Police interviews with suspects in police stations in England
thesisposted on 18.01.2019, 09:25 by Fabio Ferraz de Almeida
This thesis is about police interviews with suspects in England. The suspects in these interviews have been arrested in connection with their involvement in relatively low-level offences. They comprise incidents ranging from threatening behaviour, harassment and breach of bail conditions to criminal damage, theft and assault. They are certainly not the remarkable and dramatic cases which appear in the front pages of the newspapers and fill television programmes over the week; nonetheless they are hugely important to the fabric of law-in-action in our society, as they represent the most ordinary and mundane legal work in the context of the criminal justice system in England. I draw upon a sample of 27 investigative interviews with suspects, recorded in audio as part of a standard police procedure for potential use in court. The data was transcribed and analysed within an ethnomethodological framework and using conversation analysis. My research focuses principally on three particular aspects of police-suspect social interactions: how police questioning is oriented to some key legal concepts, e.g. actus reus, mens rea and evidence, that underpin the decision about whether the event investigated was indeed a criminal offence; how suspects narratives or accounts are co-constructed, i.e. negotiated, evaluated and transformed, in order to gain legal relevance especially in terms of the legal concepts aforementioned; and the linguistic resources and the sense-making practices used by police officers to transform lay narratives or accounts into legal informed material. My analysis is divided as follows. In chapter 4, I examine how police officers may elicit prejudicial information from suspects. In chapter 5, I describe in more detail how police officers transform and summarise what they themselves or the suspects have previously said in the interview. Following this, in chapter 6 and 7, I address two very particular defensive strategies adopted by suspects when questioned about their involvement in a criminal offence: portraying the incident as an accident and blaming the putative victim. I show that these social actions and practices are fundamental for understanding how legal concepts not only inform these interactions but are also constructed through them; they orient not only the nature but also the direction of the questioning and the criteria for building a case.
Brazil, Ministry of Education, CAPES Foundation.
- Social Sciences
- Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies