Welcome to our false confession wiki

This wiki catalogues empirical evidence relating to false confession and miscarriages of justice.

False Confession Related Miscarriages of Justice in the UK

Total cases:
93
Years lost:
942
Average years lost:
10.13
4
Colin Lattimore
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 3
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1972
Year conviction overturned: 1976
View case
Ronnie Leighton
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 3
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1972
Year conviction overturned: 1976
View case
Ahmet Salih Salih
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 3
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1972
Year conviction overturned: 1976
View case
Liam Holden
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 17
Year of crime: 1972
Year of initial conviction: 1972
Year conviction overturned: 2012
View case
1972
2
Andrew Evans
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 25
Year of crime: 1972
Year of initial conviction: 1973
Year conviction overturned: 1997
View case
Stephen Downing
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 27
Year of crime: 1973
Year of initial conviction: 1973
Year conviction overturned: 1974
View case
1973
1
Judith Ward
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 18
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1974
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
1974
10
Paul Hill
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1989
View case
Gerry Conlon
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1989
View case
Paddy Armstrong
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1989
View case
Carole Richardson
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1989
View case
Paddy Hill
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Gerry Hunter
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Johnny Walker
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Hugh Callaghan
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Billy Power
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Richard McIIkenny
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1975
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
1975
2
Stefan Kiszko
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1975
Year of initial conviction: 1976
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Paschal John Mulholland
Most serious offence: Other
Years in prison: 1
Year of crime: 1976
Year of initial conviction: 1976
Year conviction overturned: 2006
View case
1976
11
Charles Edwin Clarke
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 4
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2002 (died 1995)
View case
Kathleen Bailey
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2002
View case
Robert Brown
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 25
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2002
View case
Reg Dudley
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 20
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2002
View case
Bob Maynard
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 23
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2002
View case
Robert Hindes
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 9
Year of crime: 1976
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2005
View case
Robert Adams
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 9
Year of crime: 1976
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2005
View case
Hugh Hanna
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 9
Year of crime: 1976
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2005
View case
John Joseph Boyle
Most serious offence: Other
Years in prison: 9
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2003
View case
Peter McDonald
Most serious offence: Other
Years in prison: Unknown
Year of crime: 1976
Year of initial conviction: 1977
Year conviction overturned: 2012
View case
Martin Foran
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 18
Year of crime: 1977, 1984
Year of initial conviction: 1977, 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2014, 2012
View case
1977
3
Paul Blackburn
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 25
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1978
Year conviction overturned: 2005
View case
George Long
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1978
Year conviction overturned: 1995
View case
Terence Shiels
Most serious offence: Other
Year of initial conviction: 1978
Year conviction overturned: 2009
View case
1978
9
Patrick Molloy
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 1997
View case
Anthony Steel
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 20
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 2003
View case
James Robinson
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 18
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 1997
View case
Michael Hickey
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 18
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 1997
View case
Vincent Hickey
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 18
Year of crime: 1978
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 1997
View case
Raymond McCartney
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 17
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 2007
View case
Eamonn MacDermott
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 15
Year of crime: 1977
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 2007
View case
William Gerard Gorman
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 19
Year of crime: 1974
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Stephen McCaul
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 1979
Year of initial conviction: 1979
Year conviction overturned: 2012
View case
1979
1980
1981
4
Raymond Gilmour
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 21
Year of crime: 1981
Year of initial conviction: 1982
Year conviction overturned: 2007
View case
Sean Hodgson
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 27
Year of crime: 1979
Year of initial conviction: 1982
Year conviction overturned: 2009
View case
Patrick Nolan
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: 1980
Year of initial conviction: 1982
Year conviction overturned: 2006
View case
Keith Twitchell
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 12
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1982
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
1982
3
John Roberts
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 15
Year of crime: 1982
Year of initial conviction: 1983
Year conviction overturned: 1998
View case
Derek Treadaway
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 13
Year of crime: 1979
Year of initial conviction: 1983
Year conviction overturned: 1996
View case
John Lewis Brown
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1983
Year conviction overturned: 2006
View case
1983
3
Thomas Campbell
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 16
Year of crime: 1984
Year of initial conviction: 1984
Year conviction overturned: 2004
View case
Peter Fell
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 17
Year of crime: 1982
Year of initial conviction: 1984
Year conviction overturned: 2001
View case
Tarlochan Singh Gill
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 10
Year of crime: 1984
Year of initial conviction: 1984
Year conviction overturned: 1994
View case
1984
2
Trevor Campbell
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 14
Year of crime: June 1984
Year of initial conviction: 1985
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Trevor McCalla
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 1.5
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1985
Year conviction overturned: 1995
View case
1985
10
Alan Richardson
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 8
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2004
View case
Colin Richardson
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 8
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
David James
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 8
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
John Melnichenko
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Years in prison: 8
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
Donald Pendleton
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 15
Year of crime: 1971
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2001
View case
Wayne Darvell
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 7
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Paul Darvell
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 7
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Ashley King
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 13
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Albert James
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 15
Year of crime: 1986
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 2004
View case
Mark Cleary
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 9
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1986
Year conviction overturned: 1994
View case
1986
9
Winston Silcott
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 4
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Engin Raghip
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 4
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Mark Braithwaite
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 4
Year of crime: 1985
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1991
View case
Ellis Sherwood
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 11
Year of crime: 1987
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Thomas Green
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 13
Year of crime: 1986
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 2002
View case
Michael O’Brien
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 11
Year of crime: 1987
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Darren Hall
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 11
Year of crime: 1987
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1999
View case
Mohammed Yusef Patel
Most serious offence: Other
Years in prison: 2.3
Year of crime: 1987
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 2000
View case
George Lewis
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 5.5
Year of crime: 1987
Year of initial conviction: 1987
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
1987
2
Jacqueline Fletcher
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 4
Year of crime: 1984
Year of initial conviction: 1988
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
John McLoughlin
Most serious offence: Sexual offences
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1988
Year conviction overturned: 1998
View case
1988
1989
5
Tony Paris
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 1988
Year of initial conviction: 1990
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Yusef Abdullahi
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 1988
Year of initial conviction: 1990
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Stephen Miller
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 1988
Year of initial conviction: 1990
Year conviction overturned: 1992
View case
Michael Magee
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 11
Year of crime: 1988
Year of initial conviction: 1990
Year conviction overturned: 2001
View case
Hassan Khan
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: Unknown
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1990
Year conviction overturned: 1990
View case
1990
2
Billy Pope
Most serious offence: Drugs offences
Years in prison: 7
Year of crime: 1990
Year of initial conviction: 1991
Year conviction overturned: 2004
View case
Alexander Allan
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: 6
Year of crime: 1990
Year of initial conviction: 1991
Year conviction overturned: 2001
View case
1991
1992
1
Shane Stepon Smith
Most serious offence: Sexual offences
Years in prison: 8
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 1993
Year conviction overturned: 2003
View case
1993
1994
1995
1
Michael Holliday
Most serious offence: Robbery / burglary
Years in prison: NA (concurrent sentence)
Year of crime: 1995
Year of initial conviction: 1996
Year conviction overturned: 2005
View case
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1
Parmod Kalia
Most serious offence: Other
Years in prison: .5
Year of crime: 2001
Year of initial conviction: 2001
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
2001
1
Ian Lawless
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 7
Year of crime: 2001
Year of initial conviction: 2002
Year conviction overturned: 2009
View case
2002
2003
2004
2005
5
Afzal Khan
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 2005
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
Azhill Khan
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 2005
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
Waqar Ahmed
Most serious offence: Murder
Years in prison: 2
Year of crime: 2005
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2008
View case
Teju Adedayo
Most serious offence: Other
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2021
View case
Mark Chamberlain-Davidson
Most serious offence: Sexual offences
Years in prison: 1
Year of crime: Unknown
Year of initial conviction: 2006
Year conviction overturned: 2013
View case
2006
2007
2008
1
Peter McDonald Cadder
Most serious offence: Manslaughter / non-fatal offence against the person
Year of crime: 2007
Year of initial conviction: 2009
Year conviction overturned: 2010
View case
2009
2010
2011
1
Jack Allan
Most serious offence: Sexual offences
Year of crime: 2012
Year of initial conviction: 2012
Year conviction overturned: 2014
View case
2012
Year of initial conviction
Jurisdiction

