Promoting justice, protecting victims and supporting witnesses: The impact of the Self-Administered Interview (SAIĀ©) in investigative contexts

Submitting Institution

University of Portsmouth

Unit of Assessment

Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Criminology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology

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Summary of the impact

The Self-Administered Interview (SAI©) is a powerful evidence-based investigative interviewing tool designed to elicit comprehensive initial statements from multiple witnesses and victims, particularly in time- and resource-critical situations. Developed in the laboratory and tested in the field, the research underpinning the SAI© has resulted in changes in policy, professional practice and training activities within police forces internationally. Operationally, the SAI© has contributed to the investigation of major criminal incidents enabling investigators to collect information from witnesses in challenging situations. The SAI© has elicited critical leads and compelling evidence for Court proceedings — indicating public benefit arising from service improvements.

Underpinning research

The underpinning research summarised here was conducted jointly by Dr Lorraine Hope (University of Portsmouth) during the period 2005-2013 and Dr Fiona Gabbert (University of Abertay; September 2005-December 2012) together with an international collaborator. Obtaining reliable eyewitness evidence is crucial for furthering police investigations, establishing strong legal cases and preventing miscarriages of justice. Reliable evidence depends on scientifically informed investigative interviewing procedures to elicit detailed and accurate accounts. Research conducted at the University of Portsmouth over the past 20 years has successfully applied psychological principles in forensic interviewing settings and has made a major contribution to investigative interviewing practice internationally. Extending this legacy, a systematic programme of empirical research, funded by the British Academy and Economic and Social Research Council, was conducted to develop the SAI©. The subsequent conduct of field evaluations with police forces in England and Wales, was endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Investigative Interviewing Committee, National Police Improvements Agency) and the SAI© has formed part of police operational procedure in several forces internationally since 2009.

Research underpinning the development of the SAI© has been informed by (i) the well-established psychological principle that memory, particularly for detail, decays rapidly and is vulnerable to contamination from external sources (such as other witnesses, news reports, social media, etc.) and (ii) the fact that investigators rarely have resources to interview multiple witnesses in an optimal timeframe. In sum, the reliability and quality of eyewitness accounts is time-critical. To address this challenge, the SAI© was designed to elicit comprehensive initial statements from witnesses and victims at the scene of an incident, or shortly afterwards, with minimal demand on operational resources. As a result, this tool works to offset two major threats (memory decay and contamination) to the quality of witness accounts. Drawing on theoretical accounts of episodic memory and effective mnemonics associated with the Cognitive Interview, the SAI© takes the form of a standardised protocol of instructions that enables witnesses to provide their own accounts of an incident. This tool is the product of a dedicated programme of research. Since 2005, research conducted jointly at both the University of Portsmouth and the University of Abertay (until December 2012) has established that the SAI© elicits significantly more information (with high accuracy rates) than a standard free recall request (similar to what a witness would be asked to provide in an initial police interview) and protects memory against forgetting [1, a]. Subsequent research shows that witnesses who complete an SAI© are more resistant to misleading information encountered after an incident [2, b]. Furthermore, initial completion of an SAI© increases the amount of information reported in a delayed interview, with a high degree of consistency between both accounts [4, b]. The SAI© not only facilitates memory retrieval, it has also been adopted as a methodology for promoting detailed recall [e.g. d, e] and for protecting against forgetting. Research on the SAI© has been replicated and extended by other laboratories and external collaborators internationally [e.g. Gawrylowicz, Memon & Scoboria, 2013]. To date, the SAI© has been translated into Dutch, German, French, Norwegian and Swedish.

References to the research

[1] Gabbert, F., Hope, L. & Fisher, R. P. (2009). Protecting Eyewitness Evidence: Examining the Efficacy of a Self-Administered Interview Tool. Law & Human Behavior, 33, 298-307. DOI: 10.1007/s10979-008-9146-8 (IF = 2.39; 5-Year IF = 2.75). This article, published in the high profile American Psychological Association journal (the flagship journal of APA Division 41 American Psychology and Law Society), presents the original two experiments conducted to develop and test the SAI© under laboratory conditions. REF 2 output: 4-LH-002


[2] Gabbert, F., Hope, L., Fisher, R. P., & Jamieson, K. (2012). Protecting against susceptibility to misinformation with the use of a Self-Administered Interview. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 568-75. DOI: 10.1002/acp.2828 (IF = 1.47; 5-Year IF = 1.86). This article presents the results of two laboratory experiments documenting that completing a SAI protects against the negative effects of suggestive post event information.


