Criminal Justice Practitioners’ Perceptions of Eyewitnesses with Anxiety and Depression

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In the UK, witnesses with a mental health disorder are considered ‘vulnerable’ by the Criminal Justice System and consequently eligible for support within the Achieving Best Evidence guidance (recommendations produced in England and Wales to assist criminal justice practitioners in supporting vulnerable, intimidated, and significant witnesses during the criminal justice process). However, it is unclear how the evidence and credibility of such witnesses, especially those with anxiety and depression, are perceived by criminal justice practitioners. The present study aimed to explore how practitioners in England and Wales perceive witnesses with anxiety and depression, and the current guidance and training on mental health. One hundred and five practitioners including police officers (32), court staff (60), and registered intermediaries (13) completed an online questionnaire which examined their personal perceptions of, and attitudes towards, witnesses with anxiety and depression as well as the level and effectiveness of current guidance and training. Based on previous literature, it was anticipated that practitioners may hold biased perceptions of witnesses with anxiety and depression, and current guidance and training on mental health may be insufficient. The findings revealed that practitioners frequently encountered such witnesses and prior knowledge of mental health issues influenced their perceptions with many reporting that such knowledge caused them to question the reliability of their evidence. Additionally, practitioners perceived the Achieving Best Evidence guidance including the use of special measures to be appropriate. However, they perceived that training around mental health required improvement. The implications of these findings are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Police and Criminal Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2021


  • Eyewitnesses
  • Mental health
  • Perceptions
  • Practitioners

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