Police interviews as evidence

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter provides an introduction to police-suspect interview discourse, focusing on its role as evidence in the criminal justice system. It describes its unique nature as a multi-mode, multi-purpose, multi-context form of discourse, and discusses the practical ‘real-world’ consequences. We trace the path of interview discourse through the criminal justice system from the original interview itself through to its use as evidence at trial. This process is illustrated by using data from authentic police interviews conducted by various police forces across England, and extracts from the trial of Dr Harold Shipman. Interview data are used by a variety of different audiences, such as the police, Crown Prosecution Service, trial lawyers, judge and jury, yet each has a different agenda. Through close, detailed data analysis we consider how the competing demands of both present and future audiences affect the dynamics of the interaction itself, and how well the evidential needs of those future audiences are met. In particular we compare how the interview meets the comparative needs of Prosecution and Defence at trial. The chapter also highlights the changes in format which interview data undergo through the judicial process. The original interaction is audio-recorded, and the recording is then converted to a written transcript. This transcript is then converted back to audio format by being read aloud in court. We consider how this transformation of the data affects its integrity as evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics, Second Edition
EditorsMalcolm Coulthard, Alison May, Rui Sousa-Silva
ISBN (Electronic)9780429030581
ISBN (Print)9780367137847
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbooks in Applied Linguistics

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics on 25 November 2020, available online: https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Forensic-Linguistics/Coulthard-May-Sousa-Silva/p/book/9780367137847

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