Presentation on theme: "Linguistic insights into the investigative interview."— Presentation transcript:
1 Linguistic insights into the investigative interview. Consultancy servicesPhD ResearchMSc Forensic LinguisticsProfessional CoursesLinguistic insights into the investigative interview.Dr Tim GrantCentre for Forensic LinguisticsAston UniversityPlenary talk delivered to the iIIRG inaugural conference,26-27 March 2008, University of Derby .
2 What is forensic linguistics? The study of spoken legal linguistic practices.- Use and comprehension of caution.- Interviewing.- Courtroom linguistics.All can be complicated by interpretation issues and other linguistic vulnerabilities.The study of the nature of written legal texts.- Wills and contracts- Judgements- StatutesAlso an interest in language reform.The provision of linguistic evidence.- Evidence of linguistic competence – Should an interpreter have been provided?- Evidence of textual origin – Who wrote a text?- Evidence of textual anomaly – Does a text match claims made of it?
3 The Police Caution You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court.Anything you do say may be given in evidence.Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994)
4 Elvis Presley’s willI, Elvis A. Presley, a resident and citizen of Shelby County, Tennessee, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make, publish and declare this instrument to be my last will and testament, hereby revoking any and all wills and codicils by me at any time heretofore made. Item IDebts, Expenses and TaxesI direct my Executor, hereinafter named, to pay all of my matured debts and my funeral expenses, as well as the costs and expenses of the administration of my estate, as soon after my death as practicable…Extract from
5 Silly questions in interview P: Did Melvin give you permission to throw the hammer at his front door?P: Um, may sound a bit silly but do you know whose window it is?P: D’you ’ave permission to smash it basically?P: …you know it’s Mick’s property?P: You know it’s not yours?Stokoe, E & Edwards, D. (2008) ‘Did you have permission to smash your neighbour’s door?’ Silly questions and their answers in police suspect interrogations.Discourse and Society, 10, 1,
6 What is the explanation for this kind of silliness in language? The caution – a communication of rights in language which many can’t understand.The will – where the beneficiaries need to pay a lawyer to understand.The interview questions – where everyone knows the answer.In every case the answer is the audience effect.In every case the important audience is the Court.
7 Genesis of a witness statement Study of pilot for tape recording of significant witnesses.Rock identified four “tellings”:‘the witness’ offering’ – disorganised narrative with few time markers, the sequencing of movements between locations being submerged in the narrative. The interviewer has five turns.‘co-construction’ – led by the interviewer with 257 conversational turns. The witness provides answers, mostly referring to time, location and sequencing details.‘note checking’ – As well as confirming the details already provided, more detail is sought and added to the draft statement.‘text construction’ – interviewer uses notes to compose, out-loud, sentence by sentence, seeking the witness’s consent before actually putting pen to paper.There has been a valuable concentration in research and training on avoiding interviewercontamination of witnesses but I’d argue the interviewer has a necessary and vitalcontribution to the witness testimony in fitting it for its Courtroom function.Rock, F. (2002). The genesis of a witness statement.Forensic Linguistics, 8, 2, 44 – 72.
8 Shipman interviews – Are these silly questions? P: Mrs Mellor’s body was buried on the 18th May 1998 at Highfield Cemetery, Stockport. Would you accept that from me?P: A Home-Office pathologist […] his findings do not support that this lady died of a coronary thrombosis as you diagnosed. Would you like to make any comment on that – that finding?P: I’d like to put it to you, doctor, that you were the person who administered that lady with the drug, aren’t you?Newbury, P. & Johnson, A. (2006) Suspects’ resistance to constraining and coercive questioning strategies in the police interview.Speech Language and the Law.13,2, 213–240.
9 Confirmation-seeking questions. Information-seeking questions. Question types in interview.Confirmation-seeking questions.Information-seeking questions.Degree ofcoercionincreases.Declarative plus tag as request for agreement.Tag question.Bare declarative.Open information-seeking Q.Specific WH-information Q.Either/or information Q.Degree of constraint increases.Newbury, P. & Johnson, A. (2006) Suspects’ resistance to constraining and coercive questioning strategies in the police interview.Speech Language and the Law.13,2, 213–240.
10 Confirmation-seeking questions. Information sharing in interview.Confirmation-seeking questions.Confirmation seeking questions tend to be the primary source of information sharing with the Court.Declaration + do you agree?You did this + didn’t you?You did this.Degree ofcoercionincreases.Declarative plus tag as request for agreement.Tag question.Bare declarative.
