Summaries are not an optional extra in investigative interviewing.
They are a strategic tool to ensure we get an accurate, full, useful account from our interviewee.
Summarising is so valuable because ...
• interviewees have an opportunity to add anything they missed. When they hear the story repeated to them it jogs their memory of the things that are missing so they naturally fill in the gaps. (They can’t help themselves.)
• they correct any misperceptions or errors you have made in your understanding about their story – so you get a more accurate account of the facts. We all have a natural tendency to tell people when they are wrong so it's another way that summarising works in our favour.
• Summarising allows you to review the information you have collected so far - and that forces your brain to scan for gaps. We might realise a vital piece of information is missing so we can ask additional questions before we close that topic and move on to another one.
• Summarising gently forces the interviewee to agree with the facts so far. If the interviewee has lied, we don’t challenge the lie initially. We anchor it in the statement so we can come back and challenge it under cognitive load later. Now that they’ve locked themselves into the lie it will weaken their position later if we challenge it with evidence to the contrary. For example – (reading from your topic interview notes)... Mr Jones, you said, ‘I wasn’t at Bank Street on Thursday night’, didn’t you? But here is a CCTV photograph of you outside the ATM machine on Bank Street on Thursday night, how do you explain that?’
Don't miss out on the full value of a summary.
Deception is much harder to spot than most people think.
We all have ideas about what it looks like: shifty eyes, fidgeting, bouts of bull and bluster. But even honest people, under pressure, will exhibit most of those symptoms.
I'd like to share with you some of the techniques that are fast becoming best-practice amongst the leading researchers and practitioners of investigative interviewing.