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Children are asked to participate in joint investigative interviews (JIIs) when they have been suspected of being victims or witnesses of crimes and investigators need to learn from the children’s own words what happened. Information thus obtained from children in JIIs can play a significant role in civil and criminal decision making. It is, therefore, important that investigative interviewers employ techniques and practices designed to maximise the reliability of information elicited from children. In this article we briefly review key aspects of psychological research that have shaped scientific recommendations about how investigative interviews should be conducted, and provide results from preliminary studies of interviews conducted in Scotland. The findings are discussed in light of the newly released Scottish Executive (2011) guidelines for interviewers. We conclude by suggesting the most beneficial way forward in Scotland with regard to child interviewing practices is to utilise the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Protocol, and suggest that strong links between scientific researchers and practitioners (e.g., police, social work, fiscal service, children’s reporters, and the judiciary) should be developed and maintained.
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ARTICLES
Joint investigative
interviews with children
in Scotland
Dr David La Rooy,
Reader in Psychology,
University of Abertay Dundee.
Annabelle Nicol,
PhD student,
University of Abertay Dundee.
John Halley,
Advocate and part time sheriff.
Professor Michael E Lamb,
Department of Psychology,
University of Cambridge.
Children are asked to participate in joint investiga-
tive in terviews (JIIs) when they have bee n suspected
of being victims or witnesses of crimes and in vesti-
gators need to learn ç from the children’s own
words ç what happened. Information thus
ob tained from children in JIIs can play a significan t
role in civ il and criminal decision making. It is,
therefore, importan t tha t investigative in terviewers
employ techniques and practices designed to
maximise the reliabili ty of information elicited
from children. In th is ar ticle we briefly review key
aspects of psychological research that have shaped
scien tific recommenda tions a bout how investiga-
tive interviews should be conducted, and provide
results from preliminary studies of interviews
conducted in Scotland. The fin dings are discussed
in light of the newly released Scottish Execu tive
(2011) guidelines for interviewers. We conclude by
suggesting the mos t beneficial way forward in
Scotland with regard to child interviewing
practices is to utilise the National Institutes of
Child Health and Human Development
(NICHD) Protocol, and suggest that strong links
between scientific researchers and practitioners
(e.g., police, social work, fiscal service, children’s
reporters, and the judiciary) should be developed
and maintained.
Introduction
The interna tional consensus
It is crucially important for legal fact finders,
decision makers, those tasked with the develop-
ment of i nterviewer guidelines, as well as
interviewers themselves, to understand the
important contribution psychological science
has made to our understa nding of the issues sur-
rounding child interviewing (for example, see
AJE v HM Advocate, 2002 J.C. 215 (sub nom E v
HM Advoca te) 2002 S.L.T. 715). More tha n 20
years of accumulated psychological research has
provided very clear evidence as to how i nvestiga-
tive interviews should and should not be
conducted. Research findi ngs have been
regularly reviewed in numerous books targeted
at both practitioner and academic audiences
and are widely available (for example see titles
by Brainerd & Reyna, 2005; Eisen, Quas, &
Goodman, 20 02; Dent & Flin, 1992; Kuehnle &
Connell, 2009; Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach, &
Esplin, 20 08; Lamb, La Rooy, Malloy & Katz,
2011; Milne & Bull, 1999; Poole & Lamb, 1998;
Westcott, Davies, & Bull, 2002; Wilson &
Powell, 2001). Readers will find that non-psy-
chologists such as interview trainers, linguists,
police officers, social workers, expert witnesses,
and lawyers have also been contributing to and
enriching this research base increasingly.
Given our extensive knowledge regarding the
strengths and limitations of children’s memory,
suggestibility and false memory, and the
importance of conducting developmentally
appropriate interviews, it is not surprisi ng that
an international consensus about the best way
to interview children has emerged. Psychologi-
cal research has also influenced the
development of many professional recommen-
dations for interviewers worldwide (for
example, American Professional Society on the
Abuse of Children (APSAC), 199 0, 1997; Home
Office, 1992, 2002, 2007, 2011; Jones, 2003;
Lamb, 1994; Lamb et al, 1998; Lamb, Orbach,
Hershkowitz, Esplin, & Horowitz, 20 07;
Orbach, Hershkowitz, Lamb, Sternberg, Esplin
et al, 20 00; Poole & Lamb, 1998; Scottish
Executive, 20 03, 2011; Toth, 2011; Warren &
McGough, 1996). Several key recommendations
for interviewers about which there is strong
agreement between professionals are detailed
briefly below.
Ground rules
Researchers agree th at interviewers should
establish the ‘‘ground rules’’ before the substan-
tive phase of the interview begins.
