The Centre of Forensic Interviewing (CoFI) was founded in 2010 by Professor Becky Milne to meet a need for a specialist centre to bring together research, teaching and training, with each area informing the next in a cyclical relationship.
As a highly specialised area that's influential on policy and practice for government departments, police forces and other law enforcement professionals, both in the UK and abroad, it was necessary to establish a foundation based on research and practice. Based within the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Portsmouth, the Centre provides teaching to students of criminology-related subjects in conjunction with research opportunities for those wishing to examine any topic within the field of interviewing and investigation, alongside training and knowledge transfer initiatives for professionals working in investigative interviewing.
The Centre works closely with the International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG), a network of people with collaborative interests, working with international bodies committed to improving investigative interviewing (internationally) and ensuring improvements are underpinned by a robust evidence base.
The Centre is linked with the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), a national hub for understanding, countering and mitigating security threats. Read Becky Milne's CREST Guide to the Cognitive Interview.
The Centre is linked with the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC), which aims to enhance collaboration and co-operation between basic and applied researchers in memory and cognition.
Research, teaching and training
People undertaking research into investigative interviews at Portsmouth have the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge of specialists working in the field of law enforcement, from both the academic and professional sides of the subject, in one of the first industry-standard digital recording suites within one of the UK’s largest criminal justice research centres.
Topics currently being researched within and associated to the Centre of Forensic Interviewing include:
- a national examination of serious sexual offence victim interviews
- interviewing vulnerable groups (people with Asperger’s and children)
- sex offenders: the best ways to interview using different typologies
- hand-written statements: how accurate are they?
- a national evaluation of the CI in the field (in New Zealand)
- transferability of interviewing skills into the workplace (with the Norwegian Police College and National Netherlands Police)
- the best methods to interview victims of human trafficking
- public perception of police interviews
- the use of interpreters in the interview room
- best methods for gathering intelligence
- front-line communication - BWV footage - investigative and evidential use
In an environment where expectations of professionalism and transparency have never been greater, the CoFI works to meet these requirements by bringing students and trainees together with senior investigators, international academic experts and civil professionals in a purpose-built unit.
Conferences we deliver
The centre delivers biennial conferences in the field of forensic interviewing. Recent conferences covered themes of justice and communication, in relation to vulnerability and childhood. Speakers include Professor Penny Cooper (Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London and 39 Essex Chambers, London), Dr Kevin Smith (National Vulnerable Witness Advisor NCA), Dr Patrick Tidmarsh (Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Team, Family Violence Command, Victoria Police, Australia) and Professor Miet Vanderhallen (University of Antwerp).
The Institute of Criminal Justice Studies (ICJS) is one of the UK’s largest centres for learning in the criminal justice field. Students, both under- and post-graduate, within the Institute can benefit from the CoFI’s academic specialists and access to the same equipment used by law enforcement professionals. Explore our courses in criminology and forensics.
Training is available for all types of investigator, from those learning the basics to advanced practitioners.
Our programmes are designed to share techniques for investigators to obtain the optimal evidence from interviews with suspects, victims and witnesses while emphasising transparency, ethical values and the requirements that all evidence should be admissible in criminal and civil environments. All programmes meet the UK National Occupational standards and are delivered by proven and experienced practitioners in the field. The following courses are available:
- PIP Level 2 & PIP Level 2 Specialist
- Training for trainers
- Investigative interviewing: the SIO perspective
- Investigative interviewing: the fundamentals
The Centre provides a practical policing solution in a University environment for investigative interviewing - one of the first of its kind.
Assessment of interviewer skill competence
We offer an assessment service of organisations' interviewer skills, providing feedback at individual interviewer level and organisational advice.
The Masterclass programme is a series of workshops led by international experts, both academics and practitioners, in areas such as detecting deceit, vulnerable groups (people with learning disability, people with mental disorders, children and the elderly), sex offenders, the role of the intermediary, and fitness for interview.
Where a course is not currently available to meet your training needs, we can produce bespoke packages to fit your specific organisational requirements.
Completed training events cover themes such as:
- Interviewing suspects in cases of alleged sex crime
- Historic abuse cases: psychological and investigative challenges
- Analysing investigative information using SE3R
- Putting theory into practice – interviews with suspects in the real world
- Interviewing vulnerable adults with intellectual disabilities
- Interview strategy: the SIO perspective
- The cognitive interview
- The content analysis approach in assessing statement credibility
Sellafield Ltd is the company responsible for safely delivering decommissioning, reprocessing and nuclear waste management activities on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
The company has sites at Sellafield in Cumbria and Capenhurst in Cheshire as well as an extensive engineering design capability based at Risley in Warrington. Nuclear Site Licence Condition 7 Incidents on the Site requires the formal notification, recording, reporting and investigation of events and incidents and as an organisation we are continually looking outside the nuclear industry to enhance our investigative techniques to improve the standards of our investigations.
The work of Dr Becky Milne and her team in the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies - Centre of Forensic Interviewing at Portsmouth University was identified by a member of the Sellafield Human Factors Team and arrangements were made to deliver two Cognitive Interviewing courses at the Sellafield Site. This was the first such collaborative project for Sellafield and also the first time Becky, Steve and Dee Croft have worked with a non-police group.
Everyone involved in the two sessions enjoyed the involvement and many have now had the opportunity to use the tools with great benefit during recent boards of inquiry. The information received from the interviews undertaken has been of extremely high quality and depth and we already believe that the investment has paid off.
We are looking forward to further collaborative projects with Becky and her team and are investigating future opportunities for research projects that will be mutually beneficial to both parties.
Resources and equipment
Students and researchers within the Centre of Forensic Interviewing can take advantage of the industry-standard systems used in the criminal justice sector. Digital recording equipment (provided by Indico Systems) captures audio and video from the Centre’s fully-furnished interview rooms, and saves all files securely to a private network within the Institute. This allows users to show live footage of an interview, to scan through recordings, and to bookmark significant moments.
With industry-standard digital recording equipment and access to academic knowledge of forensic interviewing procedures married with practical policing, the Centre and its staff have the aim to provide a broad range of opportunities for practitioners, students and academics within the ever-growing world of investigative interviewing.
Centre staff have been closely involved with the development of the systems as a tool for research, teaching and best use within criminal justice workforces.