For the Record

Exploring variability in interpretations of police investigative interviews


  • Felicity Deamer
  • et al.


Recent research (Haworth 2018) has demonstrated how investigative
interview data are (unintentionally) distorted as they pass through the criminal
justice system, and the survey-based experiment we present here was designed
to test our hypothesis that various aspects of the processing of police-suspect
interview data may have an impact on the quality of the official evidential
document produced. The quantitative and qualitative findings from this
experiment shed light on, and provide a sound evidence base for this claim, rather
than leaving it as an untested assumption. The experiment was designed to
test each key aspect of the current process of the production of routine written
transcripts of investigative interviews (ROTIs), focusing on the conversion from
spoken to written format, and the use of different transcription conventions, and
it has enabled us to investigate which changes make the most difference in terms
of the evidential quality of the end product, in order to effect a change in practice
which will reduce or eliminate the effect of those changes. Our findings suggest
that when presented with a transcript of a police interview, we are significantly
more likely to (1) perceive the interviewee as anxious and unrelaxed, (2) interpret
the interviewee’s behaviour as being agitated, aggressive, defensive, and nervous,
(3) determine that the interviewee is un-calm and uncooperative, and (4) deem
the interviewee’s version of events to be untrue, than we are if we listen to the
original audio recording. Moreover, subjects identified (a) consistency, (b) phrase
and lexical choice, (c) emotion (crying/upset), (d) hesitation and/or pauses as
significant factors influencing participants’ perception and interpretation of the
interviewee and their story. This is particularly concerning as the latter two
features are not currently routinely included in police transcripts, and Haworth
(2018) illustrates multiple ways in which transcripts might differ from the original
audio recordings they are intended to replace, with respect to words and phrases,
as well as general content. The findings presented in this paper provide a strong
motivation for further research into how we capture spoken interaction in legal
contexts, and they constitute something of a mandate for reform with respect to
the transcription of police interviews in the UK.




How to Cite

Deamer, F. ., & et al. (2022). For the Record: Exploring variability in interpretations of police investigative interviews. Language and Law / Linguagem E Direito, 9(1). Retrieved from