Communication of the ground rules allows
children to be made aware that they are in
control of the interview, that they should not
feel pressured to answer questions if they do not
know the answers (‘‘just say, I don’t know’’), and
that they can ask interviewers to explain
anything that they do not understand. The
ground rules are therefore an important part of
the pre-substa ntive phase of the interview
because they are designed to remove implicit
pressure on interviewees to guess if they are not
really sure about what happened, and / or to
acquiesce to interviewer suggestions by saying
SCOTS LAW TIMES: ISSU E 18 : 1- 6 -2 012 163
‘‘yes’’. The ground rules are i ntended to reduce
the effects of suggestibility and misleading
questions (Mulder & Vrij, 1996, cited in Milne
& Bull, 1999).
Practice interview
Interviewers sh ould attempt to extend rapp ort in
the pre-substa ntive phase of the interview with a
‘‘practice interview’’ (sometimes also referred to
in academic writing as ‘‘narrative elaboration
traini ng’’ or ‘‘episodic memory training’’). The
practice interview should involve interviewers
using open prompts to elicit detailed accounts
of neutral specific experiences from intervie-
wees. The purpose of this phase is to provide
childre n with a chance to (a) practice remember-
ing specific events; (b) focus on actual details
rather than gist; (c) practice replying to open
prompts; (d) maintain and build rapport; (e)
experience success providing information; and
(f) feel in control and that they should be doing
most of the talking, while at the same time allow
interviewers to (g) motivate children to provide
full descr iptions / disclose what really h appened;
(h) practice using open prompts; (i) practice
talking about different events separately if
required; and (j) better understand the
cognitive abilities and communicative style of
the children they are talking to (Roberts,
Brubacher, Powell & Price, 2011; Sternberg,
Lamb, Hershkowitz, Yudilevitch, Orbach,
Esplin & Hovav, 1997).
Open ended prompts
Researchers agree that children ought to be
allowed to describe the events in question in
their own words, free from pressure a nd any
suggestive influence. Interviewers are advised
to use as many open prompts as possible
because i nformation obtained from open
prompts comes from free recall memory and is
more likely to be accurate as shown by scientific
research (reviewed by Kuehn le & Connell, 200 9;
Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach & Esplin, 2008,
Lamb, La Rooy, Malloy & Katz, 2011).
If children are specifically prompted for more
details usi ng specific focused questions (e.g.,
‘‘why’’ an d ‘‘how’’ questio ns and yes / no
questions), recognition memory is used, and the
probability of error rises (Kuehnle & Connell,
2009; Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach & Esplin,
2008,Lamb,LaRooy,Malloy&Katz,2011).
When very sp ecific yes / no questions are asked,
there is also a risk that children will make
acquiescence errors, tending to agree or ‘‘go
along’’ with what is being said by answering
‘‘yes’ more often than ‘‘no’’: this tendency
increases at long recall delays (>1 month; Jones
& Pipe, 20 02) a nd is more problematic for
younger children (five years and younger) than
older children.
Interviewers must therefore use as many open
prompts that access free recall memory as
possible and mi nimise the use of questions that
draw on recognition memory: this is the recom-
mendation of the interviewing guidelines
provided by the Scottish Executive (2003, 2011).
Recall of events elicited using open prompts are
much more likely to be accurate than those
elicited using focused questions.
The current situation
The difficulties we face today in the world of
child forensic interviewing do not revolve
around any disagreements about the above
mentioned key research findings or research
based recommendations for interviewers to
follow. The greatest challenge we face is being
able to set in place systems and procedures that
result in high quality interviews being
conducted by police and social work on a day-
to- day basis.
In light of both advances in research over the
previous decades and the publication of profes-
sional recommendations, it has been
particularly disappointing to see that interview
practices have not improved as much as h ad
been a nticipated based on the clarity of the
research recommendations. Traditional traini ng
courses for interviewers designed to promote
good practice have largely failed to produce
interviewers who go on to follow recommended
guidelines (e.g., Cederborg, La Rooy & Lamb,
2008; Cederborg, Orbach, Sternberg, & Lamb,
2000; Craig, Scheibe, Kircher, Raskin, & Dodd,
1999; Cyr, Lamb, Pelletier, Leduc, & Perron,
2006; Davies, Westcott, & Horan, 20 00;
Korkman, Santtila, & Sandnabba, 2005; Lamb,
Hershkowitz, Sternberg, Esplin, et al, 1996;
Lamb, Sternberg, & Esplin, 20 0 0; Lamb,
Sternberg, Orbach, Aldridge, Bowler, Pearson,
& Esplin, 200 6; Sternberg, Lamb, Davies, &
Westcott, 2001; Thoresen, Lnnum, Melinder,
Stridbeck, & Magnussen, 20 06; Walker &
Hunt, 1998; Walker & Warren, 1995).
