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Mirroring the reality in interrogation rooms: A proposal to record interrogations in Singapore

Manogaran, Sugenya (2021) Mirroring the reality in interrogation rooms: A proposal to record interrogations in Singapore. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Wrongful convictions are grave miscarriages of justice as the wrongfully convicted individuals endure catastrophic sufferings. Such convictions are only identified as ‘wrongful’ upon exonerations. The most basic wrongful conviction cases arise when individuals are adjudged guilty for crimes they did not commit (often known as ‘wrong man’ cases) or when convictions are obtained even though there was no commission of crimes (often known as ‘no crime’ cases). Though of noteworthy concern, cases of wrongful convictions plagued by ‘no crime’ errors are beyond the scope of this paper. Rather, this paper encompasses discussions on ‘wrong man’ cases, with an emphasis on false confessions.

Although false confessions remain one of the widely studied causes of wrongful convictions, they remain counterintuitive. A central issue in false confessions is that people, being rational, find it impossible to comprehend how people would confess to crimes they did not commit. Author David Karr Shipler wrote, ‘intuition holds that the innocent do not make false confessions’.1 At the heart of this statement is the assumption that no one engages in self-destructive behaviour. Some commentators have attributed the reasons for false confessions to mental illnesses or coercion by law enforcement officers. This paper agrees with the latter and will consider in-depth the causes of false confessions, including the investigative methods by which these confessions are elicited.

As a result of the analysis, this paper will recommend that all countries, particularly Singapore, record custodial interrogations. While Singapore has implemented new changes such as recording statements in the form of audiovisuals for selected offences, these have not wholly guaranteed the absence of false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Essentially, this paper is written with three purposes in mind: (a) to examine the extent of miscarriages of justice caused by false confessions and wrongful convictions; (b) to analyse the criminal justice system in Singapore in the context of obtaining statements from accused persons and the admissibility of such statements; and finally (c) to suggest that serious considerations should be accorded to recording custodial interrogations in Singapore as to enable a more adjudicated process which will, in turn, reduce false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Law and Criminology
Supervisor(s): Shaw, Steve
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