13 September 2018

Could you contribute to new guidelines for obtaining initial accounts from victims and witnesses?

Officers and staff are asked to give their feedback on new evidence-based guidelines for improving the accuracy and quantity of information provided by witnesses and victims at the initial account.

A consultation on the ‘obtaining initial accounts from victims and witnesses’ guidelines is open until 24 October 2018 and the College would really like to hear your feedback on them.

The guidelines have been produced to aid frontline officers and staff who could be:

  • first responders at an incident
  • tasked with conducting victim or witness interviews at a scene
  • conducting ‘house to house’ enquiries
  • dealing with a report made at a police station
  • conducting telephone investigations.

But they can also be of use to those who supervise and train these officers and staff.

There are ten practical guidelines supported by an evidence-base, but they also contain hints and tips from the frontline.

If you have good practice in this area that you think everyone in policing could benefit from, then this is a chance to share that.

A copy of the complete guidelines and a consultation feedback form are available to download here.

 Initial_Accounts_Guidelines_summary (2).PNG

The taking of victims and witnesses initial accounts after an incident is one of the most commonly undertaken investigative actions, and information they provide can be a key factor in the detection of crimes.

Frontline officers are increasingly being asked to conduct initial investigations and past HMIC PEEL inspections have found they were being asked to do this without an appropriate level of support.

These guidelines have been designed to bring consistency to the quality and structure of taking a victim or witnesses initial account of an incident.

They also aim to improve the effectiveness of evidence collection, maximising the value of the account taken for any subsequent investigation and criminal justice process.

Research has shown that how officers treat victims and witnesses during an interaction can influence their willingness to provide information, therefore there is the possibility that poorly conducted initial account interviews could impact on their engagement throughout the investigative process.

Poorly taken initial accounts also risk inaccurate or incomplete information undermining the credibility of a witness, and at worst adversely affecting an investigation or subsequent criminal justice process.

Superintendent David Kirby from Derbyshire Constabulary, the chair of the guidelines committee, said:

“I am delighted that the College are now in a position to present these guidelines, which we believe will provide some useful and practical advice for officers and staff carrying out those crucial first interactions with both victims and witnesses.

“The process that we used as a committee brought together existing academic research and opinion with the experience of experts and frontline practitioners in a thoroughly evidence based way. This was a new process for the College, and I am confident that we will learn from it in order to develop and deliver increasingly more valuable materials to support officers and staff in the future.

“I hope you will take this opportunity to engage with this open consultation by providing feedback to the team, enabling us to make more improvements.”

These guidelines focus on people presenting themselves as a victim and/or witness at the time they give their initial account after an incident.

Therefore they are not designed for formal suspect interviews. Nor are they a replacement for guidance on achieving best evidence (ABE) interviews.

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