Hypnosis and the law have been on shaky ground the past few years. Most of the problems stem from the use of testimony given under regressive hypnosis in several cases involving allegations of child molestation. Grown adults undergoing therapy in several instances that received a great deal of press at the time uncovered memories when hypnotized that they believed had been repressed, of trauma and sexual abuse suffered as children. In one case the father of the grown child was accused of being a sexual abuser. In another case a priest was the accused.
The problem that later arose was that through physical evidence both men were proven to be not guilty of the offenses with which they had been charged. Some legal experts believe that one of the problems is that hypnosis competency is not a matter of state licensure in most cases or of higher educational training. Many states are now demanding consistency in training and professional guidelines that they say will improve the overall practice of hypnosis. While standards of training may help, one of the primary difficulties in depending on so called repressed memories in court testimony is that many hypnosis practitioners don't believe there are such things as repressed memories.
Many of them point out that those in a hypnotic state are susceptible to suggestion, and that the human imagination is particularly powerful. When these repressed memories are triggered, there is no proof that they are valid. Everyone has had many life experiences included untold hours of watching television dramas and reading books. Many experts believe that so called repressed memories are simply experiences created in the imagination of the hypnotized person. They may be incidents that never happened, or they may be combinations of dreams, illusions, and true experiences.
While still a source of valid controversy, it is doubtful that any competent judge would allow repressed memories obtained through regression therapy hypnosis to be used as legal testimony. For one thing, there are usually few ways to counter such testimony. Many things cannot be disproved that also cannot be proven and may not be true at all. Apparently in the case of many cases brought up in court using hypnosis, such was the case.