Interpreters play a vital role in the criminal justice system. In March 2011, 7.7% of residents in the United Kingdom and Wales indicated that English was not their main language. London had the highest proportion, at 22.1% (Census 2011).
As such there has been an increased contact with the criminal justice system and (commensurately) an increased need for interpreters. Research on interpreters has typically focused attention on the investigative process with suspects, however it is equally important that testimony from victims and witnesses is accurately interpreted.
The academic research concerning investigative interviewing has indicated that certain investigative interviewing techniques can increase or decrease the accuracy of given accounts. For example, closed-ended questioning or leading questions can reduce the accuracy of eyewitness statements, whereas open-ended questioning can increase accuracy.
As a result of this research, frameworks such as PEACE and ABE have been introduced in order to increase the reliability of witness statements. However, there has been little investigation into whether or not such interview protocols are affected by the necessary use of interpreters.
This research project will examine how interview techniques and the various ways that interpreters are used benefit or inhibit the aim of gathering a fulsome and reliable account.
The project will examine the issues by examining interviews with victims, suspects and witnesses.
Initially there will be a self-reporting survey conducted of both investigative interviewers from local, national and international law enforcement agencies and interpreters from both the UK and overseas.
Afterwards there will be a range of studies based on an observational design conducted both in laboratory and experimental conditions.
These are likely to examine techniques and interpreter positioning to see which benefit interviewees in providing fulsome reliable accounts