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Supporting the interviewing and legal representation of crime victims and suspects using digital communication methods – is it 'remotely' possible?

This project will look at the effectiveness of conducting police interviews with victims, witnesses and suspects remotely rather than in person. 

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Professor Gavin Oxburgh
Police region
North East
Collaboration and partnership

Northumbria Police; Metropolitan Police; South Wales Police; NPCC; College of Policing; International Criminal Court; Norwegian Police University College; Ministry of Justice; Commission for International Justice and Accountibility.

Level of research
Professional/work based
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Reacting to COVID-19 required significant, immediate changes to Government processes including the Criminal Justice System. Police investigations must continue, and victims, witnesses and suspects of crime must be interviewed.

However, social distancing means that investigators are unable to conduct interviews, and legal/third party professionals are unable to communicate with clients in a traditional format.

Thus, remote communication is one such way currently being conducted across the UK, however, this is not standardised and the current research-base to prove its efficacy is extremely limited.

The research team comprises experts in the field and will work in collaboration with our national and international partners who include the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), the College of Policing, various police forces in England and Wales, Fair Trials, the National Appropriate Adults Network (NAAN), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA).

We will produce timely and much-needed evidence-based reports and resources to enable immediate and direct impact for our partners and stakeholders.

These resources will be available at key stages of the project in order to facilitate shared good practice around two main aspects (comprising four work packages).

  1. The challenges of conducting interviews remotely via digital means in attempts to gain detailed and accurate information.
  2. The impact of not having legal and other third party representatives in physical attendance to represent suspects (particularly vulnerable ones) in the police station.

Research methodology

The research comprises four unique, but complementary, work packages (WPs) to meet the immediacy of the research and involves a fully mixed methodological approach. Agreement has already been received from all partners to participate.

Work package one – consultation with organisations, investigators and victims of crime

Part one

Our national and international partners will take part in on-line, qualitative interviews to establish the ways in which they have adapted to COVID-19 in terms of conducting interviews and communicating with their clients. This will provide rapid and immediate impact on UK practice/policy.

Part two

In tandem with part one, a medium-sized sample of active investigators from our partners, together with previous victims and witnesses of crime will take part in on-line, qualitative interviews regarding their views, perceived efficacy and appropriateness of remote interviewing.

Work package two – interviews with lawyers and suspects

A medium-sized sample of lawyers will take part in on-line, qualitative interviews to establish the perceived efficacy of remote communication on the conduct of interactions.

Work package three – experimental research

This WP will establish whether remote interviews/interactions are as effective as face-to-face ones (conducted via social distancing if required). This will be explored using two experimental studies using approximately 50 participants for each condition.

Part one – victims/witnesses

Participants will be assigned to one of two conditions.

  1. Crime types (sexual offence versus low level offence).
  2. Third party conditions (present with RI versus remote from RI).

Part two – suspects

Participants will be assigned to one of three conditions.

  1. Crime types (sexual offence versus low level offence)
  2. Legal conditions (present with lawyer versus remote from lawyer)
  3. Third party conditions (present with appropriate adult (AA) versus remote from AA).

Work package four – development of reference/training application

Working in close collaboration throughout with our Co-I (3DVSL), we will design a bespoke mobile device app (for the Android, iOS and Windows operating platforms with content editing functionality to allow for future updates) which shall compile the research findings, recommendations and procedures into easily searchable categories available for all partners, including word, topic, job function, interviewee status or jurisdiction.

Interim reports or publications

See project website at

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