Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Bsc (Hons) Criminal Investigation of Birmingham City University- The police’s discretionary use of special measures.
Date: April 2014.
For the last thirty years successive UK Governments have taken seriously the role of victims and witnesses within the judicial system and have attempted to take steps to protect and support victims and witnesses through this process. There has been a number of legislative changes culminating with the introduction of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, which allowed for victims and witnesses access to a range of special measures, which aims to support them through the criminal justice system.
This research has examined the approach police officers’ take when applying the legislation. Police officers from different departments, from first response officers to more highly trained detectives, were invited to anonymously complete a predominantly scenario based questionnaire. Questions were designed to test officers’ knowledge and perception of the legislation, and sought to reveal officers’ rationale for their decision making when dealing with vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. They were asked whether they would take a written statement from the victim or record their evidence visually using the Achieving Best Evidence guidelines (ABE guidelines). The research then considered the consequences of the police’s decision for vulnerable victims and witnesses.
The research highlighted that victims’ access to special measures, could be affected simply by which officer they see first, whether it be an untrained uniform response officer or an experienced detective who has a grasp of the legislation. The availability of specialist interview suites was also seen as a barrier to making the right decision. Time constraints also operated as a further barrier to officers applying the legislation. The research further highlights the need for effective supervision of officers from all branches within the police that deal with victims and witnesses, and suggests front line response officers and supervisors need to be considered for more specialist witness training.
This research would not have been possible without the assistance of a number of people whom I would like to thank:
Mr Andrew Dixon my extended research supervisor.
Dr Debbie Cooper, whose own research inspired me to examine this subject from a police perspective.
DC Barbara Martin, West Midlands police vulnerable and intimidated witness expert, for her valuable time and support.
The staff at the college of policing, the service provided by them has been excellent and a credit to the college.
All the police officers from the West Midlands police who took the time to complete my questionnaire.
List of contents.
List of tables. 5.
Chapter 1. Introduction. 6.
Chapter 2. Police use of special measures a literature review 7.
Special measures. 7.
Section 16 YJCE Act 1999 8.
Section 17 YJCE Act 1999 9
History of special measures. 10
Police training 12.
Police decision making and discretionary use
of special measures. 15.
Chapter 3.Methodology 16.
Chapter 4. Results: analysis and commentary 18.
Scenario question and rationale. 21.
Scenario 1. 21.
Scenario 2. 22.
Scenario 3. 24.
Scenario 4. 25.
Scenario 5. 26.
Who has the final say in whether you take a
statement or do an ABE. 27.
Chapter 5.Conclusion. 30.
Table of statutes. 35.
Tables and figures:
Table 2.1. Special measures- eligibility 8 Figure 4.1 Percentage of participants per target group.
(Including sergeant) 19.
Figure 4.2 Chart to show percentage of trained officers per
department versus those not trained or not trained in the last
two years. 21.
Figure 4.3 Show the percentage of participants who would
either ABE or statement the victim in scenario 2. 24.
Figure 4.4 Percentage comparison of ABE or statement
for scenario 3. 25
Figure 4.5 Percentage comparison of ABE or statement
for scenario 4. 26
Figure 4.6 Percentage comparison of ABE or statement for
scenario 5. 27. Figure 4.7 Percentage decision on who decides on ABE or Statement, the police or the. 28
Chapter one: Introduction
Victims and witnesses to crime are a crucial part of the British adversarial Criminal Justice System. A trial is effectively a simulacrum of the crime they were either victim of or witness to, (Ellison, 2001, Roberts and Zuckerman 2004). It is therefore somewhat surprising that victims and witnesses, whilst being asked to relive what is likely to have been an abhorrent experience, have not until recent years been afforded any significant levels of support. The court room process, the many months waiting for a case to come to trial and the prospect of cross examination are all experiences that make giving evidence a daunting prospect for victims and witnesses, (Cooper, 2005, 2010, Burton et al, 2007). However the prospect can be considerably more problematic for witnesses that fall within the category of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses, (referred to hereafter as VIW’s).
Giving live oral evidence in a court room is the paradigmatic form of the English adversarial system, (Roberts and Zuckerman 2004). However, there has been a number of legislative changes to ameliorate problems for VIW’s, which has culminated in the introduction of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, (Hereafter referred to as YJCE Act 1999), this offers VIW’s protection in the form of a series of special measures, from the court process in order to maximise the quality of their evidence, (Ellison, 2001, Burton et al 2007, Cooper, 2010).
