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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 16:22 GMT
Lack of sleep 'causes false confessions'

People who are questioned when they have not had enough sleep may end up being wrongly convicted, according to new research.

At the University of Wales in Swansea, researchers found people were more likely to agree to leading questions if they were sleep-deprived.

The author of the report said he believed miscarriages of justice caused by people not having enough sleep may happen even when police stick to regulations allowing suspects an eight-hour uninterrupted sleep period in every 24 hours.

Dr Mark Blagrove, a senior psychology lecturer, said rest periods were often given in the daytime, which meant that suspects were still likely to be exhausted and suffering from insomnia.

Subjects 'remembered false events'

The law also allows for exceptions for police to interrupt a sleep period to carry on with interviews.

The study looked at the responses of 47 people who had missed one or two nights' sleep.

Reseachers asked them leading questions about fictional incidents that they should not have been able to answer.

The study, published in America's Journal of Experimental Psychology, found that tired people were more likely to agree to leading questions.

University of Wales, Swansea
Researchers say lack of sleep may cause false confessions
Dr Blagrove said: "After they were deprived of sleep they answered the questions much more suggestively then they did before.

"Some questions they could not actually have answered but they were still giving answers.

"They then went on to say they were very confident about their answers.

"It shows that if you coach a witness or suspect he will give misleading answers and become increasingly confident about them.

"If people are interrogated by officers and are sleepy they may be giving false confessions," he said.

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