Watching the detectives: Brits declare themselves a nation of armchair sleuths

Six in 10 Brits are such habitual viewers of TV crime shows that they consider themselves to be amateur experts at solving crime. That’s the verdict of a new study which also reveals that one in five (20%) of us believe that we could commit the perfect crime thanks to the techniques learned from TV dramas, documentaries and the news.

  • Over half (64%) of adult Brits believe watching TV crime shows has made them amateur experts in crime and criminology

  • 1 in 5 (20%) believe that they could commit the perfect crime

  • 16% have turned detective and spied on those closest to them

  • The top 10 most widely believed ‘crime myths’ revealed

The survey of 1,500 British adults was commissioned to mark the launch of new real life crime series Cold Justice, exclusive to Really from Friday 28th March at 10pm, and asked respondents about their perceived knowledge of criminology as well as the belief that TV shows have given rise to some of the key crime myths.

The research reveals that 64% of respondents consider themselves to be an ‘armchair detective’, with the average Brit watching over five hours of TV crime dramas, documentaries and news reports every week. For some, their TV viewing has led them to rate themselves as amateur experts on crime and criminology, with 62% revealing that they regularly try to solve the crime they see on TV before the fictional detectives, and 49% revealing that they regularly guess how a real crime might be solved before the outcome was resolved.

Further findings revealed that the prevalence of crime programming has given rise to a series of widely held crime based beliefs.

Top 10 crime myths:

1. Everyone gets to make a phone call when they are arrested – 74%

No, police are required to notify someone of your whereabouts, but you do not have the right to make this phone call yourself.

2. Prison sentences are becoming more lenient and fewer people are being sent to prison – 71%

Actually, prison numbers have risen due to courts sentencing more offenders to prison, and because offenders have been staying in prison for longer.

3. Removing a squatter is difficult – 69%

Since 2012 squatting has been a criminal offence that can lead to six months in prison and a £5,000 fine. Squatters’ rights no longer exist. The new law speeds up the removal process for homeowners and police are now able to raid buildings and remove squatters.

4. Insanity defence can help you get away with murder – 68%

Quite the reverse - defendants who asserted an insanity defence at trial, and who were ultimately found guilty of their charges, served significantly longer sentences than defendants tried on similar charges who did not assert the insanity defense.

5. CSI investigators are directly involved with the investigation, raids and arrest – 66%

Despite TV crime dramas showing investigators as ‘jack of all trades,’ each step of the investigation process is handled by separate specialists.

6. You cannot be tried for the same crime twice – 63%

In the UK, since 2003 those acquitted of a murder can be re-tried if ‘fresh and viable’ new evidence has come to light.

7. A person’s complete records can be obtained by typing only their name into a police computer – 61%

The database holds certain information relating to vehicles and drivers but it only holds large amounts of personal information about those who have been previously convicted, cautioned or recently arrested or for those sought in connection with a crime.

8. Most crime is solved by DNA – 59%

Less than 1% of all crimes are solved with DNA evidence.

9. Criminal profiling will always successfully identify a subject – 57%

No, there is much debate about criminal profiling – with many experts saying that it is more of an art than a science, and shouldn’t be used as the basis for firm judgements within any criminal investigation.

10. You have to be tall to join the police – 50%

The height requirement was removed in 1990 and British forces no longer require their recruits to be of a minimum height.

One in six (16%) British viewers reveal that they have used crime-solving techniques that they have seen on TV to solve their own mysteries, with social media stalking (52%), spying on the movements of their neighbours (44%) and checking partner’s emails (23%) and text messages (20%) the most common methods deployed. While nine in ten (89%) assert that they consider themselves to be law abiding citizens, one in five (20%) believe that thanks to their knowledge of TV crime shows, if they wanted to they could commit the perfect crime, while 13% claim that they could literally get away with murder.

When it comes to the difference between men and women, the results also reveal that more men have removed items from a neighbour’s dustbin (28%) than women (12%) whilst attempting to solve their own mysteries, and that twice as many men (26%) as women (13%) believe they could get away with a crime. Londoners are the most likely to try to solve their own mysteries as a quarter reveal they have attempted it, whilst only one in 10 Scots have given this type of sleuthing a go. More people in the North East of England believe that they could get away with murder than any other region (23%) – whilst those in Northern Ireland are the least sure with only 8% believing they could.

Clare Laycock, Really General Manager, says, ‘The great thing about Cold Justice is it’ll show just how hard it is to solve some crimes and cases get left unsolved for years. It’ll lay to rest many of the criminal myths we so often believe are true to life, thanks to our healthy obsession with crime dramas.’

The UK premiere of Cold Justice is on Really, Friday 28 March, 10 pm.