[3] Hope, L., Gabbert, F., & Fisher, R. (2011). From laboratory to the street: Capturing witness memory using the Self-Administered Interview. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 16, 211-226. DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8333.2011.02015.x (IF = 1.71; 5-Year IF = 1.77). This article, currently a Featured Article on the journal website, was invited by Legal and Criminological Psychology, an official journal of the British Psychological Society and presents the results of laboratory and field research, including Case Studies obtained from end-users.


[4] Hope, L., Gabbert, F., & Fisher, R. P. (In press). Protecting and enhancing eyewitness memory: The impact of an initial recall attempt on performance in an investigative interview. Applied Cognitive Psychology. (IF = 1.47; 5-Year IF = 1.86). This article presents the results of a study investigating the impact of an SAI© on a subsequent `gold standard' police interview, the Cognitive Interview, documenting the beneficial effects of this detailed initial recall over a standard free recall or no recall at all in terms of impact on interview outcomes and consistency across recall attempts.


Research Grants associated with development of the SAI©
[a] British Academy (£7,153). Gabbert, F., Hope, L., & Fisher, R. Supporting Eyewitness Memory with a Self-Administered Scene of Crime Recall Tool. (Award Period: March-November, 2006).

[b] British Academy (£69,527). Gabbert, F., Hope, L., & Fisher, R. Protecting Eyewitness Evidence: Testing the efficacy of a Self-Administered Interview tool. (Award Period: 2007-2008).

[c] Economic & Social Research Council (£28,453). Gabbert, F. & Hope, L. Improving the delivery of justice for victims, witnesses and society: Field Trials of the Self Administered Interview Recall Tool. (Awarded: August, 2009).

[d] Economic & Social Research Council (£99,998; £81,282 awarded). Hope, L., Gabbert, F. & Brewer, N. Interviewing eyewitnesses: Enhancing output quantity and diagnosing accuracy. (Bilateral Programme Award RES-000-22-3169: April 2009).

[e] Australian Research Council. (AUD152,000). Brewer, N., Hope, L. & Gabbert, F. Interviewing eyewitnesses: Enhancing output quantity and diagnosing accuracy. (Bilateral Programme Award; April 2009).

Details of the impact

The deployment of the SAI© (led jointly by Hope at the University of Portsmouth and Gabbert at the University of Abertay) has had a significant impact on the policy and operational activities of several UK and overseas police forces. The SAI© and research underpinning its development, use and efficacy have been incorporated into investigative training for police and other law enforcement agencies in the UK, US, Europe and Australia.

Implementation of Policy
Since 2009 [9], continued evaluation and implementation of the SAI© with witnesses in UK and international police forces has established that SAI© provides both practical and evidential benefits to the police during investigations [8]. End-user evaluation has demonstrated that the SAI© can be used simply and efficiently with minimal demand on resources, to obtain high quality information from victims and witnesses [1-4, 6, 8]. This has led to policy change with respect to (i) training, (ii) day-to-day investigative practice and (iii) operational mandates for major incidents. For example, the SAI© has been adopted by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and forms part of their major incident policy [1]. The SAI© also formed part of the North East Counter-Terrorism unit response strategy for mass witness/terrorist scenarios during the 2012 Olympics [e.g. South Yorkshire Police, see 8].

Improved Cost Effectiveness of Public Service
While research focused on the memorial impact of implementing the SAI©, end-users have identified significant cost savings and resource efficiencies associated with the use of the tool in a number of major incidents. For example, earlier this year (2013) GMP noted an actual saving of £600 on a fatal traffic incident and project potential savings of £228,069 per annum based on an analysis of similar incidents [1]. Similarly, South Yorkshire police calculated savings between £12,739 and £88,602 on a recent major two-year long enquiry (2011-2013) [4].

Incorporation into Professional Training.
Since 2009, the UK-based research team have jointly delivered over 20 training sessions relating to the SAI© and its underpinning psychological research principles for police forces in the UK and internationally, including at the European police training college, CEPOL (2011 & 2012). Furthermore, the SAI© has been incorporated into investigator training in the UK, US, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia [see 1, 2, 3, 6, 8]. Over 1,000 officers in Greater Manchester Police [1], over 500 in the Netherlands [3], and approximately 1,500 Norwegian police officers [2] have received training in the SAI©.

