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In this issue (May 2013):
Eyewitness testimony is one of the most often used pieces of evidence in criminal investigation. Its importance in securing convictions has been discussed at length in many prior studies, as have concerns with its possible unreliable nature. One of these causes of concern is the accepted matter that accuracy of memory of an event does decay with time. On the other hand, trials often are heard many months after any original criminal incident took place. One way of helping the witness to recall events is to refresh the witness’s memory. There has been to date little research into the effects, positive or otherwise, of such refreshing of witness memory on subsequent testimony. This study identified police officers’ views of their experiences of refreshing witnesses’ memories. 217 police officers completed a self -reporting questionnaire. It was found that there was a lack of consistency concerning whether witnesses’ memories were refreshed or not, how close to the court case any refreshing took place, and the number of times officers said they attempted any refreshing of witness memory. Further, it was also found no uniformity concerning both the practice of refreshing memories and any training that had been received. Implications for practice are discussed.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) cases are often not prosecuted because of poor evidential quality of the investigative interview, the central plank of CSA investigations and prosecutions. The current paper addresses the need for further direction about how investigative interviews can better meet the needs of prosecutors by presenting a transcript of interview with an experienced Crown prosecutor. In the interview, we asked the prosecutor to explain what information is required, and how information should be elicited from a prosecution perspective. The transcript was then distributed to nine Crown prosecutors who were invited to reflect on the propositions made in the transcript and indicate any areas where the prosecutor’s views were not consistent with their own. The nine prosecutors then met as a group and agreed on amendments to the transcript to ensure it was representative of their views. We present the final transcript (with amendments) as a tool for interviewers and trainers.
In this article a case study of professional practice is discussed in some detail, where investigators (when interviewing) asked for drawings of suspected crime scenes to be undertaken by witnesses, victims and suspect. It is argued that this deployment of drawings assisted in a significant way to resolve an investigation of historical abuse.
The introduction of inference from silence from suspect interviews in the U.K. in 1995 caused controversy over the extent of information provided prior to interview. Legal precedence (R v Beckles  1 WLR 2829 ) has assisted in providing guidance in cases where a legal adviser is present in the interview, yet, it is the decision of the suspect whether to accept that advice. If they remain silent at interview they cannot solely rely on that advice. There had been no legal precedence regarding suspects’ not legally represented until a Court of Appeal case (Saunders: 2012 EWCA Crim 1380) which indicated that an unrepresented suspect should know sufficient information about the nature of the case in order to make an informed decision as to whether they have legal advice or not. Several prior research studies have indicated that suspects are more likely to confess when the evidence is strong. The issue of whether unrepresented suspects’ should be provided with evidential information prior to interview is discussed. What information could be provided and the process of providing the information is proposed.
In 2010, awaiting the development and implementation of new Belgian legislation following the ECtHR Salduz case-law, judicial authorities advised to video-record the first suspect interview in serious cases. For Belgian police, this requirement was a major challenge with regard to both technical equipment as well as police officers’ attitudes and skills. As a consequence, the chief of police of one of the local police stations decided to implement a project covering these three components. With regard to the required attitude change and improvement of interview skills a preliminary training and supervision trajectory was developed. The training and supervision (peer feedback and expert feedback) yielded some interesting experiences concerning routines as well as learning processes. Based upon the aforementioned practical implementation, some preliminary pitfalls and opportunities for supervision in practice are formulated.
It is a bedrock principle of common law that if a suspect is subjected to police threats or inducements any incriminating statement arising from these tactics is presumptively inadmissible. Centuries of experience have taught judges that the institutional power that a person in authority wields in a custodial interrogation affects the suspect’s ability to freely choose whether or not to answer questions. Threats and/or inducements inevitably compromise the reliability of any subsequent admissions. In this paper we show that some undercover confession-eliciting techniques can be as functionally, if not more oppressive than those sometimes employed by interrogating officers. Both the perceived ‘authority’ of the agent and the custodial status of the suspect are moot with respect to the degree of psychological control that is being exerted. Consequently we recommend that such tactics should receive more judicial oversight than they have heretofore been given.
Despite the growing prevalence of interpreter-mediated interviews, this area remains widely under-researched in Interpreting and Police studies alike. Through the analysis of the “participation framework” (Goffman, 1981), this small-scale study aims to challenge the myth of literalism in seven interpreted police interviews involving Portuguese- and Italian-speaking suspects and a Portuguese-speaking witness. In particular, it investigates the impact that “shifts in footing”, i.e. the orientation of speakers towards each other and towards the verbal output (Wadensjö, 1998), have on rapport building in the first stage of cognitive interviews. Findings show that the specific moves contribute to the police interpreter’s participation as police officers lose the control of topic and turns and the effectiveness of the interrogation is reduced, suggesting the need for a more nuanced conceptualisation of Codes of Practice and extensive training for interpreters and interviewers in sociological aspects of interpreted encounters.