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Police interviews

The Right to Custodial Legal Advice, In Law or in Limbo?

The Long Road to an Effective Article 6 for Scottish Suspects

-Aura Mackintosh Bamber

The suspect’s right to legal assistance in police custody, while established in law in Scotland some thirteen years ago, remains ineffective in practice. Although it is not uncommon for suspects in Scotland to waive their rights in up to 70% of cases, sharing a similar rate of waiver with the rest of the United Kingdom, this is not the only reason we have to believe that the right to custodial legal advice is failing to apply in practice. Of the 30% who request legal assistance, only 25% are offered face-to-face contact with a lawyer, with the majority receiving a telephone consultation in which they are often only urged to remain silent. Individuals can be expected to maintain silence for up to a maximum of 24 hours, whilst also being subjected to coercive police tactics which often rely upon an assumption of guilt with the strategic objective of obtaining a quick resolution i.e. a confession. Thus, most suspects do not benefit from the advice, reassurance and support of a lawyer. Situations such as this risk of enabling procedural errors and false confessions as the conditions of detention, adherence to proper procedure and distress of the suspect go unchecked by an external party. Through observational fieldwork and interviews, the current research aims to investigate the absence of lawyers in Scottish police custody, the wider impacts this has on the custody process and the fair trial rights of the accused. The findings will help to inform policy reform, enabled by collaboration with JUSTICE Scotland.

The influence of rapport and question type on the accuracy and confidence of information provided by children in forensic interviews

-Kaye Cooke

Background and/or Purpose: Eyewitness testimony is pivotal to forensic investigation, with questioning style and age arguably impacting accuracy and confidence. With children frequently the only witness to abuse, techniques to improve evidence are crucial.

Design and Method: In this study, a two-way 3 (Protocol: Control, Rapport, Verbal-instruction) X 3 (Age: 6-9, 10-13, 14-17) between-groups ANOVA was conducted. 207 child participants aged 6-17 (M=11.44, SD=3.48) viewed a hit-and- run scenario video clip, before either completing a puzzle (Control), answering unrelated questions (Rapport) or hearing a context reinstatement (Verbal- instruction). After providing a Free-Recall (FR) account, participants were asked Directive Leading (DL) and Non-directive Leading (NDL) Cued Recall (CR) questions, giving yes or no answers and rating their confidence on a 5-point Likert scale. Outcome measures were accuracy, confidence and within-subjects confidence-accuracy (W-S C-A).

Results: There were significant differences in performance, with those 14-17 producing more words in FR and more accurate accounts (overall FR, central, peripheral, overall CR and DL) than those 10-13. Those 6-9 demonstrated lowest word count and accuracy. Verbal-instruction and Rapport prompted more FR words than Control and accuracy was higher in Rapport than Control for overall FR and central accuracy. However, Age interacted with Protocol for W-S C-A in Rapport, with scores higher and positive for 14-17 than 6-9, which were negative. Those aged 6-9 had higher W-S C-A scores in Control, then Verbal-instruction and lowest in Rapport.

Conclusion: Results are discussed with recommendations for how accuracy and confidence might be maximised in forensic interviews, especially for younger children.

Rape Investigations and the Police Interview: Perceptions, Practice and the Law in England and Wales

-Sophie Marsh

The abstract pertains to my doctoral thesis. The aim of the thesis is to critically examine the role, function and impact of the police interview with adult female victims of rape in the context of the legislative and ‘best practice’ guidance in England and Wales. This is a particularly important time to reassess the role of the rape interview as whilst there have been long-standing concerns regarding police performance and victim treatment during police interviews with victims of rape, the current Draft Victims’ Bill may create new legal obligations of police treatment of victims of rape during interviews.

The thesis will examine the history of issues in police investigations of rape, the role of police discretion, and the relationship between the police and the CPS in order to understand rape investigations. The thesis will examine legislative measures that govern the police interview, such as the Vicitms' Code 2020 and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. It will also examine best practice guidance in the context of police interviews with victims, such as Achieving Best Evidence 2020 and the National Operating Model for rape investigations.

