it does not suggest any kind of inducement and any confession obtained on basis of such a statement is not excluded and is legally admissible.

MEANING OF FALSE CONFESSION.

Now let’s get to the main topic i.e. false confession. When an individual or a person confesses to be guilty of a crime which they have not committed it is termed as false confession. There can be different reasons behind a false confession. A person sometimes for a short-term benefit of false confession may outweigh the long-term loss that he is going to incur. False confession can be divided into three different categories.

KINDS OF FALSE CONFESSION.

  1. Voluntary false confession- A false confession is termed to be voluntary when a person without any persuasion or pressure confesses to a crime not committed by him/her. Such voluntary confessions are not made under the police interrogation. There can be various reasons behind this voluntary confession such as-
  2. In order to protect and aid the actual criminal
  3. To take revenge from someone
  4. Compliant false confession- Any such confession made under coercion, threat or pressure by police is termed as compliant false confession. Such a confession is made in order to-
  5. Get rid of extensive interrogation procedures.
  6. Get a lenient treatment
  7. Or to avoid a hard punishment
  8.  One of the most important aspects of compliant false confession is that a person admits guilt knowing that what he is saying is false but does so due to any of the reasons mentioned above.

In this a suspect is made to believe that he is so badly trapped in the whole situation that the only way to escape and mitigate his punishment is to confess. A combination of techniques is used on the suspect such as pressure, inducements, repeated accusations, attack on the suspects’ denial and lies about non-existence evidence all this together are enough to make the suspect knowingly confess a crime which he is not guilty of. When facing a third-degree torture while interrogation where the interrogator refuses no for an answer the only way to safely escape is telling interrogator what he wants to hear.

  1. Persuaded or Internalized false confession- In this, interrogation is done in such a manner that a person starts doubting his memory and believes that despite committing crime he has no memory of it. Such a belief of a suspect is a by-product of intensive and harsh interrogation procedure, consistently attacking the suspects’ denial and producing false evidence to make the suspect believe that he has in fact committed the crime. Other reasons behind such a confession can be mental disorder or psychological issues.

Certain examples of false confessions are-

  • When an individual in order to save a friend of him confesses to a crime which he is not even guilty of.
  • When a person in order to avoid a harsher punishment confesses to a lesser offence of which he/she is not guilty of.

ADMISSIBILITY OF FALSE CONFESSION.

As far as the question of admissibility is concerned false confessions are never admissible in court of law. When it comes to the knowledge of a judge that a particular confession is false Judge has power to immediately strike down any such statement and mark it off the list of evidence. The only problem here is that it is very difficult to judge whether a confession is false or not and if yes then what are the reasons behind it.

LEGAL ACTIONS AGAINST PERSON MAKING FALSE CONFESSION.

A person making a false confession is caught in court of law he/she is charged with strict penalties for lying in court. Different Countries have their own ways of identifying a confession as false one and later on charge such a wrong doer with penalty or punishment whatever they consider to be suitable. Legalities of some countries are discussed below-

INDIA

A variety of mechanisms are used by the court to deal and detect false confessions. A set of rules generally used for this purpose are known as ‘confession rules. If a person is detected giving a false confession the following actions may take place against him-

  1. Contempt of court- If any such false confession made by a suspect causes or tends to cause disruption in proceeding of courts and leads to lack of cooperation from the opposing party. The Judge has complete power to hold the confessor in contempt.
  2. Criminal Charges can be pressed- Any person making a false confession can be held guilty of additional crimes depending upon when and where such statement has been made and furthermore to whom it has been made. A person guilty of making a false confession is charged with-
  3. Perjury
  4. Lying to a police officer
  5. It can also lead to huge monetary fines or sentence to jail for obstruction of Justice.

UNITED KINGDOM (UK)

In UK technique named as the ‘investigative interview’ was introduced in early 1990s i.e. The UK is known as a leader in ethical interviewing. In the UK evidence produced is high quality and suspects are given a fairer treatment rather than a harsh one. Usage of threat or force collectively termed as coercive is strictly not permitted in the United Kingdom. Over the years the UK has significantly improved interview practise and pays more attention on collecting information rather than obtaining a confession. Furthermore, in order to safeguard the interest of the suspect it has been made mandatory to record the interview. Two important factors more likely to cause a false confession are low self-confidence and sleep deprivation.

