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Making a case
Discuss the validity and reliability of information gathered from suspects in interviews
Validity refers to the truthfulness and accuracy of information, whereas reliability refers to whether or not
information is valid over time.
Interviewing suspects differs from interviewing witnesses in that you are aiming to elicit a confession of guilt as you
believe the suspect to have committed the crime. This means that there are some methods used to gain a confession,
which might lack validity and reliability. For example, Inbau and Reid's 9 interrogation techniques used in the US aim to
put the rights of society before the rights of the suspect, and so they could be seen to be unethical as they have the
potential to lead to an invalid coerced confession. A coerced confession is one which is made by the suspect in order
to escape the pressure and hostile scrutiny they are exposed to during the interview process. Reid's interrogation
steps include; ignore any explanation for why they could not have committed the crime, tell the suspect you believe
they committed the crime, if the suspect cries infer guilt and pose the alternative question by providing them with a
more socially acceptable reason for why they may have committed the crime to make confessing easier. You can see
under these circumstances why the validity of any information gathered from suspects might be invalid, as the
suspect may confess or pass on information just because they think it might be the easiest and least stressful option
under these circumstances.
In terms of reliability, gudjonson documents the case of a teenager who falsely confessed to killing, robbing and
sexually assaulting two elderly women. FC was normal in terms of IQ, personality and mental development however
he scored 10 (high) on the gudjonsson suggestibility scale. He was subjected to ethically questionable interrogation
techniques where his relationships and actions were scrutinized and his first interview lasted 14 hours, with breaks.
He falsely confessed to committing the crime, only to later retract his statement in front of a lawyer, and later
confess again after being interrogated once again. This shows that information gathered under unethical
interrogation lacks reliability, as suspects will say anything to minimise the stress they feel under pressure from tha
Another question of validity arises when you consider the study by Vrijj and Mann which concludes that police officers
are no better at detecting lies than any other profession. His research involved a group of 16 Dutch Police officers
watching a series of video tapes where family members held conferences requesting help in finding their missing
loved ones. It later transpired in five of the eight clips that family members were convicted of the crime themselves.
The police officers individually watched the clips and were asked if they thought the person making the plea was
lying. Results showed that only 3 out of the 52 officers correctly identified the lies in 80% or more of the clips. The
rest of the officer's results were no better than they would have been had they made randomized guesses, and so
their results can be attributable to chance. This study questions the ability for serving police officers to identify when
a suspect is lying, and so the validity of information gathered from suspects is questionable.
In conclusion, the information gathered by suspects in interviews can only be seen as valid and reliable if the suspects
are interviewed ethically and in compliance with PACE legislation which is in operation currently in the UK. The method
of interrogation used in the US has the potential to result in a coerced compliant confession which is clearly invalid.
Ultimately the decision on whether or not he validity of information is important or not depends upon whether you
put the needs of society or the needs of the suspect first.