How well do Australian police forces follow evidence-based practice when collecting evidence from eyewitnesses and suspects?

Dr Hayley Cullen1, Ms Lisanne Adam2, Dr Celine  van Golde3

1School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
2Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
3School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


In criminal settings, following evidence-based policing practice is important for avoiding wrongful convictions and improving the reliability of evidence. Two of the leading contributing factors to wrongful convictions are mistaken identifications made by eyewitnesses, and false confessions made by suspects. There is a plethora of scientific, psychological research that has been conducted in each of these areas, which has led to the development of international recommendations for conducting lineups and investigative interviews. While anecdotally there appears to be uptake of these recommendations into policing practice, the aim of the current project was to determine the extent to which these recommendations have been included into the policing guidelines of Australian police forces. To do this, we reviewed the publicly available documentation of the police forces of each Australian state and territory (where available). We found that for lineup procedures, many Australian states did not report following several evidence-based recommendations. For investigative interviewing, on face value it appears that Australian states endorse evidence-based interviewing models, but only limited information is provided in public documents. We provide arguments for the benefits of transparent, evidence-based policing practice in order to improve police-community relations, as well as to improve the admissibility and reliability of the evidence obtained from witnesses and suspects. We also argue for stronger collaborations between scientific researchers (beyond criminologists) and police forces so as to place Australian police forces as a benchmark for following evidence-based practice.


Hayley Cullen is an Associate Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Newcastle. Hayley recently completed her PhD in Forensic Psychology at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include understand the contributing factors to eyewitness error and incorrect jury decision making. Additionally, Hayley is interested in how psychological research can be used in order to inform and improve policing practice.