This project has three empirical themes: interviews with police officers who have interviewed victims of rape; surveying interviews with victims of rape who have been interviewed by police officers; and case analysis of transcripts of police interviews with victims of rape. This paper will present the preliminary findings from the data collection of interviewing police officers who have interviewed victims of rape.


Policing vulnerability

Between securing convictions and saving lives: policing’s will to care and the everyday business of managing vulnerability in the UK

-Simon Tawfic

Successive Westminster governments over the past decade have increasingly committed to take ‘vulnerability’ seriously, pledging to recognise, criminalise and relieve various forms of re-discovered human misery. Meanwhile, law enforcement as an institution has faced heightened global public scrutiny, with its legitimacy cast as a subject of popular debate. In response, UK police forces increasingly assert that the ‘protection of vulnerable people from harm’ is one of most important goods that they pursue, blending this objective with more ‘classic’ law-and-order justifications. Moreover, a core benchmark in official inspections of UK police force effectiveness since 2015 is the identification, protection and support of ‘vulnerable people’. To this end, police forces have restructured, creating specialised public protection departments to operate alongside conventional patrol and investigative teams.

Based on ethnographic research in UK police forces, this paper examines the everyday justifications and tensions inherent in vulnerability policing. Public protection officials commonly assert the comparative advantage of their uniquely relational and compassionate style of working that differentiates them from typical manifestations of law enforcement; and they see their work as uniquely positioned to gain victims’ trust, transform their lives and, in the process, challenge discourses of the police as unresponsive and/or uncaring. As such, their will to care is part of a broader project of rebuilding legitimacy in contemporary policing across the Global North. It features a recursive logic that takes failure as its condition of possibility and deploys officials’ emotional-moral labour at the coalface of multiple crises facing the UK public sector today.


Rough sleeping, vulnerability, and the policing of public space

-Emma Patchett

Despite the recent repeal of the Vagrancy Act 1824, rough sleeping has criminalised through Public Space Protection Orders [PSPOs] under s.59 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, dispersal zones under s.35 and the proposed offence of ‘nuisance rough sleeping’ in the government’s highly contested Criminal Justice Bill. My doctoral research into the use of City Centre PSPOs in Leeds and Manchester specifically prohibiting the use of ‘temporary structures’ and other such obstructions seeks to draw on critical legal geographical approaches to explore the ways in which public space is policed, by drawing on walking interviews with local enforcement teams and observing how the space governed by the PSPO is effectively ‘mapped’. This paper represents the start of the process, in which I am reflecting on ethical issues and methodological approaches that will enable me to critically analyse the ways in which policing vulnerable behaviour shapes public space. It can be argued that anti-public sleeping laws “are probably the most physical and direct confrontation to be found over public space” (Crawford 2010). This paper will argue that rough sleeping reflects a particular and unique level of vulnerability that needs to be recognised in the way public space is policed, and the way public space is shaped through the law.


A tale of two counties: A comparative analysis of County Lines policing and responses in urban England and rural Scotland

-Andy Wilson

My PhD analyses the public health response to the County Lines illicit drug dealing model, an increasingly prominent model driven by government narratives of vulnerability and exploitation.
The model involves an organised crime network in a large inner-city area dealing into smaller, provincial, areas; exploiting young and vulnerable people to traffic, store and distribute product. A technology enabled crime, smart phones are a critical tool, providing an interface between buyer and seller and enabling remote surveillance of exploited people.

Focusing on two distinct regions—the West Midlands and Aberdeenshire—both significantly impacted by County Lines, with the former serving as a major exporter and the latter as a significant importer; my research draws from personal experiences indicating a longstanding connection between these areas. Criminal networks in the West Midlands began to traffic people and drugs into Aberdeenshire in the 1990s, exploiting the unique demographic of a transient population that was both cash and time rich.

