Police interviewers’ perceptions of child credibility in forensic investigations

Hannah Cassidy, Lucy Akehurst, Julie Cherryman

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During investigative interviews, police practice can influence key aspects of child credibility, namely the accuracy, competency, reliability and truthfulness of their testimonies. To date, police interviewers’ perceptions of how best to assess child credibility at interview, and how practice impacts credibility, have been overlooked. We conducted a qualitative study that examined data from focus groups with sixteen English police officers, who regularly interview children. The focus group transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis, and four main themes were identified – the 4E’s: Eliciting information, evaluating credibility, empowering the interviewee, and a high-quality end product. Within these themes, police officers acknowledged some responsibility for the perceived credibility of child victims. Poor interviewing practice could decrease the accuracy of the information elicited and cross-examined in court. Registered Intermediaries could empower child interviewees and increase their competency. A lack of reliability contributed to evaluating credibility, but this relationship was not straightforward. Finally, obtaining the most truthful account from child victims was not always possible because there are many barriers to overcome. The implications of our findings suggest a continued focus on interview protocols that facilitate disclosure from child victims and a review of the professional relationship between those who interview children and prosecutors.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Early online date3 Feb 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 3 Feb 2020


  • child disclosure
  • child interviewing
  • field study
  • interviewers' perceptions
  • Investigative interviewing
  • thematic analysis


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