Investigative interviews with suspects of crime

Submitting Institution

University of Derby

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Criminology

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Summary of the impact

Both the introduction of legislation in England and Wales and the mandatory recording of interviews with criminal suspects has led to an increased examination and understanding of what happens in such interviews. Such studies have led to a prescribed framework, which following its implementation, has led to further study concerning its efficacy in gathering a reliable account. This case study, demonstrates how (through dissemination of the research and through working with practitioners) particular research findings concerning approaches to the investigative interviewing of suspects have influenced the practices of those users of the research both in this country and overseas.

Underpinning research

Dr. David Walsh is currently Head of Research in the School of Law and Criminology at the University of Derby, having been employed there to date continuously since 2006 as either Lecturer/Senior Lecturer /Assistant Subject Head of Criminology/Head of School Research, being the programme leader at various times of the Fd/UG/PG programmes. The underpinning research for the case study is through eight published peer reviewed articles (most published in at least 2* rated journals) and one book chapter.

Walsh conducted his initial study in 2006, being funded (£3,200) by the Joint Working Initiative of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This involved examination of various inspections of local authorities (LAs) in the UK conducted by governmental auditing authorities. This analysis (Section 3, Item 6) found beneficial effects on performance had been realized during 1999-2007, believed to be associated by such inspections. Such reporting to various LA and DWP fora by Walsh in 2006 engaged their interest in an examination of DWP/LA benefit fraud investigators. Walsh's subsequent analysis of their actual interviewing performance conducted in 2007 found that most interviews were below expected standards when using measurement scales designed to assess interviewing skills. Such dissemination of this research to professional LA fora in 2007/2008 generally led to concerns regarding the research findings, since these (unsurprisingly) did not match their voiced perceptions of their own skill levels. Regardless, several users of the research (such as DWP investigation trainers, and LA managers) did feel that the findings had some substance and they supported Walsh in providing further field data in order for him to undertake further studies. Subsequent studies (Section 3, items 1 and 4) displayed how, when a framework was most skillfully used it was associated with the gathering of comprehensive, accurate and reliable accounts. These findings were shared at professional and academic conferences in this country and overseas during 2008-2009. Upon publication of its findings, the paper (Section 3, item 1) was adopted as an integral component within training packages for police detectives in Norway in 2010 and, later, China in 2011, being translated into those countries' languages. Item 1 remains a prerequisite for detectives to have read this article during their training in these countries so as to inform them of the benefits of using information gathering approaches when interviewing suspects. More than 2,000 detectives are estimated to have used Walsh's study as part of their training. Meanwhile, the researcher engaged with 114 UK professionals in various fora, (also in 2008-2009) undertaking an attitudinal survey (see item 3, Section 3), finding further areas of concern. Further dissemination of studies to over 1400 academic and investigation professionals (from various agencies and countries) occurred during 2009-2013 (Section 3, items 2, 5, 6), directly leading to further engagement to undertake collaborative research and consultancy.

The research is unique since despite over 150,000 interviews being conducted each year by benefit fraud investigators, no other research has been undertaken to this depth concerning their interview practices (research has focused in the past examined police investigations, and thus until this research we remained unaware of the performance of other agencies). Further, the findings from these studies have informed service users overseas who possess unfamiliarity with this model of interviewing criminal suspects.

References to the research

1. Walsh, D. and Bull, R. (2010a). The interviewing of suspects by non-police agencies: What's effective? What is effective! Legal and Criminological Psychology, 15, 305-321 (3*)


2. Walsh, D. and Bull, R. (2010b). Know your rights? A study comparing fraud investigators approaches to informing suspects of their rights and ensuring they are understood and observed. Cambrian Law Review, 41, 24-39.(3*)

3. Walsh, D. and Bull, R. (2011). Benefit fraud investigative interviewing: A self-report study of investigation professionals' beliefs concerning practice. Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling, 8, 131-148. (3*)


4. Walsh, D. and Bull, R. (2012a) How do interviewers attempt to overcome suspects' denials? Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, 19, 151-168.(3*) (TIR grant UoD, 2008 — £2500)


5. Walsh, D. and Bull, R. (2012b). Examining rapport in investigative interviews with suspects: Does its building and maintenance work? Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 27, 73-84.(3*)


6. Walsh, D., and Bull, R. (2013a). The investigation and investigative interviewing of benefit fraud suspects in the UK: Historical and contemporary perspectives. In B. Cooper, D. Griesel, and M. Ternes (Eds.) Applied issues in investigative interviewing, eyewitness memory, and credibility assessment. (pp33-58). New York: SpringerSpringer.(3*)