This lack of improvemen t in i nterview quality
is due to the fact that, while it is relatively easy to
raise awareness of best practice principles, it is
actually very hard to change interviewer
behaviour and get interviewers to implement
best practice in their work places. Research
shows that the traditional ‘‘one off ’’ intensive
traini ng courses change actual interviewing
behavior very little (Aldridge, 1992; Aldridge &
Cameron, 1999; Freeman & Morris, 1999;
Stevenson, Leung, & Cheung, 1992; Warren,
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164 SCOTS LAW TI MES : ISSUE 18: 1- 6 -20 12
Woodall, Thomas, Nun no, Keeney, Larson, &
Stadfeld, 1999). It thus appears that, while it is
relatively easy to describe good i nterviewing
practice and ‘‘tell’’ interviewers what they
should do, this does not translate into everyday
practice.
For example, one study, conducted in Engla nd
and Wales, was designed to examine the impact
of research based interviewer guidelines
released in the early 1990s in the so called
‘‘Memorandum of Good Practice’’ (Sternberg,
Lamb, Davies, & Westcott, 20 01). The study
involved 119 interviews with children (33 males
and 86 females) who had made allegations of
abuse involving exposure, touching, or penetra-
tion. The intervi ews were conducted mainly by
police officers who had completed an intensive
five day training course on child interviewing.
The result of the study showed that only six per
cent of the prompts used by the interviewers
were open, 57 per cent were directive (‘‘Wh-’’)
questions, 32 per cent were option posing a nd
yes / no questions, and f ive p er cent were
suggestive. Despite the importance of using
open prompts and the emphasis on this type of
prompt during trai ning, only a very small
number were used to elicit information in the
interviews studied.
The situation in Scotland
More recently, a survey of child forensic i nter-
viewers in Scotland has also provided cause for
concern (La Rooy, Lamb & Memon, 2011). In
this study, 91 police interviewers throughout
Scotland were surveyed about their perceptions
of how well they adhered to the Scottish
Executive (2003) guidelines. Most (85 per cent)
interviewers indicated that they always, or
almost always, explained the ground rules but
most (87 per cent) never or rarely conducted
practice interviews and, critically, open ended
prompts were not widely used, with 20 per cent
of the interviewers indicating that they never or
rarely used them. These findi ngs are of great
concern because they suggest a lack of the most
basic knowledge about recommended inter-
viewing practices.
A research based solu tion
The NICHD Protocol is the best known and
widely studied interviewer training system and
is freely available (Lamb, Hershkowitz, Orbach,
& Esplin, 2008; Lamb, La Rooy, Katz, &
Malloy, 2011; Lamb, Orbach, Hershkowitz,
Esplin & Horowitz, 20 07). Research studies
involving over 40,00 0 forensic i nterviews with
children conducted since the protocol was
introduced in 1996 demonstrate that use of the
protocol dramatically improves the quality of
investigative interviewing. The protocol was
informed by scientific research on child devel-
opment, including linguistic capabilities,
memory, suggestibility, forensic needs, inter-
viewer behaviour, and the effects of stress and
trauma. It was developed and tested by a team
of researchers, interviewers, psychologists,
police officers, a nd legal professionals. It has
been validated by research in many countries, is
mandated in parts of the USA, Canada and
Israel, is taught or built into formal guidelines
in Sweden, Norway, England and Wales, and
Finland, and is currently being implemented in
Korea, Japan, and Portugal.
Research over the last decade has shown that
effective interviewer training can be achieved
quickly and cost effectively, using the NICHD
Protocol. This is because it allows interviewers
to maximise the amount of information
obtained from free recall memory (which is
most likely to be accurate) by using open ended
prompts, thus allowing interviewers to avoid
the risky focused questions that are more likely
to elicit inaccurate i nformation.The overarching
goal of effective training is to help interviewers
understa nd a nd implement these research
based professional recommendations.
Awareness of the research base maximises the
defensibility of the procedures that are used by
forensic interviewers and increases interviewer
confidence that they are using guidelines based
on well researched scientific principles that are
also bei ng followed by many other interviewers.
In one of several demonstration studies,
Sternberg, Lamb, Orbach, Esplin, and Mitchell
(2001) trained American police officers to use
the NICHD Protocol and compared their
interviews with four to 12 year olds following
traini ng to comparable interviews they had
conducted before traini ng. Before the training,
only 10 per cent of the prompts were open, 43
per cent were Wh- questions, 36 per cent were
option posing and yes / no questions, a nd 11 per
cent were suggestive questions (Sternberg et al,
2001). Following the training, 33 per cent of the
prompts were open, 35 per cent were Wh-
questions, 26 per cent were option posi ng and
yes / no que stion s, a nd were six pe r cen t
suggestive questions (Sternberg et al,2001).
These data show the dramatic difference
between the interviews conducted using and
not using the protocol. It is also important to
note that, when interviewers used many open
prompts (33 per cent in this study), these
prompts elicited almost half (47%) of all the
information provided, clearly documenting the
effectiveness of open ended prompts.
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SCOTS LAW TIM ES: ISSUE 18 : 1- 6 -2 012 165
Subsequent research conducted in the UK has
also confirmed that it is possible to use a large
number of open prompts when interviewing
children (Lamb, Orbach, Sternberg, Aldridge,
Pearson, Stewart, Esplin, & Bowler, 20 09).
