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Character in the Criminal Trial$
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Mike Redmayne

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199228898

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228898.001.0001

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The Relevance of Character

The Relevance of Character

Chapter:
(p.10) 2 The Relevance of Character
Source:
Character in the Criminal Trial
Author(s):

Mike Redmayne

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228898.003.0002

This chapter looks at the empirical debates underlying character evidence, examining psychological research on the stability of character and the criminological evidence on recidivism. Research in social psychology suggests that character is fragmentary, and that may create problems for some uses of character evidence in the criminal process. But when it comes to the use of character evidence — typically in the form of previous convictions — to prove guilt, social psychology's concerns seem to have little purchase. The best evidence about whether past criminal behaviour is indicative of future criminal behaviour comes from criminal statistics and criminology more generally. While previous offending is one of the best predictors of future offending, most offenders are convicted only once. A single previous conviction for an offence of modest seriousness says little about future risk. Since offending declines with age, one should be wary of thinking that a few convictions gained by age 19 says much about a person at age 24 if they have not offended since.

Keywords:   character evidence, recidivism, criminal behaviour, social psychology, criminal statistics

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