Promoting justice, protecting victims and supporting witnesses: The impact of the Self-Administered Interview (SAI©) in investigative contexts
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Portsmouth
Unit of AssessmentPsychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Summary Impact TypeLegal
Research Subject Area(s)
Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Criminology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
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.
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
References to the research
 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
 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.
 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.
 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
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 , 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 . 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 . 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 .
Similarly, South Yorkshire police calculated savings between £12,739 and
£88,602 on a recent major two-year long enquiry (2011-2013) .
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 , over
500 in the Netherlands , and approximately 1,500 Norwegian police
officers  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 . 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 ) 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 . 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,
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 .
Sources to corroborate the impact
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
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.
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.
- Cost Effectiveness Calculation for Operation Almond (South
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.
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; http://www.esrc.ac.uk/research/evaluation-impact/research-evaluation/evaluation-funding-schemes.aspx]
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.
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.
"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.
Obtaining Witness Evidence using the Self-Administered Interview:
Implementation, Efficiency and Effectiveness" (Report to College of
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.
Endorsement letter from Association of Chief Police Officers
(Investigative Interviewing Committee, National Police Improvements
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.
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; http://www.forensicinterviewsolutions.com/services/law-enforcement/saw-it-self-administered-witness-interview-tool/