Using the same standardised and structured
approach with all children has other more
practical advantages, too. Importantly, it levels
the playing field, giving all children who are
interviewed the same opportunity to disclose or
not disclose alleged abuse. Personal interviewer
biases a nd weaknesses can be minimised.
Forensic interviewers sometimes also lack
awareness of their own interviewing practices
so a standardised format aids in efforts to
maintain desirable interview standards.
Study 1: analysis of interviews conducted
in the previous decade according to the
Scottish Executive (2003) guidelines
In this section we analyse a small sample of
interviews conducted over the decade since the
release of the Scottish Executive (2003)
guidelines. We believe that it is an important
time to reflect on the previous decade now that
new Scottish Executive (2011) guidelines have
recently been released. Awareness of problems
encountered in the previous decade (see also La
Rooy & Halley, 2 010; La Rooy, Lamb & Memon,
2011) may help anticipate problems that could
arise in the decade to come.
The interviews used i n this analysis were
conducted between November 2003 and
February 2011 a nd subsequently referred to the
first author for quality assessment by lawyers
seeki ng expert evaluations. The i nterviews were
used as evidence in criminal and civil cases
involving alleged sexual abuse between April
2010 and April 2012. In all, the sample
comprised 37 interviews conducted with 25
children throughout Scotland.The interviewees
were between four and 13 years of age, a nd there
were 19 females and six males.The interviewers
recorded what was said in the interviews
through a process of scribing whereby they
at te m p te d to wri te do w n ‘‘verba t i m’’ exactly
what was said by both the interviewer and child.
No information was available regarding the
individual training that interviewers had
received but it is likely that most, if not all, had
participated in week long training programmes
designed to raise awareness of the guidelines. It
is less likely that the interviewers received
regular ongoing support and feedback duri ng
their career about the quality of the interviews
that they were conducting. The project was
reviewed and approved by the School of Social
and Health Science Research Ethics Committee
at Abert ay University Dunde e in a dvance of data
collection.
Given the recommendations provided in the
Scottish Executive (2003) guidelines, the
interviews were specifically examined to
determine (1) the frequency with which the
‘ground rules’ were laid out; (2) whether
practice interviews were conducted; and (3) the
numbers a nd types of i nterviewer prompts that
were used in the interviews. From a psychologi-
cal perspective, it is noteworthy that these
recommendations are as appropriate today as
there were when they were first recommended
in the Scottish Executive (2003) guidelines.
1. Ground rules
To examine the frequency and use of the ground
rules, a tick box checklist was completed for each
interview. Each ground rule was scored as being
present when it was communicated. It can be
seen in Table 1 that in fewer than half of the
interviews examined did interviewers commu-
nicate to the children that it was important to
tell the truth. Other important ground rules,
such as those designed to minimise pressure on
interviewees to provide information about
events in question when they really ‘don’t
know’’, were similarly not communicated.
Table 1 ç The percentage of each g round rule
used by interviewers in the joint investigative
interviews (N=37).
Ground rule Percentage
‘‘It is important to tell the truth’’ 43
‘‘Demonstrate truth and lies’’ 30
‘‘If you don t understand me say so’ 24
‘‘Don t guess, say,‘I don t know’’’ 22
‘‘Correct me if I make a mistake’’ 3
2. Practice interview
None of the interviews contai ned any kind of
practice i nterview.
3. Num bers and types o f interv iewer prompts
For the purpose of the current interview
analysis, the interviews were also examined to
determine the percentages of each of the above
types of interviewer prompt or question used by
the interviewers following procedures identical
to those used by Orbach et al (2000), Sternberg
et al (2001), and in many other scientific
studies. Only interviewer utterances in the sub -
stantive phase of the interview were included in
the analysis. That is, the questions asked in the
pre-substantive phase (rapport building and
ground rules) and the closure phase were
not included.
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166 SCOTS LAW TIM ES: ISSUE 18 : 1- 6 -2 012
The different prompt and question types were
defined as follows:
(1) Open ended prompts: These are considered
to be the best type of prompt to use with
children because they prompt free recall
responses. Such prompts do not restrict the
children’s responses. For example, ‘‘Tell me
everything that happened’’ is an open prompt.
Prompts that include details disclosed by the
child such as, ‘‘You mentioned X. Tell me
everything about X‘‘, are also considered to be
open ended prompts. It is important to realise
that open ended prompts, by defi nition, are
interviewer utterances that can be responded to
by usi ng more than just one or two words.
Children’s responses to ope n ended prompts
become longer and more detailed as they get
older.
(2) Directive or ‘‘Wh-’’questions: These types of
questions refocus the child s attention on details
that the child has already mentioned and
provide a category for requesting additional
in formation (for exa mple, ‘‘What time did that
happen?’’) This type of question can normally
be answered using only a few words.