Changes in Law Enforcement Practice.
In 2012, the original programme of research, and subsequent knowledge transfer [c], was highlighted as a successful example of impact in the UK context in an External Evaluation Report of case studies commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council [5]. The SAI© is currently approved for use in five UK forces and two international forces and is under evaluation in approximately eight other UK and six international police forces. To date, use of the SAI© has made an important contribution to a number of live investigations of incidents including serious road-traffic incidents, violent assaults, robberies and shootings [see 1, 2, 3, 6, 8]. As such, our research has been used by professionals in their work and the SAI© has led to important changes in practice (several Case Studies are outlined in Hope, Gabbert & Fisher, 2011; also [8]) by providing detailed initial accounts, enabling the efficient prioritisation of witnesses, and facilitating the identification of additional witnesses. Legal professionals have noted that use of the SAI© addresses a number of legal concerns relating to eyewitness accounts [e.g. facilitating accounts in the witness's own words; see Hope, L., Gabbert, F., Heaton-Armstrong, A., & Wolchover, D. (2012). The Self-Administered Witness Interview. Criminal Law and Justice Weekly, 177). The international reach of the SAI© in operational settings is evidenced by invited publications in practitioner outlets (e.g. Hope, L., & Gabbert, F. (2013). Capturing Eyewitness Testimony using the Self-Administered Interview. Home Team Journal, Official Publication of the Singapore Police).

Wider Applications and Societal Benefit
Field evaluations have also generated support from charities concerned with the delivery of justice for victims. For instance since 2010 RoadPeace, the national charity for road crash victims, has been actively campaigning for the SAI© to be standard procedure for obtaining evidence relating to road-traffic-accidents [7]. We have also written for this sector in an invited submission to the Journal of the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators (Hope, L. & Gabbert, F. (2011). Protecting Eyewitness Evidence: What can the Self Administered Interview (SAI©) contribute to the investigation of road traffic incidents? Impact, 19, 15-18).

Commercial Development for Industrial Accident Investigation
The success of the SAI© in domestic policing contexts has led to the development of the Self-Administered Witness Interview Tool (SAW-IT®) for use in the investigation of industrial accidents. This tool has been available for licensing through commercial partnership with a UK /New Zealand-based company since May 2013 [10].

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Official Letter from Greater Manchester Police
    This letter, submitted by the Senior Investigative Interview Advisor (Tier 5) for the Major Incident Team at Greater Manchester Police, details how research on the SAI has been incorporated into police practice and training of over 1,000 officers. This letter also includes cost-saving analyses.
  2. Official Letter from Norwegian Police University College
    This letter has been provided by the Assistant Chief of Police at the Norwegian Police University College, and documents that training pertaining to the SAI© is delivered and now forms part of the official training curriculum in Norway and, that approximately 1,500 police officers have been trained using this technique.
  3. Official Letter from Dutch Police
    This letter, submitted by The National Police of the Netherlands Training College, confirms that the SAI© was approved by the Force Command of The National Police of the Netherlands for nationwide implementation and use and over 500 officers have been trained to date.
  4. Cost Effectiveness Calculation for Operation Almond (South Yorkshire Police)
  5. This estimate of cost savings achieved through use of the SAI© on a major enquiry conducted between 2011 and 2013 has been provided by a Tier 5 interview advisor at South Yorkshire police.
  6. External Evaluation Report commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council [Hardill, I., Moss, O., & Biddle, P. (2012). ESRC Follow-on-Fund (FOF) Scheme: External Evaluation;]
    This report, commissioned by the ESRC and available via the ESRC website highlights (Section 6, p.12) the applied impact of research on the SAI© and effectiveness of knowledge exchange activities funded by the ESRC Follow-on Fund awarded to the research team in 2009.
  7. Official Letter Oslo Police — Norway
    This letter has been provided by Police Superintendent for the Oslo Police District and outlines the way in which the SAI© has been implemented in Norway.
  8. "Road Peace Campaign for Justice Update
    This Traffic Justice Update circulated by the national charity for road crash victims, RoadPeace, highlights trials of the (SAI) in the Metropolitan Police (London) and notes the role of the charity in promoting the tool since 2010.
  9. Obtaining Witness Evidence using the Self-Administered Interview: Implementation, Efficiency and Effectiveness" (Report to College of Policing, 2013)
    This report prepared for the College of Policing includes detailed Case Studies on police use of the SAI© and reports the results of a survey of end-users conducted in 2013.
  10. Endorsement letter from Association of Chief Police Officers (Investigative Interviewing Committee, National Police Improvements Agency).
    This letter, from the ACPO group tasked with monitoring developments related to investigative interviewing, endorsed the conduct of field evaluations with police forces in England and Wales.
  11. Letter from the Director of Forensic Interview Solutions.
    This letter, submitted by the Director of our commercial partner, Forensic Interview Solution, outlines the benefit of the SAI and related tools to clients interested in interview training and investigative tools, including a bespoke version of SAI© for use in investigating industrial incidents;