Interrogating Images: Audio-visually recorded police questioning of suspects

Monograph 23


By David Dixon with Gail Travis
RRP $49.95 (inc GST) ISBN 978 0 9751967 4 8

Police interrogation attracts debate and controversy around the world. Audio-visual recording is widely regarded as a panacea for problems in police questioning of suspects.

Interrogating Images presents the first empirical study of the routine use of audio-visual recording anywhere in the world, focusing on New South Wales, Australia where such recording has been required for more than a decade. Its introduction is set in a historical account of disputes and concerns about police questioning of suspects. There is a detailed study of the participants in the interrogation process. Various styles of police interviewing are identified, showing that many assumptions about the nature and purpose of interrogation are inaccurate. A chapter assesses the impact in NSW of ‘investigative interviewing’, a questioning style very different from that used in the USA. The penultimate chapter examines the experiences and perceptions of criminal justice professionals – judges, defence lawyers, prosecutors, and police.

Interrogating Images concludes by pointing to some dangers of misusing audio-visual recording. If the complete questioning process is not recorded, confessions may be rehearsed and unreliable. A second danger is the misreading of images, particularly by those who overestimate their ability to identify deception from a suspect’s ‘body language’. Audio-visual recording can be a useful tool, but it must be one part of a broader process of effectively regulating investigative practices.

Interrogating Images is informative and thought provoking reading for lawyers, police investigators, academic researchers, policy-makers, legislators, students and those with an interest in police interrogation and its implications for criminal justice processes.

David Dixon is Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney.

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