11 Information-seeking questions. Information sharing in interview.Information seeking is also information sharing the interviewer may already know, and the suspect may know they know.Tell me what happened?What happened next?Were you incompetent or negligent?Information-seeking questions.Open information-seeking Q.Specific WH-information Q.Either/or information Q.Constraint increases.
12 Power & resistance in interview. Direct resistanceP: Who would have had access to your typewriter after Mrs Grundy’s death?S: The question is when was it returned to the surgery and that I don’t know.P: Can I put it directly to you doctor that you forged, you have produced the letters and this will on your typewriter in the hope of benefiting from Mrs Grundy’s estate.S: Is that a question or a statement?P: I suggest to you that you have injected Mrs Grundy with a fatal overdose of morphine and brought about her death!S: No, and you tell me that people in Hyde don’t have access to drugs. I think you should talk to your drug squad.Haworth, K. (2006) The dynamics of power and resistance in police interview discourse.Discourse and Society 17, 6,
13 Loss of control?P: A Home-Office pathologist […] his findings do not support that this lady died of a coronary thrombosis as you diagnosed. Would you like to make any comment on that – that finding?S: Is that a question or a statement?Shipman takes ‘the floor’, he takes a long turn telling a story about Mrs Grundy’s previous medical history and asserts Mrs Grundy was a drug user and accidentally overdosed.P: Are you seriously suggesting that Mrs Grundy, a well-respected lady, who had a decent life, inflicted a fatal overdose upon herself? Are you really suggesting that to us?S: And I ask whether the house was searched?P: Yes. There were no drugs whatsoever that could cause a fatality, according to the findings we have got.Solicitor: Well, when was it searched?P: I haven't got those dates to hand of the search.S: That's quite important.Haworth, K. (2006) The dynamics of power and resistance in police interview discourseDiscourse and Society 17, 6,
14 Loss of control?Discursively weak question leads to ‘perhaps the most significant thing that Shipman said to the police in interview’ (Prosecution, Trial day 2).The ‘loss of control’ leads to Shipman’s counter-narrative which can be tested.It also leads to Shipman going on the offensive – which breaks the institutional rules of the interaction.The interviewer appears to lose the ‘head-butting’ competition. But the record is very effective in Court.Similar ‘weak’ questions lead to Shipman’s denial that he held dangerousdrugs.Haworth, K. (2006) The dynamics of power and resistance in police interview discourseDiscourse and Society 17, 6,
15 The interpreted interview Unlike all other aspects of the interview, the interpretation is not shared with the court.The implications of this are not just about accuracy:- shielding vs. dislocation.Interpreters are not ‘mere conduits’ - accuracy of interpretation does not reduce to form-based interpretation.Form based interpretation:‘As I’ve explained the interview is being tape-recorded.’‘J’ai expliqué cet interview est en train de-d’être enregistré’Meaning based interpretation:‘What I would - what I would ask you is if you could reply in French so that we can keep the interview completely and utterly in French not to confuse the issue.’‘Pour des raisons de clarté il faut répondre en français’Russell, S. (2000) “Let me put it simply”:The case for a standard translation of the police caution and its explanation.Forensic Linguistics, 7, 1,
16 Want to find out more? References Consultancy servicesPhD ResearchMSc Forensic LinguisticsProfessional CoursesReferencesHaworth, K. (2006) The dynamics of power and resistance in police interview discourse. Discourse and Society 17, 6,Newbury, P. & Johnson, A. (2006) Suspects’ resistance to constraining and coercive questioning strategies in the police interview. Speech Language and the Law.13,2, 213–240.Rock, F. (2002) The genesis of a witness statement Forensic Linguistics, 8, 2, 44 – 72.Russell, S. (2000) “Let me put it simply”: the case for a standard translation of the police caution and its explanation. Forensic Linguistics, 7, 1,Stokoe, E & Edwards, D. (2008) ‘Did you have permission to smash your neighbour’s door?’ Silly questions and their answers in police suspect interrogations. Discourse and Society, 10, 1,Want to find out more?The Centre for Forensic Linguistics is holding its launch event on Tuesday, 13th May.Later that evening Malcolm Coulthard is presenting his inaugural lecture as Professor of Forensic Linguistics.Contact me for more details…Dr Tim Grant
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