Improving the quality of investigative interviews for suspected child abuse: A case study

Westcott, Helen L.; Kynan, Sally and Few, Chris (2006). Improving the quality of investigative interviews for suspected child abuse: A case study. Psychology, Crime & Law, 12(1) pp. 77–96.




This paper reports a case study of a joint police–social services project, which aimed to improve the quality of investigative interviews for suspected child abuse. Thirteen English police officers and social workers who had previously participated in training according to the Memorandum of Good Practice (Home Office 2002) and carried out some investigative interviews, participated in a number of project components over a 9-month period. These included: an initial training and awareness revision day; review sessions in which videotaped interviews were evaluated by the interviewers and project group; aides-memoires for phases of the interviews (e.g. rapport, closure); and audiotaped debriefs carried out by interviewers immediately after the investigative interview had taken place. Interviews carried out pre- and post-project were analysed for evidence of improvement in practice. Specifically, attention focused on the quality of rapport, free narrative, questioning, closure, and the number and type of details elicited from the child. A number of methodological challenges were encountered in the project, and ultimately, evidence of improvement was limited. However, encouraging findings were noted with respect to the quality of closure, inclusion of ground rules and practice interviews. The findings are discussed in the context of the difficulties in training interviewers and sustaining improvements in skills as well as knowledge. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

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