Illustrative cases from the UK

Papers

Please feel free to add any relevant papers to our reference of case lists using the ‘+ Add Paper’ button at the bottom of this table.

Title Author(s) Year Tag(s) Link
Effects of Personality, Interrogation Techniques and Plausibility in an Experimental False Confession Paradigm Jessica Klaver, Zina Lee, and V. Gordon Rose 2008 Custodial and Interrogative Pressure, Psychological Vulnerabilities View paper
From False Confession to Wrongful Conviction Richard Leo and Deborah Davis 2010 Summary View paper
I’d Know a False Confession if I Saw One Saul Kassin, Christian Meissner, and Rebecca Norwick 2005 Identifying false confessions View paper
Interrogated with Intellectual Disabilities Samson Schatz 2018 Psychological Vulnerabilities View paper
Investigating true and false confessions within a novel experimental paradigm Russano M, Meissner C & Narchet F 2005 Custodial and Interrogative Pressure, Defendant behaviour View paper
Juror Sensitivity to False Confession Risk Factors Skye Woestehoff and Christian Meissner 2016 Identifying false confessions View paper
Taking responsibility for an act not committed: The influence of age and suggestibility Redlich, A. D., & Goodman, G. S. 2003 Defendant behaviour, Identifying false confessions, Outcomes for child defendants, Plea rates View paper
Add Paper

False confession – research summary

Research in psychology and law has examined false confessions generally and false confessions in specific populations. Importantly, it has now been clearly demonstrated by both experimental research and legal cases in which formal exonerations have taken place that people do confess to crimes that they have not committed. False confessions may differ from true confessions, for example containing more inconsistencies (either within themselves or with other evidence about a crime) and / or taking longer to elicit from defendants.

