The purpose of this paper is to examine the quality of evidence collected during interview. Current UK national guidance on the interviewing of victims and witnesses recommends a phased approach, allowing the interviewee to deliver their free report before any questioning takes place, and stipulating that during this free report the interviewee should not be interrupted. Interviewers, therefore, often find it necessary during questioning to reactivate parts of the interviewee's free report for further elaboration.
The first section of this paper draws on a collection of police interviews with women reporting rape, and discusses one method by which this is achieved – the indirect quotation of the interviewee by the interviewer – exploring the potential implications for the quality of evidence collected during this type of interview. The second section of the paper draws on the same data set and concerns itself with a particular method by which information provided by an interviewee has its meaning “fixed” by the interviewer.
It is found that “formulating” is a recurrent practice arising from the need to clarify elements of the account for the benefit of what is termed the “overhearing audience” – in this context, the police scribe, CPS, and potentially the Court. Since the means by which this “fixing” is achieved necessarily involves the foregrounding of elements of the account deemed to be particularly salient at the expense of other elements which may be entirely deleted, formulations are rarely entirely neutral. Their production, therefore, has the potential to exert undue interviewer influence over the negotiated “final version” of interviewees' accounts.
The paper highlights the fact that accurate re‐presentations of interviewees' accounts are a crucial tool in ensuring smooth progression of interviews and that re‐stated speech and formulation often have implications for the quality of evidence collected during significant witness interviews.
MacLeod, N.J. (2011), "Risks and benefits of selective (re)presentation of interviewees' talk: some insights from discourse analysis", The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 95-102. https://doi.org/10.1108/14636641111134332
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