Australian forensic psychology experts have built an app, iWitnessed, to assist victims and witnesses record information in a way that will help get convictions and prevent miscarriages of justice.
The smartphone app incorporates guided questioning and enables users to record information as text, voice, images and map locations. The creators want everyone to download it to their phones, just in case they become a witness to a crime or accident.
iWitnessed was developed at the University of Sydney by Dr Helen Paterson, Dr Celine van Golde and by the University of NSW’s Professor Richard Kemp.
The NSW Police Force was consulted to ensure the smartphone app is a practical tool to assist police with investigations.
Nicholas Cowdery, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, is also supporting the app.
“Contemporaneous notes, even if scribbled on the back of a napkin, can strengthen the reliability and strength of the evidence being given in court proceedings,” says Cowdery, now an adjunct professor at the Sydney Institute of Criminology.
Within the app, all information is time and location/GPS stamped. iWitnessed users can send their account to police, or any other email address, with reports easily convertible to pdf.
iWitnessed is available for free download in Australia on both Apple and Android devices. Not to be confused with the start-up iWitness, which encouraged users to livestream recordings for a fee.
Senior lecturer Helen Paterson says iWitnessed is an immediate recall tool designed to preserve witness accounts, including one-off events such as car accidents and repeated or ongoing incidents such as bullying or harassment.
“This project places Australia at the forefront of international initiatives to improve the collection of eyewitness evidence and it will help in the investigation and prosecution of incidents,” Dr Paterson said.
Richard Kemp at UNSW says iWitnessed fills a critical gap in the legal system, empowering witnesses and victims by ensuring the quality of their evidence.
“We believe iWitnessed should make a useful contribution to the legal system in Australia and will help witnesses provide accurate, high-quality evidence to assist police investigations and court processes,” he says.
“We encourage people to use iWitnessed as much as possible to make recordings and report their observations of tragic events; in cases of an emergency however, people should immediately phone 000.”
iWitnessed was designed to help witnesses and victims provide a detailed account of any event, in a way that both records the details and protects their memory against forgetting and contamination.
iWitnessed is based on research in Australia and the UK that shows memory decays rapidly after an event, but that it can be preserved if a complete account is given within 24 hours of the incident.
The information is stored on the device and users can use a PIN code to protect their data.
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