Police officers' perceptions and experiences of promoting honesty with child victims and witnesses

Gadda Bassem Salhab, Lucy Akehurst, Hannah Cassidy, Victoria Talwar

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Abstract

Purpose: This two-phase study employed a mixed-methods design to explore UK police officers' perceptions and experiences of promoting honesty in child witnesses with a special focus on the recommended inclusion of Truth-Lies Discussions (TLDs) at the start of interviews with children.

Method: In Phase 1, police officers completed an online survey designed to cover their experiences and perceptions regarding truth-promotion with child witnesses. In Phase 2, police officers were individually interviewed to elicit an in-depth understanding of current practice relating to this aspect of investigative interviews with children.

Results: Around half of the survey respondents believed that TLDs promote honesty in children. The majority reported always using TLDs during interviews to ensure compliance with UK best-practice guidance. There was evidence of a misconception among some police officers that children's performance on TLDs was related to their subsequent truth-telling behaviour. Following analysis of the interview transcripts, we found a main theme of police officers' uses of TLDs, which included (i) gauging children's conceptual understanding of truths/lies, (ii) ensuring no deviation from guidance and (iii) communicating children's credibility to the court. A second main theme revealed the challenges and obstacles police officers perceived when embarking on TLDs. These were that (i) one type of TLD is not suitable for all children, (ii) the training is insignificant and the application is inappropriate and (iii) participants sometimes use alternative strategies to promote honesty with children.

Conclusion: Police officers reported following guidance because a failure to do so would jeopordise children's testimony and provided recommendations for future practice-informed research designs to test techniques for the promotion of honesty in child witnesses.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Early online date24 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 24 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • achieving best evidence
  • child interviewing strategies
  • interviewers' perspectives
  • promoting honesty
  • truth-lies discussions
  • UKRI
  • ESRC
  • ES/P000673/1

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