By examining the motivations behind involvement in County Lines, I argue that structural marginalisation and the lack of social capital serve as significant drivers. This perspective challenges prevailing narratives of involvement solely attributed to exploitation or deviant apprenticeship, which often lead to surveillance through criminal justice management or narratives of protection. My research suggests that participation in County Lines represents a quest for respect within marginalised communities, offering individuals an avenue to seize control of their lives, break free from the cycle of poverty and cultivate social capital among peers.


Police specialisms

Observational research and the policing of wildlife crime

- Alice Weedy

International organisations agree that more empirical evidence is needed to know how best to combat wildlife crime. In England and Wales, the police hold legislative powers to respond to and investigate wildlife crimes however it is widely cited that wildlife crime is not viewed to be ‘real policing’ (Fyfe and Reeves, 2011). Despite the UN Office on Drugs and Crime reporting that the UK has one of the best responses to wildlife crime globally, the UK’s approach from a criminological perspective has never been researched in depth.

In order to understand the culture within an under-researched area of policing in England and Wales, observations were undertaken with five different police forces, alongside an online survey distributed nationally. The benefits of observational research with the police are widely cited, providing an insight into police cultural practice that cannot be truly gained through other methods. This presentation explores the researcher’s experience of this methodology with the police at all stages of the research, such as gaining access to specialised rural and wildlife policing teams, the researcher’s interaction with officers and the writing up of field notes. The challenges that were encountered within the research and the lessons learnt for future practice will also be discussed.


Categorizations in Policing and the ‘Polizeiliche Gegenüber’

-Berit Merla

Categorizations in Policing and the “Polizeiliche Gegenüber” (de: Police’s Opposite)
In my field research of 8 month amongst a German riot police unit I gained insight into the unit’s perceived necessity to use categories for the policing of mass events like football matches or political marches. My material shows that these categories are highly uncertain and only work by corresponding with social categories and characteristics.

As my colleagues carried out their participant observations in different units (criminal investigation, patrol unit) we could see that the different units use different categories in policing. While the categories are supposed to bring order into police work e.g., into a group of people by structuring it along perceived tendencies to violent behavior, in my PhD-thesis I will show that all the categories function to construct one main category: The police’s other, their opposite. This construction does not only take place in interactions between police and affected people. As my data includes observations of training settings, organizational meetings, or situations in between operations (e.g., lunchbreaks) I will show that the construction of the police’s opposite also takes place in their absence.

While the term “Das Polizeiliche Gegenüber” is used by police officers seemingly as a mere description of a person that they encounter, I will show that the encounter with police constructs this category: Encountering police is the main characteristic to become categorized by police.

Police Specialism in England and Wales: An Exploratory Review

-Arianna Barbin

Purpose. There is a surprising lack of underpinning evidence relating to how police specialism is conceived and operationalised nationally. The study aimed to shed light on the topic, adding valuable insights towards academic and police knowledge on the topic, but most especially giving a voice to police officers. Methodology. Exploratory research was conducted to draw evidence on police specialism according to the literature and the first-hand experience of police officers working in England and Wales. A total of 57 documents and 10 survey responses were analysed, and five main themes have been identified, related to the development, impact and advantages of specialist units, knowledge and training. Originality. This was the first study of its kind that investigated how police specialism is conceived, instituted, and prioritised in England and Wales. Findings. Socio-cultural, policy-based, and historical information that contributed to the development of specialism in the police in their contemporary form were highlighted. The conceptional triggers for the institution of most specialist units were disasters and modernisation. In both cases, police forces were faced with the inability of keeping up with emerging threats and criminal techniques developments. Some exceptions apply, with the specialism of sex offence investigations still being underdeveloped and underfunded. There is also evidence that specialism can impact on police efficacy, and that the specialist knowledge of officers working for within specialist units is frequently inferred – rather than measured. Potential advantages and challenges of police specialism were reviewed, to understand what specialism looks like based on policing needs and concerns.