(3) Option posing and yes / no questions:These
focus the child’s attention on details that the
child has not previously mentioned, asking the
child to select an interviewer given option, or to
answer by saying Yes or ‘‘No’. This type of
question can normally be answered using one
word or only a few words.
(4) Suggestive questions: These are questions
stated in such a way that the interviewer
strongly communicates what response is
expected or assume details that have not already
been provided by the child. Interviewers are uni-
versally advised not to use suggestive questions.
Suggestive questions are also problematic
because they may ask for details about events
that di d not happen or are not well remembered.
Table 2 shows that the interviewers in this
sample used very few of the recommended open
ended prompts (eight per cent).This fi nding is in
accordance with the results of other studies
discussed above and elsewhere showing that
even after interviewers have been trained in
accordance with internationally recognised best
practice guidelines, they do not use of open
prompts sufficie ntly. Table 2 also shows that 36
per cent of the interviewer questions used were
focused questions (option posing and yes / no)
and that interviewers also asked a large number
of suggestive questions (17 per cent) which is of
great concern.
Table 2 ç The percentage of interviewer
prompts and questions used in the substantive
phase of the joi nt investigative interviews (N-
37).
Interviewer utterance Percentage
Open ended prompts 8
Directives (wh. questions) 39
Option posing and yes / no 36
Suggestive 17
Study 2: preliminary results from
current research on interviewer training
in Scotland
The Child Witnesses Scotland Project has begun
to address concerns shared by researchers a nd
practitioners alike (Gabbert & La Rooy, 2012;
La Rooy & Halley, 2010; La Rooy, Lamb &
Memon, 2011), and those we have highlighted
in the above analysis of interviews conducted in
Scotland. One informative project is currently
being undertaken by A Nicol as part of her PhD
research at the University of Abertay Dundee.
Worki ng in close collaboration with interview
trainers from Grampian Police and the North
East Scotland Child Protection Committee,
researchers provide i nput into the existing JII
traini ng that heavily emphasises a structured
approach to interviewing consistent wi th the
recommendations of the NICHD protocol.This
initiative is entirely consistent with the recom-
mendations of the Scottish Executive (2003)
guidelines that also advocated a ‘‘structured
approach’ to interviewing: ‘‘Current research
indicates that interviewers find a highly
structured interview protocol easiest to use and
most effective’’ (p.46; see also appendix A of the
Scottish Executive, 200 3, guideline s for a sample
interview protocol).
This study has involved 25 police a nd social
workers undergoing their weeklong JII
traini ng. The project was reviewed and
approved by the School of Social and Health
Science Research Ethics Committee at Abertay
University Dundee in advance of data
collection. The initial promising results show
that, during trai ning exercises i n which inter-
viewers question actors posing as abused
children, 29 per cent of the prompts were open.
This is very encourag ing because it suggests tha t
the interviewers involved are approaching inter-
national standards of best practice. Importantly,
the structured approach also reduced the use of
poor interviewing practices: the number of
inappropriate suggestive questions asked was
only two per cent, which is excellent (see Table 3
below). Future research is aimed at examining
whether these positive interviewing behaviours
observed during training are also evident when
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SCOTS LAW TIM ES: ISSUE 18 : 1- 6 -2 012 167
the trainees later conduct real forensic
interviews.
Table 3 ç The percentage of interviewer
prompts and questions used in the substantive
phase of the training i nterviews with actors (N-
37).
Interviewer utterance Percentage
Open ended prompts 29
Directives (wh. questions) 27
Option posing & yes / n o 42
Suggestive 2
Conclusions
The current analysis of JII interviews provides
important insights into the quality of the investi-
gative interviews that have been conducted with
children in Scotland over the last 10 years.
Consistent with previous research and profes-
sional experience in Scotland (La Rooy &
Halley, 2010; La Rooy, Lamb & Memon, 2011),
as well as the results of numerous studies
conducted b oth in t he UK and worldwide, i nter-
viewers who are not trai ned to use a structured
interview protocol (such as the NICHD
Protocol) and who do not receive ongoing
support and feedback about the quality of their
interviews find it hard to comply with profes-
sional recommendations. This is a very
concerning state of affairs given the current
research evidence base about how to conduct
appropriate interviews.
There was little evidence in the interviews we
analyzed that the ground rules were uniformly
presented, or i ndeed presented at all. Research-
ers have know n for a long time, for example, that
explaini ng to children before an i nterview that it
is OK to say ‘‘don’t k now’’ reduces t he num ber of
incorrect answers to misleading questions by
more than half but has little effect on responses
to other questions (for example, Moston, 1987,
cited in Poole & Lamb, 1998; Mulder & Vrij,
1996, cited in Milne & Bull, 1999, p.147).This is
an important consideration because forensic
interviewers sometimes ask misleading
questions and it is difficult to understand why
such a simple, well founded recommendation is
not commonly implemented.Perhaps interview-
ers who are not trained with the NICHD
Protocol may find it difficult to remember and
apply all individual interview requirements.