The police have a very important role in the administration of these special measures. It is at the point when a crime is first reported to the authorities, usually the police that the first decisions on special measures use need to be made. The decision that the first officer who comes into contact with the VIW needs to make is whether this victim or witness is either vulnerable or intimidated and therefore qualifies for special measures. The officer is required, under the Victims code, to make a ‘needs assessment’ of that victim, and to explain the full range of special measures. The officer must also decide how best to record the victim’s or witness’s evidence, Ministry of Justice, (2013). It is arguably this decision which most seriously impacts on how a VIW is treated at court later. Cooper, (2010), argues that section 21 of the YJCE Act 1999 imposes no requirement on officers to video interview witnesses. The Act requires only that any video obtained be admitted in evidence, thus giving police officers considerable responsibility in that early exercise of their discretion. That said police officers are required under the victims code to explain to a child witness their eligibility to have their evidence visually recorded. It may therefore appear that police officers have the discretion to visually record a child’s evidence or not, dependant upon how the option is explained, however, if they follow the legislation, their discretion is limited to only allowing children to opt out. This preliminary decision on whether or not to video-record the VIW’s initial police interview will be further considered throughout this research.
The dissertation is ordered as follows; chapter two is a literature review. It will consider what special measures are, who they are aimed at and how VIW’s are defined. It will also review which special measures are available to which VIW
The history of special measures will then be examined to determine how they have unfolded and to show the progression of the legislative changes that has led to their availability, from the early attempts to protect vulnerable witnesses up to the current legislation.
The chapter will also review how police training is conducted in the West Midlands police, including an examination of which type of officer is trained in dealing with VIW’s and to what level.
Officers’ decision making around the use of special measures will be examined, to determine the consequences of ill considered decisions.
Chapter three will provide a method statement for this research, which will outline the process and rationale for the methods chosen.
Chapter four will be an analysis of the primary research data collected during this research and a thorough examination of the findings.
The original hypothesis for this research is; (i) special measures were not being applied in all cases where they should have been considered, and (ii) that police officers may be using their discretion when deciding on how to obtain evidence from VIW’s, to suit their own operational policing needs. Chapter five will revisit this hypothesis and comment on the findings.
Chapter two: Literature review
Special measures as operating today were introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and 1991, however the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, (YJCE Act 1999) and were amended by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, (C&J Act 2009) brought all the special measures now available together, under one umbrella. They include witnesses giving evidence from behind a screen(s. 23), via a live video link(s.24), evidence in private(s.25), Judges and barristers can be asked to remove their wigs and gowns(s.26), video recorded evidence in chief(s. 27), video recorded cross-examination(s.28), Examination through an intermediary(s.29), and the use of communication aids(s.30).
However not all special measures are available to all witnesses, and they are not available in all courts. Section 16 of the YJCE Act 1999, defines what a vulnerable witness is and Section 17 of the Act defines what an intimidated witness is. (See table 1 below.)
Table 2.1. Special measures- eligibility.
Section 16 witnesses
Section 17 witnesses
Section 23 - Screening witness from accused
Section 24 - Evidence by live link
Section 25 - Evidence given in private
Only in sexual offence cases and cases involving witness intimidation
Section 26 - Removal of wigs and gowns
Section 27 - Video-recorded evidence in chief
Section 28 - Video recorded cross-examination / re-examination
Currently being piloted in three police force areas.
(b)if the court considers that the quality of evidence given by the witness is likely to be diminished by reason of any circumstances falling within subsection (2).
(2)The circumstances falling within this subsection are—
(a)that the witness—
(i)suffers from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983, or
(ii)otherwise has a significant impairment of intelligence and social functioning;
(b)that the witness has a physical disability or is suffering from a physical disorder.
(3)In subsection (1)(a) “the time of the hearing”, in relation to a witness, means the time when it falls to the court to make a determination for the purposes of section 19(2) in relation to the witness.
(4)In determining whether a witness falls within subsection (1)(b) the court must consider any views expressed by the witness.
(5)In this Chapter references to the quality of a witness’s evidence are to its quality in terms of completeness, coherence and accuracy; and for this purpose “coherence” refers to a witness’s ability in giving evidence to give answers which address the questions put to the witness and can be understood both individually and collectively.
Section 21 contains a presumption that all child witnesses will give their evidence in chief by way a video recorded statement and any other evidence by live link, unless the court is satisfied that this will not maximise the quality their evidence. A child can also choose to opt out; so long as the court is satisfied it will not diminish the quality of the child’s evidence. If a child does opt out then there is a presumption that the child will give evidence from behind a screen. The same rules apply for opting out of screens, (YJCE Act 1999)
Section 17 of the act defines an intimidated witness as:
(1) a witness in criminal proceedings (other than the accused) is eligible for assistance by virtue of this subsection if the court is satisfied that the quality of evidence given by the witness is likely to be diminished by reason of fear or distress on the part of the witness in connection with testifying in the proceedings.
(2)In determining whether a witness falls within subsection (1) the court must take into account, in particular—
(a)the nature and alleged circumstances of the offence to which the proceedings relate;
(b)the age of the witness;
(c)such of the following matters as appear to the court to be relevant, namely—
(i)the social and cultural background and ethnic origins of the witness,
(ii)the domestic and employment circumstances of the witness, and
(iii)any religious beliefs or political opinions of the witness;
(d)any behaviour towards the witness on the part of—
(ii)members of the family or associates of the accused, or
(iii)any other person who is likely to be an accused or a witness in the proceedings.
(3)In determining that question the court must in addition consider any views expressed by the witness.
(4)Where the complainant in respect of a sexual offence is a witness in proceedings relating to that offence (or to that offence and any other offences), the witness is eligible for assistance in relation to those proceedings by virtue of this subsection unless the witness has informed the court of the witness’ wish not to be so eligible by virtue of this subsection
History of special measures:
Whilst the last thirty years that has seen the greatest protection being offered to VIWs, by way of legislative changes, early use of special measures can be seen in the case of R V Smellie (1919). This was a case where a daughter was giving evidence against he father. The court ordered the man to sit on the stairs by the dock so his daughter, whom he was accused of mistreating, gave her evidence. This was designed to protect the victim from being seen by the accused. This was challenged on the basis the accused man should face his accuser, but was dismissed, so under common law screening was allowed, albeit very different to what we know now. The Children’s Act 1933 also provided some protection, albeit only for children. Section 37 of the Act gave the Court the power to clear the court room of non essential persons when a child was giving evidence in a case involving offences against morality or indecency, (Cooper, 2010).
More recent developments saw the Criminal Justice Bill amended to include live TV link, this was then enacted in the Criminal Justice Act 1988. The government of the time also instigated an investigation into allowing video recorded pre-trial interviews for children by a committee chaired by His Honour Judge Thomas Pigot QC. The Committee’s report became known as the Pigot report 1989, (Davies and Wescott 1999, Cooper, 2005, 2010).
The Pigot report made a number of recommendations, not least suggesting that a child should be spared the ordeal of giving evidence in court, and that they should provide their evidence in chief and cross examination by pre-recorded video. A number of the committee’s recommendations were enacted in the Criminal Justice Act 1991, but not all, and as a consequence this partial implementation was referred to as ‘half Pigot’, (Ellison, 2001,Powell, 2004, Cooper, 2005, 2010).
Neild et al (2003), commented that alongside the Criminal Justice Act 1991 Act, a guide to interviewing children was published, called the Memorandum of Good Practice, (MOGP).This was used by practitioners as a guide to how interviews should be conducted. Whilst the Memorandum had no statutory force, any variance in procedure would likely be challenged in court. Judges have been known to reject video evidence that has been obtained without following the guidelines.
The legislative changes mentioned above went along way to protecting children but they did not extend to vulnerable adults. The Labour party’s manifesto in 1997 was seen as the catalyst for the introduction of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, A report entitled, “Speaking Up for Justice” was published in 1998, (Home office, 1998). This led to the implementation of many of the Pigot committee’s suggestions in the YJCE Act 1999 (Ellison, 2001, Cooper, 2010). This extended many of the measures available to children to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. The first measures in this Act came into force on 24th July 2002, (Roberts et al, 2005a, Cooper, 2010).
Cross examination via video was a special measure included in the Act it but was not implemented until 2014, and is only currently being trialled in three police force areas. The memorandum of good practice was also replaced with more detailed and updated guidance called Achieving Best Evidence in 2002, commonly known as ABE guidelines. The ABE guidelines were updated in, 2007 and 2011, (MOJ, 2011). It should be noted that this implementation did not make all special measures available to all VIW’s for all courts, however, over the following 15 years this position improved.
The Government has sought to continue improving the experience for witnesses and continues to review current practices and procedures, as evidenced by the consultation paper, “Improving the Criminal Trial Process for young Witnesses”. This was published in 2007 and made 31 recommendations to improve the process, (Home office 2007).
December 2013 saw the implementation of the victim’s code into legislation, as part of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, making it law for the criminal justice system to take certain factors into consideration. Certain victims automatically became eligible for enhanced rights under the legislation. Each victim should go through a needs assessment, they should be told that if they provide a statement they may be required to give evidence in court, special measures should be explained to them and they should be given the opportunity to provide a victim’s personal statement, and be allowed to refresh their memory prior to giving evidence, (Ministry of Justice, 2013). This does not however give statutory guarantees of the use of special measures.
The Ministry of Justice continues to review special measures and this saw the implementation of Section 28 video cross-examination, albeit only as a trial in three police force areas. The author of this research sat on the implementation panel for this process, as a police representative. Section 28 of the YJCE Act (1999) together with other special measures, could be seen as the realisation of the Pigot committees vision for child witnesses and how they should be giving their evidence, (Cooper 2005). However, it has taken 15 years to implement, after it was included in the YJCE Act (1999). A review of the use of special measures was conducted by the Ministry of Justice; a report was subsequently published in 2014, which considered how effectively special measures were being utilised and whether the experience for VIW’s could be improved, (Radice, 2014). It is clear that the government seek to continually improve the court experience for victims and witnesses. Consequently the role of the police in giving effect to special measures support has become very important.
A crucial factor in the effective use of special measures is the early identification of VIW’s. Burton et al (2007) suggest that the police still struggle to identify VIW’s, leading to special measures being offered much later in the process. This view is supported by Cooper, (2005, 2010) and Radice, (2014). Radice, further suggests that the first officers to deal with victims may well not be trained to identify the needs of a VIW’s. He does, however, suggest the obvious categories of VIW’s such as the young and adult victims of sexual offences are easy to identify; the VIW’s with mental health issues and more complex problems are less likely to be identified.
Whilst the YJCE Act (1999), directs who is eligible for special measures, Cooper, (2010), suggests that police discretion does not go unchecked. There are still some safeguards to ensuring compliance. However she does suggest that the police’s focus remains on child victims of interfamilial abuse or sexual offences. This does suggest that even if VIW’s are identified by the police they may still choose to obtain a written statement as opposed to an ABE interview. Burton et al, (2007) support this view and suggest that even when VIW’s are correctly identified; special measures may not be used to their full potential. The problem would appear to be twofold; the police are not clearly explaining what measures are available and the victim’s views not being considered. This argument may suggest that police officers’ discretion is affected by lack of knowledge, which would suggest a training implication. To ameliorate this problem specific training for police officers to assist in identifying VIW’s correctly is imperative. It is of course a big task to train every police officer to correctly identify vulnerable witnesses. However, without that training it is unlikely that the legislation will be able to work effectively.
The current victim’s code, (Ministry of Justice, 2013), should also alleviate some of the issues in focusing a police officer’s decision making around a victim’s needs assessment. However it is too early at this stage to comment on its effects. There has been a plethora of research on how special measures are working; further research after the introduction of the victim’s code could arguably be a good indicator of its success, (Neild et al, 2003, Hamlyn et al, 2004, Roberts et al 2005, Burton et al, 2007and Cooper 2010).
Cooper, (2010) refers to the percentage of children who are eligible for ABE interviews and, drawing from research, by Burton et al, (2007), Hamlyn et al, (2004), and Roberts et al, (2005), showed that only 40% of children were being afforded the protection of special measures. There are many factors that could lead to such a low percentage, such as VIW’s not being identified early enough, the legislation not being correctly explained and applied, time restraints on officers and availability of video interview suites.
A limitation to special measures has been identified as the police’s ability to properly interview VIW’s, according to Clarke, and Milne, (2003),and Powell et al, (2009). They suggest that police place far more emphasis on suspect interviewing than they do on interviews with VIW’s and that there is very little supervision of interviewing of VIW’s. They found that officers conducting witness interviews for volume crime were carrying out no more than a statement taking exercise, but officers conducting interviews for more serious crime and afforded more time were able to interview to a better standard. Another issue highlighted by Neild et al, (2003), Shaw, (2010) and Radcie, (2014) is that interviews could be better planned, rather than just allowing a victim to talk or ask questions in an illogical order. However, if officers follow the ABE guidelines then planning is part of the process, and therefore this should not be an issue.
Since the research by Neild et al, (2003), Hamlyn et al, (2004) and Roberts et al (2005), police training has developed and the introduction of the very comprehensive ABE guidelines clearly assists officers and advises on all aspects of interviewing VIW’s. These guidelines are regularly reviewed and the guidance re-written where necessary. The guidelines were however introduced in 2002, so should have impacted on the quality of interviews before the above research which suggests there are ongoing problems.
Stelfox,(2009), highlights that September 2005 saw the introduction of a programme of training called Professionalising Investigation Programme (PIP which was brought in to enhance the crime investigation skills and abilities of those charged with investigating crime.
PIP is a national programme which saw uniformity in the way in which police officers were trained. It is split into three levels; PIP level one is the Initial police learning and development plan, (IPLDP). This is based on a two year programme for all new recruits and involves classroom and practical work where the trainee has to pass certain competencies, Stelfox(2009). It is during this period that the officers first learn how to interview suspects and victims at a basic level. It is, however; entirely possible for officers to go through their thirty years of service, and only have this basic witness training if they remain in uniformed roles.
However, within the West Midlands police, PIP level one officers have two distinct courses available to teach them ABE techniques and the legislation. One is the Vulnerable and Intimidated Witness course. The second is a course specific to West Midlands police, aimed at uniformed investigators to provide refresher training on suspect and victim interviews. This is known as the local police unit investigators course. The West Midlands police recognised that officers could be placed in an investigative role for which they may not have been trained appropriately, or at least not recently trained. As a result, they commissioned and designed the course predominantly around interviewing both suspects and specifically victims and witnesses, (Martin, 2014).
PIP level two has a range of specialist training programmes aimed primarily at detectives. This includes the Initial Crime Investigators development programme (ICIDP), which is aimed at those who carry out investigations. This is a six week course, with a dedicated one week for vulnerable and intimidated witness training. There are two additional VIW’S courses offered at this level, the first is the serious and complex witness interview course, aimed at detectives working across a range of serious crimes. There is an additional serious and complex specialist witness course aimed at teaching competent interviewers how to interview those VIW’s with serious communication skills. Officers who attend this course have to first prove their competence at the serious and complex level. There is nothing to preclude a supervisor attending this training although invariably they would have been trained prior to promotion; The length of time since an officers last training is however seen as an issue, for two reasons; officers can forget the legislation or the legislation can change, (Martin, 2014).
PIP level three is offered for managers of crime from detective Inspector and above. Whilst officers of this rank could perceivably be entered straight into pip level three without conducting training at PIP level two this is currently under review by the college of policing, (Martin, 2014).
The above would suggest that there is a surplus of training in the specialist field of interviewing VIW’s. Despite this, Neild et al (2003), suggest that interview training does not translate into the work place. Clarke, and Milne (2001) refer to a number of research projects over the years that have looked at investigative interviews and cite numerous references to officers not using their newly found interviewing skills, primarily because of time restraints and lack of resources. Neild et al, (2003), also refer to the lack of supervision of VIW’s interviews; it is therefore somewhat surprising that Neild (2007) is still making recommendations in his latest research suggesting that these interviews need to be supervised.
However it is entirely feasible that supervisors VIW’s training could be out of date and could still be based on the use of the memorandum of good practice. It is therefore imperative that supervisors maintain a working knowledge of the current legislation so that they can effectively supervise their officers’. Supervisor training will be considered in the results analysis as will be considerations for this position of training not translating into the workplace.
Police decision making and discretionary use of special measures.
It is suggested by Villiers (1997:144) that a Police officer will utilise his or her own values when making a decision. It is very much dependent upon the officer’s experience as to his ability to properly predict an outcome of their actions. It is therefore of paramount importance that they are trained to make the decision and have an understanding of all the possible outcomes of their decision. This equally applies to decision making in relation to special measures application. When a police officer makes a decision in relation to a vulnerable or intimidated witness, they must have an understanding of the possible consequences of that decision.
One of the consequences of taking a statement over an ABE can be shown by looking back to s.21 of the YJCE Act 1999, which states a video of a witness interview is to be admitted in place of the witness’s evidence-in-chief. However if a statement has been taken rather than a video recorded ABE interview, then the witness loses the opportunity of giving video recorded evidence in chief. Although a live link can still be utilised this could create extra pressure on the VIW.
Wolchover and Heaton-Armstrong (2010), argue that a popular defence tactic is to highlight the differences between a witnesses statement the witness’s oral evidence. Such differences may be attributable to factors unconnected with the truthfulness or accuracy of the witness’s account, such as the statement being misquoted or facts omitted by the officer. Where visually recorded evidence in chief is used, such differences simply cannot materialise.
A recent case in Birmingham Crown Court, R v Mehari, highlighted the point made by Wolchover and Heaton-Armstrong, (2010). This case, involving two child victims of sexual offences, was dismissed at court because of the discrepancies between the two victims’ live evidence in chief and their initial police statements. The officers’ in this case were criticised for not conducting ABE interviews.
Another recent case is R v Uppal, heard at Warwick Crown Court, which was dismissed due to officers not covering truth and lies with the witness whilst conducting the video interview,(as is required by the ABE guidelines, to show the witnesses understanding of the truth). This point was covered in a pre-discussion and a written record correctly made, as per the current ABE guidelines. The Judge however, held that the truths and lies discussion should have been recorded on video, (Jack, 2014).
If a video ABE is conducted and the witness chooses to give live evidence then their video evidence can be translated into a statement. Therefore, if all witnesses were video interviewed then all options for special measures would be open. Cooper, (2010), argued that ABE interviewing for all VIW’s would be too costly and time consuming. With the inception of the Section 28 trial, there have been in-roads to considering using digital recordings which are then accessible to various professionals from a computer, where ever they may be. This would assist in the accessibility for CPS and officers from different departments. This would clearly generate a cost issue referred to by Cooper, (2010), however, if there were to be an investment to accommodate section 28 then this would not be seen as an additional cost. As for the time issue, in order to take a comprehensive statement from a VIW you would still have to ask all the same questions and complete an interview plan. You then have to complete a written statement from the notes you have taken, whilst using the cognitive interview model. This if completed in the correct manner would be a more lengthy process.
Chapter 3. Methodology
This research was restricted to the West Midlands police force. This was a conscious decision based on the necessarily limited time available to conduct the research and the fact that it could involve only a single researcher. Whilst the structure of the West Midlands police force is not replicated in all forces other police forces do have similar systems and processes. Furthermore, the training available to all forces is of a national standard, as all courses are designed and vetted by the College of policing.
A questionnaire was designed to seek information regarding police decision making in relation to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses and how their evidence is captured. This type of primary research and access to police officers to evaluate special measures from a police perspective is believed to be unique. The researcher wanted to gauge police officers’ understanding of the legislation and their subsequent decision making when dealing with victims or witnesses. Each question had a specific aim to test the knowledge of officers around specific parts of the legislation.
Victims and witnesses are dealt with by a number of different departments within the police at various different stages within an investigation. The researcher wanted to compare the knowledge levels of each of the various teams and uncover both differences and similarities in the decisions made by the different groups of officers. This was based on the premise that the majority of victims’ and witnesses’ first contact with officers are with a uniform constable who initially responds to a call for service. These officers are expected to be Omni-competent in all fields of police work and are more commonly known as response officers. West Midlands police have recently set up uniform investigation teams across each local policing unit (LPU) whose officers are engaged in dealing with some of the lower level investigations and may inherit an investigation from response officers which requires that some witnesses and victims have their evidence captured. It is also possible that they may inherit an investigation where the VIW has already provided a written statement or an ABE interview, thus limiting their options
The next team that were considered in this research were detectives who had been specifically trained to investigate more complex crimes up to and including murder, though it may be that some victims and witnesses for these more serious crime have already come into contact with a uniform response officer. The final group of officers considered were detectives who work specifically in the public protection department and who deal with the greater number of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. These officers deal with a range of crimes such as rape, serious sexual assaults, child abuse, domestic abuse and vulnerable adult abuse. The research also took into account sergeants and detective sergeants, the first line supervisors for each of the teams targeted for this research, in order to consider what guidance was available for officers who were making these crucial early decisions.
