The memorandum of good practice: theory versus application

Sternberg, Kathleen J.; Lamb, Michael E.; Davies, Graham M. and Westcott, Helen L. (2001). The memorandum of good practice: theory versus application. Child Abuse and Neglect, 25(5) pp. 669–681.



Objective: The goal of this study was to evaluate the quality of investigative interviews in England and Wales since implementation of the Memorandum of Good Practice (MOGP), which specified how forensic interviews of alleged child abuse victims should be conducted.

Method: Transcripts of 119 videotaped interviews of alleged victims between the ages of 4 and 13 years were obtained from 13 collaborating police forces. Trained raters then classified the types of prompts used by the investigators to elicit substantive information from the children, and tabulated the number of forensically relevant details provided by the children in each response.

Results: Like their counterparts in the United States, Israel, and Sweden, forensic interviewers in England and Wales relied heavily on option-posing prompts, seldom using open-ended utterances to elicit information from the children. Nearly 40% of the information obtained was elicited using option-posing and suggestive prompts, which are known to elicit less reliable information than open-ended prompts do.

Conclusion: Despite the clarity and specificity of the MOGP, its implementation appears to have had less effect on the practices of forensic interviewers in the field than was hoped. Further work should focus on ways of training interviewers to implement the superior practices endorsed by the MOGP and similar professional guidelines.

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