It is particularly disconcerting that the recent
Scottish Executive (2011) guidelines do not
appear to recommend the use of ground rules at
the outset of t he inter view, however.They state in
para.97 that, ‘‘... the re is substantia l inform ation
in research a nd literature to indicate that
‘‘ground rules’’ are most effective when
dispersed across the interview at salient /
relevant junctures ...’’. The actual research in
question is not cited, and the authors of the
present article are not aware of any such
evidence. In addition, when referring to the use
of ground rules, para.97 of the Scottish
Executive (2011) guidelines states that: ‘‘There
are strong suggestions that the litany approach
is, in fact, coun ter-productive and unnecessary
(see Berliner and Conte, 1995; Saywitz and
Faller, 2006)’’ (emphasis added). However, the
research by Berliner a nd Conte (1995) i nvolved
a study of retrospective interviews with children
and families about their experiences in the legal
system ç it did not explore the usefulness of the
ground rules. Further, the Saywitz and Faller
(2006) item does not appear to be a scientific
study and Saywitz (22 / 04 / 2012) herself
confirmed in a personal email communication
with D La Rooy that: ‘‘From my research Icould
not say the ins truc tions or ground rules are counter
productive’’ (emphasis added). In all, the current
Scottish Executive (2011) recommendations
regarding the ‘‘ground rules’’ are not supported
by research and this places interviewers a nd
children at a disadvantage from the outset of
any interview conducted.
Consistent with responses to a recent survey
revealing that 87 per cent of interviewers said
they did not conduct practice interviews (La
Rooy, Lamb & Memon, 2011), the current
findings also show that practice interviews are
not conducted by interviewers in Scotla nd. This
is very disappointing because there is evidence
that children benefit from practice responding
to open ended prompts before they are ‘‘cogni-
tively’’ prepared to disclose abuse. Even
interviewees who appear willing to disclose may
only be able to do so if they have received proper
‘‘training ’’ about what will b e required of them i n
the substantive phase of the interview. It is
important for children to be emotionally
prepared to disclose abuse in a supportive and
sensitive environment, but interviewers must
also provide children with the skills they need
to be able to access their free-recall memory effi-
ciently in response to open-ended prompts.
Interviewers sometimes feel foolish asking
children to discuss non-substantive events in
detail because the discussion is unrelated to the
‘‘real’’ reason why the interview is taking place
or fear that the additional time required for the
practice interview risks exhausting the child’s
limited mental resources and attention span.
These concerns are not borne out by the
research thus far: children who are given the
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168 SCOTS LAW TIM ES: ISSUE 18 : 1- 6 -2 012
opportunity to practice provide more ç not less
ç information (Sternberg, Lamb, Hershkowitz,
Yudilevitch, Orbach, Esplin, & Hovav, 1997).
Conducting a practice interview is not foolish
nor does it deplete children’s mental resources.
We were not surprised th at so few open- ended
prompts were used in the interviews we
analysed. Ongoing feedback and support for
interviewers has not been the norm i n
Scotland. Thus, i nterviewers are able to conduct
many interviews without ever knowing if they
are following best practice recommendations.
Research shows that, without feedback,
standards inevitably slip. Further, the lack of
traini ng in the use of the research based
NICH D Protocol is a lso likely to place inter view-
ers at a signif icant d isadvantage. The failure to
conduct a practice interview makes the
minimal use of open-prompts more likely
because, without ‘‘practice’’, they are not as
effective at eliciting information, and thus may
seem, no more or less effective than closed or
focused questions.
The results of the research currently being
conducted examining the use of actors in
traini ng has produced evidence that interview-
ers can be encouraged to use more open ended
prompts and fewer suggestive questions when
their attention is drawn to the example protocol
listed in appendix A of the Scottish Executive
(2003) guidelines. Researchers are currently
examining whether these initial promising
results are confirmed by studies of real
interviews in the field.
It is, however, troubling t hat the latest Scottish
Executive (2011) guidelines omit the appendix
which included a sample protocol while still
apparently advocating a structured approach to
interviewing. Research on the NICHD Protocol
was first published over a decade ago (Orbach et
al, 2000; Sternberg et al,2001)andamodified
version’’ of this structured protocol was printed
in Appendix A of the Scottish Executive (2003)
guidelines, although the provenance of the
material was n ot specif ied. The 2003 guideli nes
thus echo elements of what was at the time
cutting edge ‘‘game changing’’ research, which
has now become the international ‘‘gold
standard’’ for forensic i nterviews of children.
The new guidelines do not include a structured
interview protocol and make only passing
reference to the supporting literature published
in the last decade. This is worrying because it
will be difficult for trainers to explain best
traini ng methods when they are not explicitly
mentioned in the revised guidelines. Research
conducted in the UK shows that interviewers
trained to use the protocol conduct interviews
of superior quality (Lamb et al,2009).
