The blindness of the eye-witness

Date of this Version


Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Coyle, I. R., Field, D., & Miller, G. (2008). The blindness of the eye-witness. Australian law journal, 82(7), 471-498.

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2008 HERDC submission. FoR code: 1801

© Copyright Lawbook Co., 2008


A criminal trial is an attempt to recreate the past. It involves the presentation of physical evidence and eyewitness evidence. The scientific model has long been accepted in the presentation of physical evidence but not with eyewitness evidence. Although the courts have long recognised the potential for prejudice that can arise at each stage of the process of eyewitness identification, attempts to remedy this problem have been largely limited to giving judicial warnings and instructing jurors to apply their common sense and human experience. Yet, there are many occasions where common sense fails and there are many occasions where the results of eyewitness identification are counter-intuitive. All too often this has led to grave miscarriages of justice as, whatever warnings are given to a jury, the danger of misidentification remains. The time has come for the superior courts to revisit and carefully examine the very tenuous basis upon which expert evidence is rejected in cases where eyewitness identification is involved.

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