Details of the impact

The underpinning research and its key findings have been influential in both the UK and overseas. Firstly, LA benefit fraud investigators have engaged with the researcher to review their practices in light of the researcher's findings, leading to a review of training needs and identification of skills deficits, as well as requests to deliver findings in other professional settings, alongside an engagement of the researcher in strategic planning of the LA investigators' national forum. Thus far the researcher has presented research findings to over 750 LA investigation personnel in around 12 separate presentations (about 20% of the total investigation personnel in the UK, and representing over 60% of the 440 LAs.). Specific in-depth consultation has occurred in five of these organisations, whilst other agencies and constituencies (such as the police, Business,Information & Skills' investigators, Gangmasters' Licensing Authority, the East of England Fraud Forum, and the Welsh Fraud Forum) have engaged with the researcher and asked him to present his findings in various training/ `masterclass' contexts, that has included around 200 detectives undergoing initial training in Derbyshire and Lincolnshire Constabularies. Evaluations of these sessions learned that Walsh had positively influenced officers' thinking about interviewing strategies. The GLA have recently engaged Walsh on a consultancy basis to advise how to further boost investigative performance.

Other impacts include the provision of the research as an essential component of the training of police officers overseas, where it is estimated that over 2000 officers in the last three years have read the researcher's study (Section 3, item 1) as prescribed in their training. As part of a package of reading it is clearly difficult to make claims as to its own discrete impact. However, this article is unique in that it shows the association between skilful deployment of an interviewing framework (that is steadily being embraced around the world) and optimum interview outcomes (that is; a comprehensive reliable account). Anecdotal evidence from trainers in Norway indicates that this article clearly overcomes officers' concerns that the interviewing model better identifies the guilty, while avoiding false confessions from the innocent. Professional social media sites such as Linkedin have recently cited the researcher's work as the only study of investigations outside the police (this was an Australian view).

As a consequence of presenting research to Belgian Police, Walsh was asked by (i) senior Belgian police officers to contribute to a handbook for all Belgian Police officers' that advises how to disclose evidence in light of recent ECtHR rulings that concern legal representation requirements when criminal suspects are questioned about possible offences; and (ii) by consultants to the Dutch government to provide evidence for their report how the ECtHR rulings will likely affect police investigations in the Netherlands.

Alongside this activity Walsh reported his findings from his first study in 2007 at an international seminar that was attended by both academics and practitioners interested in the study of the investigative interviewing of victims, suspects, and witnesses. This led to Walsh (with Dr Gavin Oxburgh, of Newcastle University, and Dr Trond Myklebust of the Norwegian Police Training College) to create an organisation that was to be the host for both practitioners and academics with an professional interest in this area, with the aims of encouraging collaborative research between the two groups and to enable a forum where best practices are identified and spread world-wide. In the first five years since its inception it has achieved both these aims. The organisation (the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group — iIIRG) under the stewardship of the three original founder members, has grown to over 300 members. Among its other successes are an annual international conference (in each of the last five years) and masterclass (that regularly attracts 150 delegates from all over the world) and a biannual peer reviewed journal; Investigative Interviewing: Research and Practice (of which Walsh is its Editor-in chief) with contributions from both practitioners and academics. The international reputation and credibility of Walsh's status in this organisation is directly related to his studies in pioneering research in hitherto untouched territories. For example, in New Zealand and Australia three training companies use the researcher's material as important components for their own training that has been delivered to over 250 trainees in the past two to three years to underline the efficacy of the interviewing framework.

Finally, Walsh provided consultancy advice during 2007-2012 to welfare rights' groups in their authoring of various editions of a national guidance document, designed for those who attend fraud interviews as suspects without legal representation, informing them of their rights. Feedback from both the organisations and the public who have used the document has been highly positive towards its usefulness.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Testimonies supportive of the material in this case study can be obtained from the following:

The Housing benefits fraud manager at South Cambridgeshire District Council and
The National Chair of Local Authority Investigating Officers' Group (LAIOG)
( in regard to work Walsh has conducted with Local Authority investigators)

Senior managers with the Gangmasters' Licensing Authority in regard to the work Walsh has conducted with that agency

Police crime trainers in Lincolnshire Police in regard to the work Walsh has presented to new detectives

The (now retired) Assistant Chief Constable and Derbyshire Crime Trainers of Derbyshire police in regard to the work Walsh as undertaken with that Constabulary

A Senior crime trainer (Ivar Fahsing) in the Norwegian Police Training College in relation to the pre-requisite of Walsh's material for new Norwegian police detectives

Professor Vanderhallen of Maastricht, and Antwerp Universities who can provide testimony in regard to the Chinese and Belgian police and to the advice provided by Walsh that assisted in a report to the Dutch' government.

Advice now website
which shows the document that Walsh helped co-author for that national organisation's clients

iIIRG website ( — Dr Gavin Oxburgh at Newcastle University and Dr Trond Myklebust of the Norwegian Police Training College in regard to evidence required regarding Walsh's contribution to iIIRG.