Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eye-Witness Evidence

Whilst mucking out my office recently—something I only do after turning in a book (hurrah!) I came across a very interesting article written by former police sergeant Ruth McGrath in an old edition of Red Herrings, the UK Crime Writers Association newsletter.

Perhaps I am the last person to know what the acronym A.D.V.O.K.A.T.E stands for, but better late than never. Basically, this "aide memoire" is used to take a statement from a person who provides a description of a suspect or incident.

A: Amount of time under observation - how long did the witness have the person/incident in view?
D: Distance - what was the distance between the witness and the person/incident?
V: Visibility - what was the visibility at the time? e.g. day or night? Foggy? Sunny?
O: Obstruction - were there any obstructions to the view of the witness? e.g. hedges, vehicles etc.
K: Known or seen before - did the witness know, or had they ever seen the person before? If so, where and when?
A: Any reason to remember - did the witness have any particular reason for remembering the person/incident? Anything specific that made the person/incident memorable?
T: Time lapse - how long has elapsed since the witness saw the person/incident?
E: Error or material discrepancy - are there any errors or material discrepancies between descriptions in the first and subsequent accounts of the witness.

It's also important that a witness is not asked closed-ended questions such as, "Was the man wearing a yellow shirt?" "Do you remember what he was wearing?" is better.

Since I know I'll get notes back on my manuscript in the next two or three weeks, I'm delighted to have the chance to rewrite a crucial eye-witness scene that had seemed rather flat. It's also a handy tool to introduce plot twists and character flaws. So a big thank you to Ruth McGrath.


John R Corrigan said...

Congrats on finishing the book!

Hannah Dennison said...

Thank you John!!