ABSTRACT

Using real anonymised police-vulnerable witness interview data, this chapter evaluates the linguistic experiences of vulnerable witnesses within the police investigative interview in England and Wales. Focusing on case studies of children and vulnerable adults, I examine how police officers plan the interview, build rapport and question the witness and how, in turn, the witness linguistically copes in an interview setting. By examining vulnerable witnesses’ understanding of concepts, and their ability to develop a narrative and to answer questions, I assess whether they can achieve equal opportunities and justice. As well as looking at the interviewing officer’s and witness’s linguistic performances in the investigative interview, I also examine the effect of some of the Special Measures in operation that aim to facilitate the gathering and giving of evidence, including the potential impact of video-recorded interviews and the role of registered intermediaries and communication aids, to determine whether enough is being done to enable vulnerable witnesses to tell their story.