I think Witnesses are a very important part of the whole idea of crime.
For instance, a man is drink-driving, and crashes into another car on the road. There is a pedestrian aside who sees the whole thing develop. What he also sees is that the drunk has a bottle of whisky in his hand.
He can either:
a) Report truthfully what he sees when the Police come round (there has been a crash, so they would eventually)
b) Lie and say he has nothing to do with it, and he didn't see anything (he might be a friend, or simply doesn't want to get into all this commotion and fuss)
Each of these will have different outcomes.
If he does a), that will mean the driver will most likely to get arrested, or simply in trouble: what he deserves.
However, if the Witness chooses to go ahead and lie, - minding his own business - b), then the Police will have to trouble themselves a whole lot more; checking traffic cameras, CCTV, trying to find other Witnesses etc. for no good reason.
So really, I think you can see why Police would rather everyone - especially Witnesses - tell the truth when asked and save them that whole lot of trouble!
The Witnesses really can change the whole picture:
- Determine whether or not the offender goes to prison.
They can do this by telling the Police Officer whether or not that the person did do what he/she was said to be doing - they will be becoming a Witness. However, I believe the Police wouldn't JUST take their word; the "Witness"* would have to have others in on the act - other supposed Witnesses. I reckon they'd do this because, just like in BNC where we have to be sceptical, they have to be too and not believe everything they hear, as true as it sounds.
*I put the word witness in inverted commas, because they wouldn't really be witnesses if they are lying just to save a friend, or being untruthful, would they?
- Give Police Officers extra info
This can be both good and bad, true or false. Police Officers don't know everything instantly, so, unless it is something totally unbelievable, they are most likely to trust people as long as they have the facts, others agreeing and as long as they don't have a criminal record (I think this because, if you relate this to school, I doubt the teachers will trust someone who lies and is naughty often rather than someone who is relatively good (most of the time; nobody's perfect!) and does the right thing, right?)
- Go on one side or the other
They can do this by defending one side (the offender's side by saying he/she didn't do it, or the other side, by stating that he/she did indeed do what they were accused of doing) with reasons or none. Doing this will give the Police the upper hand; they can count, maybe, how many people have good reasons - believable ones too - and how many people say the offender did offend, and how many people say he didn't.
However, I want to know if the Offender can count as a Witness, because they must have a side to the story too, however confusing it may be...