‘For the Record’: Practitioner insights into the process of creating official police-suspect interview records in England, and their presentation as criminal evidence in court.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper presents part of a project conducted collaboratively with an English police force, which aims to improve the consistency and integrity of police-suspect interview evidence through the application of linguistics. Interview transcripts are of critical importance since they are evidential documents, routinely presented in court as part of the prosecution case in place of the audio recordings. However, little attention has been paid to the process by which they are created. Despite being treated as an essentially identical ‘copy’ of the original (s.133&134(1) Criminal Justice Act 2003), we know from previous linguistic research that spoken data are inevitably substantially altered when they are converted into written format (Fraser 2003, Haworth 2018). There is thus a serious issue here with evidential integrity.
We present the findings of a questionnaire completed by all transcribers employed by the force (n=9), and focus groups with transcribers and interviewers (n=19). This gives unprecedented insight into the daily realities of the production of official interview records, and interviewers’ experiences of presenting these as evidence in court, described by one participant as like presenting CCTV evidence through ‘interpretive dance’.
We reveal major flaws but also identify improvements which could be made with the right engagement and training.

Fraser, H. (2003) Issues in transcription: Factors affecting the reliability of transcripts as evidence in legal cases. Forensic Linguistics 10(2): 203–226
Haworth, K. (2018) Tapes, transcripts and trials: The routine contamination of police interview evidence. International Journal of Evidence & Proof 22(4), 428—450
Period6 Apr 2022
Event titleSocio-Legal Studies Association Conference
Event typeConference
LocationYork, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational