The Damilola Taylor murder trial

This week, the Times reported that the Damilola Taylor murder trial had collapsed due to a witness's inconsistent evidence. "Bromley", a 14-year-old girl gave fallacious evidence to the police during interviews and statements. This was exposed during the hearing, April 2002 when the prosecution could not test the strength of the information recalled by "Bromley" of the tragic crime.

Techniques administered by the police when investigating and actually interviewing have been attributed to this. The police interview is a necessary part of the procedure in the British justice system as the accused is either prosecuted or releases based on the information gathered. Witness's accounts are needed for evidence and the police investigators collect them. The accounts need to be absolutely accurate for court trials otherwise as in the above-mentioned case it will collapse.

Stewart (1985) notes that the majority of previous investigators were trained using the 'who, what, where, when, how and why' questioning technique but found that this does not always give them the quality and rich information required to complete an investigation or police report. The deficiencies in previous police investigation techniques were obvious including generalisations and trivialisations of rich accounts with important details ignored.

RMH training services limited teach Fraud investigators how to interview the accused in several styles so that information is obtained. During the 1980's researchers investigated the value and use of interviews and the product of this stream of work was the new Cognitive Interview (CI), which was based on memory principles and theories behind trace retrieval and was designed to steer the interviewee into giving more accurate and vivid biographical accounts.

It stresses that it is the style of the interviewer influences the amount of information that is obtained by subjects. The CI's success is improved when the interviewer is trained in the technique. A CI also helps the subject give a more complete and intelligent account/response, helps the interviewee comprehend and record this response and understand the account. The Dynamics of the CI are designed so that the interviewee does most of the talking and mental work.

The questions asked should be open rather than closed (eg. "What did you do? " is better than "did you do this? "). The participant has all the relevant information and so they must be interviewed in the way that gets the most out of them. Geiselman et al (1985) wanted to improve upon the standard interview procedure that was used by the police when interviewing eyewitnesses to a crime and was developed to get more detail from the individual than the standard interview did.