It is very common for there to be some initial
resistance by interviewers, managers, and the
developers of professional guidelines to the
desirability of the NICHD Protocol but,
research shows that there are clear benefits in
terms of the speed of learning and the improved
quality of information obtai ned. Moreover,
using the same standardised approach with all
children has other advantages: it levels the
playing field, giving every child who is inter-
viewed the same opportunity to disclose or not
disclose alleged abuse. The impact of personal
biases (e.g., underestimating children’s capabil-
ities) or the overemphasis on certain case
characteristics, are minimised. Forensic inter-
viewers may also lack awareness of their
interviewing practices. The articulation of a
standa rdised forma t makes i t easier for t he inter-
viewers to compare their performa nce against a
standard and thus conti nue gai ning skills
(St e wa r t, K at z & L a Ro o y, 2 011).
Amajor improvemen t to capability in Scotland
will be the mandatory electronic recording of
interviews. It is difficult to believe that, until
now, interviews have not been recorded as they
have been in most other countries for decades.
In Scotland, ‘‘transcripts’ of interviews are
recorded as handwritten contemporaneous
notes which means that interviewers are not
only expected to conduct highly detailed investi-
gative interviews but also to write down
everything that is said! Anyone who has every
tried to keep a verbatim record of a conversation
knows how impossible it is to do so accurately.
Indeed, Lamb, Orbach, Sternberg, Hershkowitz
and Horowitz (2000) compared the handwritten
notes of forensic interviewers who had many
years experience at taking verbatim notes with
electronic recordings made of the same
interviews. The results showed that more than
half (57 per cent) of the i nterviewer utterances
(questions and prompts) were not recorded in
the verbatim notes by the interviewers. A
quarter of details reported by the interviewees
were similarly unrecorded in the handwritten
verbatim notes. Moreover, there were changes
in the ways that details were recorded and they
were often attributed, incorrectly, to ‘‘safe’’
rather than (accurately) ‘‘risky’’ interviewer
prompts. This suggests that interviews with
children alleging abuse i n Scotland may have
hitherto been recorded rather inaccurately. If
such a conclusion is properly founded, it must
give cause for concern to all who are concerned
about justice and the welfare of our children.
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SCOTS LAW TIM ES: ISSUE 18 : 1- 6 -2 012 169
Learn ing from our experience: the way forwa rd
There are entirely obvious cost implications of
‘‘going it alone’, experimenting with untested
approaches, and mindfully determi ning NOT
to avail child i nterviewees in Scotland of the
best known and researched method of
providing them with a voice.We had hoped that
the mistakes of the past would not be repeated
and that the new Scottish Guidelines (2011)
would remedy past problems.
We strongly suggest that, with the require-
ment of DVD recording of JII’s, for the reasons
set out in this paper and in the present financial
climate, t here is an u rgent need to impleme nt the
most effective, and cost effective, method for
conducting JII’s. We recommend the use of the
NICHD Protocol in joint investigative inter-
viewer trai ning in Scotland.The alternative is to
continue with the current inadequate
guidelines, with the inevitable costs bei ng
borne by the children whose interests we seek to
protect.
Forensic interviewers should produce DVD
recorded JIIs of sufficient quality that they can
be used, when necessary, as the evidence in
chief of a child witness in criminal proceedings
(see s.271M, Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act
1995). In terms of s.271I of the Criminal
Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, cross exami na-
tion in criminal proceedings can be conducted
by taking the evidence on commission. In
Scotland, therefore, we have had the potential
for some years now to remove the child
completely from personallyexperienci ng
(whether by CCTV link or otherwise) the
trauma of giving evidence i n a crimi nal trial. In
our vi ew, the tallest hurdle to vault is still the
poor quality of the conduct of JIIs. We urge the
most direct scientifically validated route to
improvement, in the interests of children and of
justice.
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... Rapportbuilding often refers to a specific stage at the beginning of an interview where the interviewer uses techniques to establish a connection (i.e., rapport) between themselves and the child to facilitate children's reporting (Saywitz et al., 2015(Saywitz et al., , 2019. Forensic interview guidelines such as the NICHD protocol , the Cognitive Interview (Fisher & Geiselman, 1992), and the Stepwise Interview (Yuille et al., 1993) suggest that interviewers establish rapport at the beginning of the interview before asking questions about the suspected transgression (Crossman et al., 2002;Poole & Lamb, 1998). The primary function of rapport-building is to create a supportive environment and increase children's comfort and competence to recall and disclose past events (Collins et al., 2014;Lamb et al., 2018). ...
