Sherlock has turned Britain into a nation of amateur detectives

According to a poll, 64% of us believe ourselves to be "armchair detectives," while 20% claim they could commit the perfect crime…

Do you think that you could solve a crime? Or, even better (actually, maybe worse), commit the perfect one? A new study seems to think so – having deducted that shows such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Idris Elba’s Luther has turned us all into so-called experts on criminology.  


Yep, six in 10 Brits are apparently such habitual viewers of TV crime drama that they believe themselves qualified to take on a real-life murder mystery. With the average viewer watching over five hours of crime-related television a week, the poll found that 64% of participants referred to themselves as an ‘armchair detective’ while 62% boasted that they regularly try to solve the crime they see on TV before the fictional detectives do.

The study, commissioned on behalf of new real life crime series Cold Justice, also found a more sinister side-effect of Britain’s crime obsession: that one in five (20%) of the 1500 Brits polled believe they could commit the perfect crime due to techniques learnt from their favourite shows. While 13% believed that they literally could get away with murder.

Luckily, however, those polled weren’t actually as savvy as they think they are. Presented with an array of crime myths, 64% of participants believed that such misconceptions as being entitled to one phone call when arrested (you’re not) and 63% thinking you cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Sherlock Holmes, it turns out, will not be out of a job any time soon. 

You can find the full list of these crime myths (with the result of how many people believed them) below. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Most crime is solved by DNA – 59%

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

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.

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.


Cold Justice airs on Really on 28th March.