Woman writing forensic studies notes on whiteboard

Forensic interviewing research

Explore our work in forensic interviewing, one of our areas of expertise within Criminology

Our research in forensic interviewing looks at some of the most pressing issues affecting how we detect and prevent crime – and how information from the scene of a crime, and from within the minds of the witnesses present, can be gathered, protected and interpreted correctly.

Psychological research has repeatedly shown that information is only as good as the initial communication and memory tools used to gather it.

If the information elicited or collected is less than full and faithful, then poor decisions – based on poor information – are likely to follow. Vital details can be missed, miscarriages of justice can occur, and investigations can fail – but our research is working to prevent this. 

We're using evidence-based procedures to create new techniques that can be applied in the real world, in a variety of forensic contexts – including critical incidents such as terror attacks.

Our work is regularly published by leading journals, including Current Directions in Psychological Science, the Journal of Applied Psychology, the International Journal of Police Science and Management, the British Journal of Law and Human Behaviour, the Journal of Forensic Practice, and the Criminal Law Review.

Our research covers the following key topics

  • Forensic interviewing
  • Interviewing vulnerable groups
  • interviewing victims of sexual crime
  • Use of interpreters within the interviewing context
  • Intelligence gathering tools
  • Use of body worn video
  • Investigation
  • Transference of research into the field – impact
  • Miscarriages of justice
  • Critical incidents
  • Health and well-being – trauma

Much our research takes place in the Centre of Forensic Interviewing, an internationally-recognised centre of excellence for investigative interviewing, led by Professor Becky Milne, that brings together research, teaching, and innovation activities.

Within the centre, we're also finding answers to questions, such as:

  • How do we gather full and accurate information at a chaotic dynamic scene?
  • What are the best ways to interview vulnerable groups?
  • How do we assess reliability across differing accounts?
  • What are the barriers to obtaining intelligence from a human source?
  • How do we transfer techniques taught in training into the field, and
  • Can all personnel communicate and interview to a good ethical standard?

Partnerships and funders

We frequently collaborate with major partners to transform our research work into practical, usable solutions to problems occurring in the field. We've developed novel interview techniques, training programmes and interview courses, and provided case advice too.

We've recently worked with Fire Services in London, Hampshire, the West Midlands and others, the London Ambulance Service, the UK's military and security services, as well as social services, local authorities, banks, and the UK government's Department of Work and Pensions. We've also received significant funding from major organisations, such as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST).

Publication highlights

Where is the body? Investigative interviewing strategies in missing body homicide cases
Investigative Interviewing: Research and Practice (accepted for publication, 2019), Nathan Ryan, Nina Westera, Mark R. Kebbell, Professor Becky Milne, Harrison Mark

One step forward and two steps back? The ‘20 Principles’ for questioning vulnerable witnesses and the lack of an evidence-based approach
International Journal of Evidence and Proof (2018), 22, 4, p.392–410, P. Cooper, C. Dando, T. Ormerod, M. Mattison, R. Marchant, Professor Becky Milne & R. Bull

Police interviewing of sexual assault victims: current organisational responses and recommendations for improvement
Handbook of Legal and Investigative Psychology (accepted for publication, 2019) N.J. Westera, M.B. Powell, Professor Becky Milne, J. Goodman-Delahunty – R. Bull & I. Blandon-Gitlin (eds.), London: Routledge

The cognitive interview and its use for people with autism spectrum disorder: can we create an ASD friendly version?
The Wiley Handbook of Memory, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the Law (2018), p.245–269, Joanne Richards & Professor Becky Milne – J. Johnson, G. Goodman & P. Mundy (eds.), Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 

Discover our areas of expertise

Forensic interviewing is one of our 7 areas of expertise in our Criminology research area. Explore the others below.

Economic crime

We’re looking at economic crime, assessing the methods used to combat it, and developing new ways to protect individuals and organisations from fraud, corruption, money laundering and intellectual property crime.
Read more

Missing persons

In our Centre for the Study of Missing Persons, we're identifying patterns of behaviour that precede a person going missing and working to change the policies and practices that determine how such cases are handled.
Empty pairs of shoes left on the beach
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Cybercrime and cybersecurity

We're exploring the growing threat and impact cybercrime at all levels of society, investigating the methods and motives of the people who commit it, and finding new ways to deal with them.
Computer hacker working at laptop
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In the wake of a prolonged period of budget cuts, our work deals with the most-pressing issues facing the police service – from how police officers learn, to the individual factors that can influence an investigation.
Two police officers in busy street
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Probation, prison and penology

We're working to understand the role of punishment, and how it links with processes of justice and rehabilitation – and helping shape how criminal justice practitioners work, by linking theory to practice.
Prison interior between cell bars
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Forensic science

We're taking a closer look at how science can help identify, eliminate, reconstruct and inform the ways in which crime is investigated – including through fingerprinting and DNA recovery.
female forensics researcher analysing fingerprint scan on a computer
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Research groups

Risk Counter Fraud and Cyber Resilience Research Group
We're researching the challenge of fraud and its effective control, focussing on how to inform the practice and delivery of security from public and private sector perspectives.

Transformative Justice Research Group
We're promoting research and scholarship that have the transformative potential for the practice of criminal and social justice.

Interested in a PhD in Criminology?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Criminology postgraduate research degrees page.