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Title: A discursive analysis of police interviews with suspected paedophiles: the implications of 'open' and 'closed' interviewing for admission and denial
Authors: Benneworth, Kelly
Issue Date: 2004
Publisher: © Kelly Benneworth
Abstract: This thesis examines the discursive interaction between the police officer and the suspected paedophile in the investigative interview. A review of the literature revealed that paedophiles talk about their offences in terms of conventional relationships, personal bonds and emotions whilst being discrete about the sexual aspects of their activities. In the investigative interview, police officers must establish accountability, avoid emotional talk and encourage paedophiles to discuss their criminal activities in terms of direct, agentic detail. Given these two distinct approaches to the description of unlawful sexual contact, there is the potential for difficulties to arise in the elicitation of information in the investigative interview. This thesis explores how police officers and paedophiles negotiate an account of `what really happened' whilst managing conflicting descriptions of the offence. This thesis also evaluates the relative effectiveness of interviewing strategies used by the police for maximising admission in suspected paedophiles. Eleven interviews conducted at Leicestershire Police Constabulary were transcribed using the Jefferson system of notation. The offenders were male and aged between 34-54 years. The victims were male (n=5) and female (n=6) and aged between 5-13 years. Content analysis confirmed that police officers and paedophiles do describe sexual acts between adults and children differently. A `physical' repertoire of explicit sexual terms was used more frequently by the police officers, while the suspects exhibited a preference for an `emotiörial' repertoire of relationship talk and euphemisms (x2 = 125.518; df = 1; p<O. 01). Discourse analysis explored what was happening when . the police officers and suspected paedophiles used these repertoires. The analysis identified two distinct styles of interviewing with implications, not just for eliciting information from the suspect but also for admission and denial. Suspect admission was associated with `open' police interviewing, where the officer invites the suspect to `tell the story' using open-ended, relationship questioning. The suspect subsequently constructs an inappropriate, self-serving account, which the officer is able to reformulate to confirm sexual contact and secure admission. On the other hand, suspect denial was associated with `closed' police interviewing, characterised by the officer recounting an explicit sexual narrative and eliminating suspect intervention with the use of linguistic devices to hold the floor. The suspect, rather than being invited to tell the story, is only asked to confirm the police officer's version of events. The police officer cannot reformulate the suspect's narrative and subsequently increases opportunities for the suspect to deny the accusations. The analysis represents a distinctive qualitative understanding of how language clashes shape the progression of the police interview. The findings provide a vocabulary for skilled police officers to both reflect on their own interviewing practices and communicate their skills to less experienced officers. This thesis also offers hope to police interviewers by suggesting that if they interview effectively they can make a difference to the outcome. The methodological implications of the study, strategies for future research and suggestions for a discourse-based police interviewing training programme are outlined.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/7598
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies)

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