An investigation into the effective and ethical interviewing of suspected sex offenders

Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/03-04)

Sex offences are difficult to investigate and prosecute. Conviction rates are low unless a suspect confesses, in which case a conviction is highly likely. Consequently, attempting to obtain confessions from guilty sex offenders is a worthwhile endeavour. The research used a multifaceted-approach to investigate what factors influence suspects' decisions to confess or deny sexual offences. One group of 19 convicted sex offenders was interviewed concerning why they confessed or denied their offence, and another group of 44 were surveyed concerning their experience of being interviewed by the police and how they believed the police should interview to maximise the likelihood of a guilty sex offender confessing. Police officers were also questioned concerning how they believed suspected sex offenders should be interviewed to facilitate confessions with guilty suspects. An experimental model was created to test different evidence presenting strategies. Taken together, the results of these studies suggest that police officers potentially have considerable influence on suspects' decisions to confess or deny. Evidence plays a critical role in suspects' decisions to confess or deny and should be conscientiously collected, familiarised and presented to a suspect in a convincing way to increase the likelihood of a confession. Similarly, offenders state that they are more likely to confess to police officers adopting a fair, professional, compassionate, understanding, non-aggressive and honest approach. This is a view shared by many police officers experienced in the interviewing of suspected sex offenders.