False Confessions and the methodologies applied by different nations in addressing them

Written by Gautam Badlani


A false confession refers to the admission or acceptance of a crime which one has not committed.Such confessions might be obtained by the use of force, coercion, inducement, black mailing, etc.False confessions have been a consistent problem for law enforcement agencies as well as for the justice system. False confessions are not admissible in any court of law. However, the main problem lies in identifying whether a confession is falsely made or not. Various countries deal with false confessions through various methods.



Some people are more likely to be manipulated by the interrogative agencies than the others. Such people change their statements or account of the events after being influenced by the questions of the interviewing officers. They may also falsely confess to a crime in order to escape the long and extensive interrogations. Low confidence, lack of sleep and low self-esteem are the primary causes of false confessions.

False confessions may also be made for the purpose of taking revenge from someone or for protecting the actual criminal. People may falsely confess to crimes in exchange for money or for other monetary incentives. This is particularly relevant in terms of poor counties where a major sect of the population is uneducated. Lack of awareness about one’s legal and constitutional rights often leads to false confessions.



In India, any person making a false confession before a court of justice can be charged with contempt of court and hefty monetary fines may also be imposed on him. Criminal charges might also be imposed on such persons and they may be sentenced to a jail term.

Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872[1] provides that confessions made to the police officials are not admissible in a court of law.This limitation dissuades the police officials from obtaining false confessions from the accused through torture and other unfair means. The accused person is also medically examined before and after the custody which ensures the safety of the accused.



The United States has taken several measures such as DNA Testing, informing the accused of the rights available to him/her, etc. to prevent false confessions. The Miranda warning is given to all the criminal suspects when they are taken into custody. The US courts have also refused to admit such confessions which were found to have been made involuntary. The use of force by the police officials has been reduced to a large extent. Several US states require mandatory video-recording of all police interrogations.



The United Kingdom follows a technique called investigative interview. The United Kingdom trains its police officials regarding the fair means of interrogation. The officers are repeatedly reminded to be fair and open-minded. Harsh and brutal treatment of the suspect is strictly prohibited.It promotes ethical interrogation and interviewing. The interrogations are structured and well defined.The interrogations are also video recorded which prevents any kind of forced and false confessions and protects the interests of the accused person. The investigating agencies also lay more emphasis on the collection of evidence rather than obtaining the confessions for solving a case.



The technique of investigation used in Canada is known as the Reid technique which involves three phases – the fact analysis, interviewing and interrogation.[2] Canada also uses methods such as video-taping the entire interviews which are conducted under the police custody, enhanced and well-defined investigation standards, etc. The legal system of Canada provided adequate safeguards to the accused against the use of coercive interrogative techniques by the police.

In Australia, a confession is admissible only when it is proved to be voluntary and reliable. The Uniform Evidence Law of Australia provides several safeguards against the admissibility of forces and false confessions. Just like the United Kingdom, Australia also lays more emphasis on the collection of evidence and data to solve a crime rather than obtaining confessions.



False confessions are the primary cause of wrongful convictions. While it may seem counter intuitive but innocent people do falsely confess to such crimes that they actually do not commit. It may be due to coercion, pressure, fear, etc. One of the main difficulties in identifying and preventing the false confessions is that a record of these confessions is often not maintained by the police after the conviction of the accused. Falseconfessions protect the actual guilty person from being punished for his or her crimes and result in the wrongful conviction of the innocent person.Thus, they prevent the fair distribution of justice.




Gautam Badlani,

Chanakya National Law University


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