The questionnaire was designed to identify what department in which the participants worked the training the participant had received and the timing of its delivery. The researcher wished to compare knowledge levels across the different departments and also compare the level of training available to each team. The original plan was to ask closed questions of participants to gain an understanding of their knowledge and then to conduct semi-structured interviews in a group setting to establish the rationale for these decisions.
However on reflection and considering other options it was decided a more efficient way to gather both quantitative and qualitative data was to produce a questionnaire with both open and closed questions.
The advantage of the open and closed questions was that each participant had to give a rationale for their decisions, therefore providing a rich source of data to qualitative side of the research
With that in mind a number of scenario based questions were asked to establish what decision an officer would make on how the evidence of that victim or witness would be obtained, be it a written statement or a video recorded interview. These scenarios were designed around life like situations that officers could interpret in different ways, depending upon their training. It sought to see if the officers applied the legislation laid down in the YJCE Act (1999) and/or the guidance offered in the Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) guidelines, or whether the officers followed an alternative rational thought process, taking into account other factors. Empirical evidence suggested factors such as lack of training, lack of resources, or limited staff can act as barriers. (Neild et al 2007, Cooper, 2010)
The questionnaire was designed to test the knowledge of the participants, which may have deterred officers from completing it. Consequently, it was formulated as an anonymous questionnaire so that participants did not feel embarrassed or under pressure. Permission was obtained from West Midlands police to survey their staff. Specific instructions were provided to participants, such as to complete the questionnaire in one sitting and not to research the answer. If participants had researched the answers it would not have been a true reflection of their knowledge and therefore their thought processes as officers on the street have to make these decisions based on what they understand of the processes at that time. The questionnaire was sent to a force expert in witness training, who examined it for accuracy and authenticity, prior to being sent out for process, (Martin 2014).
The questionnaire could have been posted internally to all the relevant police departments; however the researcher sought to utilise the police intranet system and posted the questionnaire on line. This assisted in managing the number of responses received in order that an equal number of responses could be received from each of the target groups. The questionnaire was sign posted on a message of the day system and the number of people who viewed this request was tracked. The sign posting entry appeared for three days initially and had nearly seven hundred hits. By the time the message was removed ninety three people had responded. It should be noted that of the seven hundred hits not all those viewing would have been the target group and therefore would not have been expected to complete the questionnaire.
An initial review of the responses and which target group they came from indentified that there were very few supervisors and uniformed response officers who had completed the questionnaire. A decision was therefore taken to re-publish the questionnaire sign posting, and also to email various senior officers in charge of the relevant teams to seek their help in obtaining a representative number from each group. A more even number of participants from each target group was judged necessary to allow a measured comparison of responses across the target groups,.
Over four hundred hits were obtained on the second posting, which led to the final number of completed questionnaires being one hundred and fifty five. It is difficult to determine how many of the people who visited the site would have been eligible to complete the questionnaire, so a percentage take up rate is not available. More importantly there was a more even spread of responses across the relevant target groups, which would show a more accurate picture.
A meeting was then held with DC Martin, the West Midlands police lead trainer for VIW’s, to discuss these findings and to discuss the current training practices. It should also be noted that the author of this report supervised the investigative training department for a short period and had an insight into the training practices prior to this research beginning.
Chapter 4. Results
There were a fairly even number of participants from each of the target groups. Of the 155 responses, this broke down to the various target groups as follows: Uniform response 54, (34.8%), uniform investigation, 30, (19.4%), Criminal investigation department (CID), 41, (26.5%) and public protection unit, (PPU), 30, (19.4%). Of those 132, (85.2%) responses came from constables and 23, (14.8%) from sergeant’s. (See figure 4.1)
Figure 4.1 Percentage of participants per target group. (Including sergeants)