An analysis of police interview discourse and its role(s) in the judicial process

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This study analyses the current role of police-suspect interview discourse in the England & Wales criminal justice system, with a focus on its use as evidence. A central premise is that the interview should be viewed not as an isolated and self-contained discursive event, but as one link in a chain of events which together constitute the criminal justice process. It examines: (1) the format changes undergone by interview data after the interview has taken place, and (2) how the other links in the chain – both before and after the interview – affect the interview-room interaction itself. It thus examines the police interview as a multi-format, multi-purpose and multi-audience mode of discourse. An interdisciplinary and multi-method discourse-analytic approach is taken, combining elements of conversation analysis, pragmatics, sociolinguistics and critical discourse analysis. Data from a new corpus of recent police-suspect interviews, collected for this study, are used to illustrate previously unaddressed problems with the current process, mainly in the form of two detailed case studies. Additional data are taken from the case of Dr. Harold Shipman. The analysis reveals several causes for concern, both in aspects of the interaction in the interview room, and in the subsequent treatment of interview material as evidence, especially in the light of s.34 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The implications of the findings for criminal justice are considered, along with some practical recommendations for improvements. Overall, this study demonstrates the need for increased awareness within the criminal justice system of the many linguistic factors affecting interview evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
  • Carter, Ronald, Supervisor, External person
  • Mullany, Louise, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • police interviews
  • forensic linguistics
  • discourse analysis
  • criminal justice


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