Without the accounts of those who played a central role in an incident under investigation, or those who have witnessed an important aspect of an event, other sources of material such as CCTV images and forensic material, although extremely important, may have little value. Interviews can therefore provide some of the most valuable information in investigations. ERG has a wealth of experience in conducting both civil and criminal investigations and interviews. We have assisted legal teams representing individuals in civil cases and interviewed witnesses, victims and suspects during serious and complex criminal investigations.
Interviewing is a complex process, which requires both learning and practice to ensure that high standards are achieved and maintained. It is essential that the investigator acts with professionalism and integrity throughout the length of the engagement. Trained to Achieve Best Evidence (ABE) in criminal proceedings, when interviewing victims and witnesses, ERG’s skilled interviewers can plan and conduct professional interviews to the highest standard. Effective interviews can support investigations through gathering material, supporting or refuting cases at an early stage, thereby saving time, money and resources and crucially increase stakeholders confidence in the conduct of the investigating body.
Working with Victims and Witnesses
Black’s Law dictionary, ninth edition (2009) defines a victim as “a person harmed by a crime, tort or other wrong”.
“A witness is considered as a person, other than a defendant, who is likely to give evidence in court. All victims are also witnesses and should be treated as such”.
According to Ministry of Justice (2011) Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures, significant witnesses, sometimes referred to as ‘key’ witnesses, are those who:
Have or claim to have witnessed, visually or otherwise, an indictable offence, part of such an offence or events closely connected with it (including any incriminating comments made by the suspected offender either before or after the offence) and/or
Have a particular relationship to the victim or have a central position in an investigation into an indictable offence.
The outcome of an investigation depends largely on the accuracy and detail of the material obtained from witnesses. Many witnesses fear the consequences of providing information. They, therefore, need to be confident that the investigator will deal with the information they provide appropriately. If the investigator establishes trust with the interviewee beforehand, they are more likely to give a full and accurate account. Witnesses have a right to expect that they will be listened to and will receive fair treatment. It is the information provided by witnesses and victims that enables a suspect’s version of events to be validated or challenged. In order to support the interview process, ERG interviewers follow the same framework adopted by U.K. Law Enforcement, the PEACE model.