Publication - Advice and guidance

Guidance on Joint Investigative Interviewing of Child Witnesses in Scotland

Published: 19 Dec 2011
Part of:
Law and order

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

Guidance on Joint Investigative Interviewing of Child Witnesses in Scotland
APPENDIX A: Quick Guide: Conducting the investigative interview

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