When police treat straightforward answers as uncooperative

2017-06-09T09:45:31Z (GMT) by Charles Antaki Elizabeth Stokoe
In formal police interviews, interviewers may have institutionally mandated reasons for following up even apparently fully co-operative answers with questions that imply that the interviewee is in fact (knowingly or unknowingly) being uncooperative. From a sample of over 100 UK interviews with suspects arrested for minor offences, and 19 interviews with witnesses alleging sexual assault, we identify and analyse follow-up questions which do not presume that interviewees' apparently 'normal' answers respect the Gricean maxims of quantity, quality, relevance or manner. We identify three institutional motivations working to over-ride the normal communicative contract: to 'get the facts straight'; to prepare for later challenges; and pursue a description of events that more evidently categorizes the alleged perpetrators' behaviour as criminal.