This article addresses a serious, but currently unacknowledged, problem of evidential consistency regarding police-suspect interview evidence. It sheds light on flaws in current criminal procedure through the lens of linguistics, focusing on key stages of currently accepted practice which fly in the face of what linguists have long known about language. It demonstrates that, in stark contrast to the strict principles of preservation applied to physical evidence, interview data go through significant transformation between their creation in the interview room and their presentation in the courtroom, especially through changes in format between written and spoken text. It argues that, despite the safeguards provided by PACE 1984, there is nonetheless a level of routine distortion and contamination unintentionally built in to the current system of presenting police interviews as evidence in England & Wales.
Bibliographical noteCopyright: The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
- criminal evidence
- Language as evidence
- Police interview
- Forensic Linguistics