Friday, 20 April 2012

Eye Witness Testimony - reliable or not?

 Go ahead lady!!!!

What I'm about to relate is a real example indicating the voracity of eye witness evidence.

Imagine a school party of around 50 children and 5 adults spending 4 days in London. We'd travelled down from Yorkshire by coach had booked into the Royal Mail Hotel and had an itinerary that took in a show, St. Paul's and a few museums which kept everyone very busy.

When taking children on excursions of any description there is always the 'school crocodile'    although our kids were a little old for high visibility jackets!
We were on our second day and were just completing a visit to the London Museum which was about to close as it was almost 6pm. The children had been split into groups of 10 - 12 with one adult so that they had more freedom to roam. We were collecting in the foyer and counting the total number of children when the worst possible situation realised itself. A boy was missing! The feelings that teachers who have been in this situation experience are many and all of them traumatic in the extreme. Any of you who have taken trips and not lost a child will no the fear of anticipation of that event occurring let alone when it really happens. Suffice it to say we were worried!

1.  We immediately began to investigate and one of the children said that they had seen the missing boy in the basement of the museum so the security people conducted a search of the place and he wasn't found.

2. We questioned the children further and one told us that they'd walked from St. Paul's to the museum with the missing little chap.

3. We'd had a party photograph taken on the steps outside St Paul's and a different child had sat next to our miraculous Houdini!

Obviously, or the title of this blog may be different, the boy had not been seen by any of the 'witnesses' and they had firmly believed they had been with our missing member. The facts:-

a) The boy had entered the cathedral with the rest of us and visited the 'Whispering Gallery'.

b) The boy had been in the party when everyone was counted down from the gallery.
c) The party were walked out of the cathedral to the steps for their photo call and the boy wasn't there!

The pupil was a bit of a 'free thinker' and had decided to take a photograph of part of the interior of the building and had left the group as it snaked away out of the building. He never caught us up after that.

There were various occurrences that aggravated the situation but suffice it to say that he was missing for four very worrying hours during which we had to continue the itinerary and it was 10pm before he was safely reunited with the rest of us. 

The corollary was that the witnesses were totally incorrect! Do I need to say more?

God Bless