Interrogating policing

Stress & Decision-making: the link between Trauma, Culture & Misconduct in UK Policing

-Lucy Elizabeth Davies

Police misconduct is a complex phenomenon and understanding its precursors has been a popular and important topic for decades. The UK saw 51,605 police complaints in the year ending March 2023, with misconduct found proven in 828 cases (GOV.UK, 2024). Misconduct has detrimental impacts far beyond the individual under investigation, such as the organisation’s reputation, public trust, and societal function as a whole. Misconduct is typically understood through the metaphor of ‘rotten apples, barrels and orchids’, whereby researchers explore individual, organisational and agency level factors which influence misconduct behaviours. From what we know about the role of stress and emotion in decision-making, its alarming that very few researchers have considered how unprocessed trauma may influence decision-making seen in misconduct cases. Most of the previous literature is quantitative, with inconsistencies present, thus researchers seem unable to settle on a theoretical framework. The proposed methods for this ongoing study are mixed, comprising of novel qualitative approaches such as audio diaries, narrative interviews, and psychodrama to uncover lived experiences. This multidisciplinary research will consider how individual, organisational and ecological experience, may influence misconduct. Specifically, how repeat trauma exposure, and a stigmatic, silencing police culture may impact on decision-making and behaviour, seen in misconduct cases.

The Changing National Public Safety Landscape - Community Policing as Effective Global Policing?

-Jamie Hobday

Policing in England & Wales is under severe pressure with even the HMIC stating in 2023: “The police are experiencing one of their biggest crises in living memory". Multiple professional sources highlight an increasingly complex, interconnected landscape, necessitating better collaborative working capabilities and improved critical and creative thinking skills. Against this background the collaborative workings in one particular neighbourhood policing unit are examined in relation to the modern, complex issue of human exploitation.

From the stance of an 'insider-researcher' this case study takes a critical realist approach utilising interviews with local officers and partners to investigate the influence of organisational culture. The lens of institutional logics, increasingly used to study organisational behaviour elsewhere, is applied. Familiar issues are uncovered, but more importantly drivers and logics behind these are suggested.

Findings highlight police officers struggling to deliver a quality service under a multitude of conflicting pressures and priorities, undermining their sense of agency and professionalism. Traditional and modern managerial logics combine to create an organisation where preventative, multi-agency work to protect some of the most vulnerable in society survives but struggles to flourish.

The holistic and collaborative philosophy at the heart of community policing is contrasted to the hierarchical, mechanised structure favoured by traditional police leadership and modern managerialist approaches. This case study well illustrates how the latter undermines the former, and suggests that we need to take a leap forward, recognising the complexity inherent in the modern policing landscape and how poorly current management and leadership practices serve us.

What (if Anything) is Wrong with Covert Policing?

-Gah-Kai Leung

Secret policing was a pervasive feature of authoritarian regimes in (for example) Latin America, Central Europe and Eastern Europe. Intuitively, secret policing seems ethically indefensible and yet covert policing tactics are widespread in contemporary liberal democracies, most notably in counter-terrorism surveillance. To resolve the tensions that might arise from these competing moral intuitions, it therefore seems important to (i) distinguish the kind of surveillance we see in contemporary liberal democratic regimes from the secret policing common in authoritarian regimes and (ii) establish the relevant ethical parameters for contemporary surveillance practices. To this end, this talk provides an account of what (if anything) is wrong with covert policing. Typically, surveillance is considered wrongful because it violates the right to privacy. But this cannot be the whole story, as the privacy interests of citizens must be weighed against the ex ante risk of harm posed by would-be offenders. Furthermore, since the ex ante risk of harm is often difficult to establish without sufficient credible information, the information-gathering practices inherent in surveillance will almost necessarily violate the right to privacy. The justification for privacy violations can therefore only be established through mechanisms of ex post accountability, such as may be embodied in due process rights. This is where, I argue, secret policing went wrong: the lack of due process norms in authoritarian regimes failed to ensure ex post accountability for violations of privacy in surveillance or information-gathering. My emphasis on due process norms helps to explain both (i) the moral wrongness of authoritarian secret policing and (ii) the relevant ethical constraints that should guide contemporary practices of surveillance policing in liberal democracies.