British Sign Language and video-mediated interpreting: Proximity in police settings

Research Institution / Organisation

Heriot-Watt University

In Collaboration With

Scottish Institute of Policing Research, Police Scotland and SignVideo

Principal Researcher

Robert Skinner

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2016

Research Context

​This PhD aims to look at how video-mediated interpreting services can be used to facilitate equal access for deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users in Scotland when contacting Police Scotland services or participating in police interviews. More specifically, the PhD study seeks to draw on interdisciplinary expertise in interpreting studies and intercultural communication (Napier) and crime, policing and criminal justice research (Fyfe) to examine how sign language interpreters mediate interaction through video technology and how far in to the police procedures video-mediated interpreting can be used (e.g. a 999 call, admitting a deaf person into custody, a police interview with a deaf person as a victim, witness or suspected offender) until face-to-face interpreting is required.

The objectives of the project will be to produce recommendations for: Police Scotland in terms of policy for when and how to use video-mediated interpreting with deaf BSL users; the technological set-up required to meet the needs of Police Scotland to ensure that deaf BSL users have appropriate access (which can benefit SignVideo and other video-interpreting service providers) sign language interpreter training to work in legal settings and video interpreting contexts.

Research Methodology

This project will combine linguistic and social research methods, using a case studies approach to explore perspectives of all key stakeholders to define how a public authority like Police Scotland determines where and when remote video-mediated interpreting services are appropriate to use, deaf BSL users’ lived experiences of using such services, and interpreters’ experiences of mediating such interactions between deaf BSL users and the police.

This study will adopt a combined quantitative and qualitative mixed-methods approach to triangulate data and will replicate and extend the tested methodology used by the AVIDICUS1, 2 & 3 projects (Braun & Taylor, 2012, Braun, 2013, 2016) that investigated the use of videoconference technology to provide spoken language interpreting services in legal proceedings across Europe. These methods will include:

  1. Desk-based research of relevant policies and procedures;
  2. Semi-structured interviews with a range of stakeholders, including deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users, BSL/English interpreters, policy makers, video-mediated interpreting service providers, and police officers with both strategic and operational roles;
  3. Discourse analysis of simulated video-mediated interpreted police interaction and calls; and
  4. Auto-ethnographic observations of experiences of mediating interactions between deaf BSL users and public authorities through videoconference technology.

These are established methods in the disciplines of interpreting studies and intercultural communication, and/or crime, policing and criminal justice research, and both supervisors have expertise in conducting research using these approaches.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

June 2020
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