One of a classic example of this is the UK case of BIRMINGHAM SIX where people respond to pressure in terms of confessing while interrogation was different. It is concerned with the bomb attack held at 2 Pubs of Birmingham which led to the death of almost 200 people and at least 21 people were badly injured in this. This led to interrogating 6 suspects who were deemed to be Irish Catholic immigrants however the attack was attributed to the provisional IRA. Later on, these suspects who were given life sentences were released after 16 years of jail reason being that they were wrongfully convicted. It came to observation that during their investigation period they were severely abused and harshly interrogated. Also, when their personality tests were taken it showed that 4 suspects who confessed were more suggestible and compliant than the two that didn’t.

CANADA

In Canada the kind of technique used for interrogation is known as ‘Reid Technique’ named after John Reid, former Chicago police officer. This technique involves three stages- factual analysis, interviewing and interrogation. Initially suspects are merely observed to know signs of lying or truth-telling. In case the interviewer by any chance observes that the suspect is lying, the interrogation is done in a way that they presume guilty, this may also involve interruption to any denials made by the suspect and refusing to believe their account. An interrogator may make use of false statements or even lie about evidence, they may end up lying that the suspect has failed a lie detector test or say his DNA was found at a crime scene for instance. In fear of being caught up, a jury may think of confessing as the best option. Investigation standards on the interviewing of suspects and witnesses were renewed in 2011 Report’s Recommendations. This report focused on following three points-

  1. Interviews conducted under police custody should be significantly videotaped especially when suspects involved serious offences of personal and violence and not only the final statement should be recorded but the entire interview.
  2. Investigation standards should be such that they enhance the reliability of the result of the investigation process.
  3. Proper techniques should be used for the interview process and also investigation should be done into why some people confess to crime that they have not committed.

Apart from the above recommendations different cities of Canada have their own opinion in regard to videotaping of interviews. As there is no particular law in Canada mandating to record video while an interview of suspects is conducted. One of the leading cases in this aspect was R v Sinclair.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA)

False confessions are no longer unique to any state; they have spread their reach worldwide including the USA. Countries like the USA also make use of Reid technique to interview suspects. Saul Kassin a psychologist at John Jay College of criminal justice in New York City is one of the world’s leading experts on interrogation played a very important role in explaining the concept of false confession and opened the eyes of several prosecutors to the emerging signs of interrogation and false confession. This was first discovered in Huwe Burton case where a young was allegedly frame of murdering his mother and after harsh police investigation he was turned behind bars after spending there 20 years he came out on parole all efforts were made by his attorney to prove him innocent but when nothing worked in his support Burton’s attorney called for Dr. Kassin who explained this concept of false confession, six months later Judge vacated Burton’s three decades old conviction. Like this concept of false confession came into consideration in the USA.

BRAZIL

One of the widely accepted practises in Brazil is torture inflicted by police officers on those suspects which are either poor or criminal suspect. Police brutality can be so commonly seen there. Suspects are turned to harsh and such insane treatment that false confession is their only way out in order to protect themselves.

Taina Rape Case (2013)

In this case 4 suspects were arrested for brutally raping and killing a girl in front of a theme park and who later on also confessed to be guilty of crime. But on carrying out a detailed investigation police found out that the girl was not raped and confession given by boys was a product of torture inflicted upon them. Later on, 13 policemen were arrested and the police chief fled.

AUSTRALIA, DENMARK, NEW ZEALAND, SWEDEN, NORWAY

One thing common among all these countries is that in order to avoid situations of false confession they have adopted an ‘investigative interview’ approach which aims at collecting more data and information from the suspect instead of a confession without use of adversarial and coercive techniques.

CHINA

In countries like China, chances of false confession are higher because of lengthy detention of suspects and usage of highly coercive questioning techniques. However, one positive step that this country has taken is videotaping of interviews.

CONCLUSION.

The most persuasive and incriminating evidence that a state can bring up against an innocent defendant is false confession. Such false confessions by suspects tend to infringe the evidence on the basis of which decision is to be delivered by Jury. As we have already discussed what exactly does false confession means, it’s kinds and the serious consequences it can lead to and implications it can cause I would like to pen down  by saying that a single false confession can destroy the life of an innocent person and spare the actual criminal.

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