Guidance on Joint Investigative Interviewing of Child Witnesses in Scotland

Good practice guidance for police officers and social workers who are carrying out joint investigative interviews with child witnesses

APPENDIX A: Quick Guide: Conducting the investigative interview

1. At the planning meeting

  • any reason not to visually record?
  • any special needs?
  • equipment available/location?
  • is this a complex case needing special arrangements?
  • agree who will lead, and signals if one interviewer is to be in the control room
  • discuss whether support person is necessary

2. Prepare the interview setting

  • ensure there will be no interruptions ( e.g. unplug telephones, switch off mobiles)
  • remove any distracting material
  • ensure adequate seating and equipment are available and laid out in a 'child-friendly' arrangement
  • insert new DVDs
  • check camera angles and focus and carry out other technical checks
  • record reasons, time and date, officers involved, child's name and age

3. Information about the interview and its record

  • inform the child and their parent/carer that an interview is being undertaken and how it is to be recorded
  • check understanding and allow child to ask questions
  • do not imply that recording means no further interviews
  • if child objects, reconsider visually recording - may use audio recording only option and/or written record instead
  • brief support person where one is to be present for any part of the interview

4. Introductions

  • state date and start and end times for the record
  • introduce yourself to the child, giving name, occupation and role (in a general way; don't mention words such as "risk" and "child protection")
  • allow child to settle; have brief "icebreaker" chat about neutral event ( e.g.TV) Avoid using reference to school as an "icebreaker" chat as the child's experience of school is unlikely to be known to the interviewer
  • avoid mentioning the allegation and avoid instilling any stereotypes about the alleged perpetrator

5. Establish the interview principles; not just a litany at start but throughout

  • the child will do most of the talking
  • the interviewer wasn't there so needs the child's help to understand what happened
  • it is OK to say "I don't know/remember/understand" and to correct the interviewer when they get something wrong
  • the child should not guess, or make up any answers. They should always tell the truth ( i.e. what they know from having seen with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, etc.)
  • if questions are repeated this does not mean the child's first answer was wrong or thought to be a lie

6. Reminders for interviewers

  • the recording includes pace, pauses, questions and body language of both interviewer and child, and anyone else (such as a supporter) present
  • the interview should follow the child's pace
  • be tolerant of pauses; don't interrupt the child
  • be aware of signs of fatigue or loss of concentration. Let the child know how long the interview might take and when breaks will be available
  • keep an open mind

7. Second interviewer

  • take note of salient points only; remember that these will be submitted in evidence
  • focus on monitoring the interview, welfare of the child, alerting lead interviewer of points to probe
  • agree to use prearranged signals to contribute when invited
  • if in control room, check one camera focused on child's face throughout and other shows a view of the whole room including everyone present

8. Complete rapport building with a practice interview

  • ask the child to recall a neutral personally-experienced event ( e.g. a holiday)
  • tell them to report everything they remember about the event from beginning to end
  • avoid specific questions
  • encourage a spontaneous narrative from the child using facilitators, e.g. "That sounds interesting, tell me more"

9. Raising topic of concern

  • raise the topic, beginning with the least suggestive prompt
  • if this is not successful, proceed gradually onto more specific prompts
  • avoid suggesting any wrongdoing ( e.g. by using words such as "hurt", "bad")

10. Free narrative

  • encourage a spontaneous account from the child using general probes, e.g. "Tell me about that"
  • use open-ended prompts to follow when the child has finished speaking, e.g. "And then what happened?"
  • also use facilitators to keep the narrative flowing, e.g. "uh huh"

11. Questioning

  • refer back to things that the child has mentioned previously in free narrative
  • try to determine whether the episode of abuse was single or repeated
  • try to cover the sequence of topics in the same order as the child raised them
  • use the least direct/specific types of questions wherever possible
  • clarify any ambiguities, inconsistencies, or unfamiliar terms/names used by the child, in a way that does not imply suspicion, disbelief or mockery

12. Closure

  • summarise main evidential points using child's language as much as possible
  • check whether second interviewer has any questions
  • ask child if they have any questions
  • don't make promises that cannot be kept
  • provide contact names/addresses/numbers
  • thank child for their time
  • revert to neutral topics

13. Afterwards

  • ask parent, carer or child to sign the consent form
  • obtain recording number from log
  • seal master copy of DVDs with evidence labels
  • store in secure location
  • arrange the debriefing session with further action to be considered
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