Police interviews with suspected paedophiles: A discourse analysis

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A review of the literature suggests that the principles of investigative interviewing in the UK do not translate well to the interviewing of suspects ( Clarke and Milne, 2001). In fact, studies have revealed that rather than encourage uninterrupted ordinary narratives from suspects, police officers seek institutionally preferred versions of events ( Auburn et al., 1995) and adopt legal discourse which is excessively precise ( Gibbons, 2003) and, in interviews with suspected paedophiles, sexually explicit (Benneworth, 2006). This article will explore how an interviewing officer manages this conflict in an interaction with a suspected paedophile. An investigative interview with a 54-year-old male suspected of sexually assaulting a female between the ages of 8 to 12 years was transcribed and examined using a discourse analytic framework. The analysis identifies interactional difficulties faced by the interviewer and considers the implications for the progression of the investigative interview. The findings suggest how interviewers might manage these challenges to maximize information acquisition, highlighting the importance of encouraging uninterrupted narratives from suspected paedophiles. This article considers the wider application of discourse analysis to the criminal investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-569
Number of pages15
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009


  • Discourse analysis
  • Investigative interview
  • Language
  • Police interrogation
  • Suspected paedophile
  • TALK

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