False confessions can occur for a variety of reasons, but are most likely to occur as a result of custodial and interrogative pressure, psychological vulnerabilities of a defendant, or a lack of transparency concerning evidence. Thus, we can pinpoint certain red flags that can provide evidence that a confession may be false (although false confessions may occur even in the absence of these red flags).

Please feel free to add any relevant papers to our reference of case lists using the wiki functionality!

Overviews of false confession literature

Saul Kassin and Gísli Guðjónsson, ‘The Psychology of Confessions: A Review of the Literature and Issues’ (2004) Psychological Science in the Public Interest 33.

Gísli Guðjónsson, The Psychology of False Confessions: Forty Years of Science and Practice (Wiley, 2018).

Brandon Garrett, ‘The Substance of False Confessions’ (2010) 62 Stanford law Review 1051.

Last edited 31 March 2021 | 8:42 pm | Rebecca Helm
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1. Custodial and interrogative pressure

Last edited 18 December 2020 | 1:46 pm | Rebecca Helm
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2. Psychological vulnerabilities

Defendant under 18 

False confessions are more likely in juvenile defendants. Children are particularly susceptible due to immature cognitive, social, emotional, and neurological systems. This immaturity can lead to increased suggestibility, increased susceptibility to pressure, and a short-term orientation that may all contribute to false confessions. Research suggests that children with a history of victimization or substance misuse are particularly susceptible.

Allison Redlich, ‘The susceptibility of juveniles to false confessions and false guilty pleas’ (2009) 62 Rutgers Law Review 943.

Barry Field, ‘Police interrogation of juveniles: An empirical study of policy and practice’ (2006) Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 219

Megan Crane, Laura Nirider and Steven Drizin, ‘The truth about juvenile false confessions’ (2015) 16 Insights on Law & Society 10.

Gísli Guðjónsson, Jon Sigurdsson, and Inga Sigfusdottir, ‘Interrogation and false confessions among adolescents in seven European countries. What background and psychological variables best discriminate between false confessors and non-false confessors?’ (2009) 15(8) Psychology, Crime, and Law 711.

Illustrative successful appeals: Stephen Downing, Paul Blackburn, Terrence Shiels, Robert Hindes, Paschal Mulholand, Hugh Hanna.

Defendant likely to be more suggestible and compliant (susceptible to pressure)

A range of characteristics have been shown to make people more suggestible and / or compliant and therefore more likely to falsely confess. These include a low mental age, low intelligence or learning disabilities, symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a history of life adversity, and experiencing alcohol withdrawal.

William Finlay and Evanthia Lyons, ‘Acquiescence in interviews with people who have mental retardation’ (2002) 40 Mental Retardation 14.

Gísli Guðjónsson, ‘The effects of intelligence and memory on group differences in suggestibility and compliance’ (1991) 12(5) Personality and Individual Differences 503.

Gísli Guðjónsson and James MacKeith, ‘Learning disability and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Protection during investigative interviewing: A video-recorded false confession to double murder’ (1994) 5(1) Journal of Forensic Psychiatry 35.

Gísli Guðjónsson et al., ‘Interrogative suggestibility, compliance and false confessions among prisoners and their relationship with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms’ (2008) 38(7) Psychological Medicine 1037.

Gísli Guðjónsson, Jon Fridrik Sigurdsson, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir and Susan Young, ‘False confessions to police and their relationship with conduct disorder, ADHD, and life adversity’ (2012) 52(6) Personality and Individual Differences 696.

Gísli Guðjónsson, Kristin Hannesdottir, Hannes Petursson, and Gudbjorn Bjornsson, ‘The effects of alcohol withdrawal on mental state, interrogative suggestibility and compliance: An experimental study’ (2002) 13 The Journal of Forensic Psychology 53.

Illustrative successful appeals: Jacqueline Fletcher, Patrick Nolan, Donald Pendleton, John Roberts, Ashley King, John McLoughlin, Stefan Kiszko.

Defendant with a disregard for telling the truth, a need for attention, or a history of delinquent lifestyle.

Defendants with a tendency to lie and / or with a history of a delinquent lifestyle are more likely to confess. This group is likely to include defendants with conduct disorder or antisocial behaviour disorder.

Gísli Guðjónsson, Jon Fridrik Sigurdsson, Inga Dora Sigfusdottir and Susan Young, ‘False confessions to police and their relationship with conduct disorder, ADHD, and life adversity’ (2012) 52(6) Personality and Individual Differences 696.

Illustrative successful appeals: Sean Hodgson, Ian Lawless, Judith Ward, Peter Fell, Darren Hall.

Last edited 26 February 2021 | 11:24 am | Rebecca Helm
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3. A lack of transparency concerning evidence

Finally, defendants may be compelled to confess where they think that evidence against them is overwhelming. In such cases, particularly where defendants are also vulnerable or subjected to pressure, defendants can even come to believe that they committed crimes that they did not in fact commit. It is therefore important to ensure the evidence against them and the strength of this evidence is clear to defendants.

Last edited 31 March 2021 | 8:40 pm | Rebecca Helm
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