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Police to abandon hypnosis as questioning technique

18:44 12/11/2018

The federal police will no longer use hypnosis in judicial cases in Belgium, according to La Dernière Heure, which ran an interview with a ULB psychologist practiced in the procedure. Hypnosis has been carried out voluntarily on certain victims of crimes in Belgium since the 1990s.

Psychologists and physicians trained in hypnosis sometimes used the practice on victims of crimes in order to provide expert testimony. In 2016, hypnosis was also opened up to two trained police specialists to question victims of sexual violence.

Rape victims are often so traumatised that they cannot remember specifics about the crime or the perpetrator. Hypnosis helped to calm the victims and aid their memories. The 2016 decision by the then state secretary for equal opportunities marked the first time that hypnosis was used by police themselves for questioning purposes.

Change in ‘balance of power’

Now the police will not use that method nor ask it of psychologists, according to La Dernière Heure. Instead, they will use cognitive interviews, a method of questioning victims meant to draw their attention to details they don’t think of themselves.

“The use of judicial hypnosis has always been the subject of debate and had its supporters and detractors, psychologist Evelyne Josse told the paper. “You know, hypnosis has a mysterious side that has always seemed a little scary. In my opinion, the balance of power has become favourable to detractors.”

The reasoning behind the federal police’s decision, she said, “is that hypnosis is rarely used in other countries’ judicial frameworks. Another argument is that the scientific literature is more favourable to cognitive interviews.”

Photo: Getty Images

Written by Lisa Bradshaw