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Chapter
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In South Africa, complainants of child sexual abuse are often referred to forensic social workers from whom it is expected to conduct interviews and compile reports in an attempt to corroborate or refute the allegations made by the child complainant regarding sexual abuse. In some instances the forensic social worker is called to testify in court as an expert witness. Great uncertainty exists in practice concerning the interviewing methods to be utilized, what the requirements of the court are in this regard and whether the testimony of forensic social workers can be used to corroborate the allegations of the child complainant. Until recently case law was silent on these specific matters. It is the authors’ submission that a breakthrough has been made in a recent Supreme Court of Appeal case, De Sousa v The State 2014 (769/13) ZASCA 142, during which the expert testimony of a forensic social worker was acknowledged by the Supreme Court of Appeal. An analysis of this case is presented and the requirements met by her are pointed out. These can serve as guidelines for expert testimony given by forensic social workers, which could be accepted in court. Some recommendations for research and practice are proposed.
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One hundred alleged victims of child sexual abuse (ages 4-12 years; M = 8.1 years) were interviewed by police investigators about their alleged experiences. Half of the children were interviewed using the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's structured interview protocol, whereas the other children - matched with respect to their age, relationship with the alleged perpetrator, and seriousness of the alleged offenses - were interviewed using standard interview practices. Protocol-guided interviews elicited more information using open-ended prompts and less information using option-posing and suggestive questions than did standard interviews; there were no age differences in the amount of information provided in response to open-ended invitations. In 89% of the protocol interviews, children made their preliminary allegations in response to open-ended prompts, compared with 36% in the standard interviews.
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This field study is concerned with the effect of interviewing style on children's reports of sexual abuse. Detailed psycholinguistic analyses of 22 front-line interviews of 5- to 11-year-old Israeli children by a number of interviewers focused on the length (number of words) and richness (number of new details) provided in responses to different types of utterances by the interviewers. As predicted, open-ended invitations yielded significantly longer and more detailed responses than directive, leading, or suggestive utterances, regardless of age. The younger children provided briefer and less detailed responses, however. These findings underscore the value of open-ended prompts in investigative interviews.
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Has the increased public and professional awareness of the challenges of interviewing children in forensic contexts led to changes and improvements in police interviewing practices? A representative sample (n=91) of police interviews conducted during the period of 1985–2002 from a large Norwegian police district was analysed. The results indicated that interviewer strategies have improved; there was a decrease in the use of suggestive, yes/no and option-posing questions and this decrease was accompanied by a comparable increase in the use of cued recall questions. The frequency of open-ended invitations was low and did not change much over time. Factors that might have led to the observed changes are briefly discussed.
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Twenty-seven experienced interviewers attended a 10-day training institute designed to provide knowledge and skills for improving investigative interviews with young children. Participants completed pre- and posttraining surveys assessing their knowledge of the scientific evidence regarding memory, suggestibility, and other aspects of children's ability to provide accurate accounts of events during interviews. They also conducted pre- and posttraining interviews with preschool children about 2 previously experienced events. Participants' knowledge about children's abilities and the scientific basis of various interviewing protocols increased significantly after the training. However, training did not have a significant impact on interviewers' questioning styles or the amount of accurate information elicited from the children. Results indicate that successfully translating knowledge into practice requires multiple opportunities for skill practice and feedback.
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Effects of forensic interview techniques on the production of free-narrative and Criteria-Based Content Analysis (CBCA) criteria were assessed in police interviews with 48 children (ages 3 to 16) who alleged they had been sexually abused. These allegations were later categorized as confirmed (n = 35) or highly doubtful (n = 13) based on information obtained independent of the statements. Two raters independently coded all interviewer utterances and children's responses, and four other raters evaluated the transcripts for the presence of CBCA content criteria. As predicted, open questions yielded more free narrative and CBCA criteria than other types of questions. Confirmed statements of abuse contained more CBCA criteria than highly doubtful statements, and statements made by older children contained more CBCA criteria than those by younger children. The results support the use of open questions for eliciting free narrative and the use of CBCA to assess the validity of children's allegations of sexual abuse.
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Intense professional and popular interest in child sexual abuse has been fed by dramatic increases in the number of reported cases and by awareness in the numbers of reported cases and by awareness that many instances of abuse might go unrecognised because the only possible sources of information—the victims—give little useful information to investigators. Interviewers and researchers have thus made considerable efforts to understand how to make children's testimony as useful and reliable as possible. At the same time, highly publicised cases in the United States, Norway, New Zealand, the UK, and Italy, have drawn attention to the counterproductive ways in which many alleged victims of sexual abuse are interviewed. In clear, jargon-free language, Tell Me What Happened: Structured Investigative Interviews of Child Victims and Witnesses: summarises the research on children's memory, communicative skills, suggestibility, and social tendencies; describes the ways in which that research has informed the development of a specific structured interview technique or Protocol; and, reviews research involving more than 40,000 alleged victims documenting the usefulness of that Protocol in real world investigative contexts. The Protocol the authors developed has been successfully adopted in some jurisdictions and is thoroughly consistent with professional best practice guidelines, including those endorsed by the British Home Office and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Although this book should be of considerable value to researchers and academics, especially developmental and forensic psychologists, it will be of particular use to practitioners, including police officers, forensic interviewers, social workers, psychologists, and forensic nurses. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)