Video Technology and Police Interrogation Research Paper

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The audio-visual recording of police interviews with suspects provides a good example of several important issues in the relationships between technology and policing. Beyond matters of technological development and deployment, this research paper notes the social and political reception by police of new technology; the relevance of the social meanings of technology as a potential solution to policing problems; problems which are raised by over-reliance on technological solutions; and problems in the social reading of images produced by audio-visual technology.

Key Issues

Technological Development And Deployment

The recording of questioning has a long history before introduction of the electronic recording which is the focus of this research paper. In the thirteenth century, technologies (record-keeping procedures, synopses, archives, and indices) were developed by those responsible for the Inquisition along with bureaucracies to store and retrieve records of procedures, hearings, admissions, and confessions (Murphy 2012: 40–43). Interest in using electronic recording in police interviews tracked the development of accessible, reliable, and simple recording equipment. Serious interest in the topic emerged in the 1960s and field trials and informal local use occurred in a number of places (Baldwin 1992; Geller 1992). However, widespread systematic use emerged in response to concerns about policing practices in the 1980s.

In a number of jurisdictions, courts and legislatures have required the use of electronic recording, notably in response to recognition of miscarriages of justice. Notably, audio-recording was one of the products of the reform of criminal procedure in England and Wales resulting from the Confait Inquiry and the Philips Royal Commission (Dixon 1997). The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 required police manually to record contemporaneous notes from the time of the legislation’s implementation in 1986 until audio-recording equipment and procedures could be made available. In Australia, the various federal, state, and territory policing agencies introduced general audio-visual recording in the 1990s: a High Court decision restricting the admission of confessions and admissions which were not electronically recorded hurried this process along (Dixon 1997: Chap. 5).

The availability of reliable, economical audiotaping made a crucial difference in consideration of this issue. Judicial willingness to allow police the benefit of the doubt in admitting contested confessions waned. There was, it could be argued, no need for any such doubt if electronic recording facilities could provide an indisputable record of what was said. It then found legislative standing in a series of federal and state reforms of criminal procedure. There were similar developments in New Zealand and Canada. In the USA, there has been widespread adoption of electronic recording across the vast archipelago of policing agencies. Illinois, Maine, and the District of Columbia legislated to require electronic recording of custodial interrogation in homicide investigations. In addition, taping is required in Alaska and Minnesota as a result of court rulings (Sullivan 2010). Such recording is often limited to a rehearsed confession rather than the whole interview. (Problems with this approach are addressed below.) Other jurisdictions are drawing on these experiences as reforms of criminal process are considered: for example, Japanese authorities are currently looking with interest at the audio-visual recording experience in Australia.

Rapid developments in technology facilitated the spread of recording. Notably, the replacement of bulky, relatively fragile VHS tapes with digital recording has made electronic recording much more manageable. (The basic responsibility to store recorded VHS tapes created great difficulty in some stations.) Jurisdictions have differed in their choice of audio or audio-visual recording. England and Wales rely primarily on audio-recording, despite recurrent sporadic interest in audio-visual recording and various field trials. As well as cost and equipment reliability, there has been concern about the interpretation of visual images (an issue to be addressed below). By contrast, audio-visual recording has been the norm from the start in Australia.

Parochialism in development has been a common theme. In decentralized jurisdictions such as Australia and the USA, there has been considerable inefficiency in development as neighboring agencies go through similar development processes independently. Lack of knowledge and policy sharing, conflicts and jealousies, and the career benefits to those seen to innovate rather than follow neighbors have been common. Unfortunately, there have been similar trends at international level. Notably, in the USA, academics and criminal justice professionals continue to produce numerous discussions of the possibility of audio-visual recording as if its introduction would be novel: there is little recognition that several Australian jurisdictions have been using audio-visual recording since the early 1990s, not just in field trials, research experiments, or selected cases, but routinely for questioning about all indictable offenses. Simple ignorance is not the issue: some such commentators have attended conferences at which Australian practice has been discussed. An American colleague acerbically explained this as a product of the belief that any innovation from outside the USA was either second-rate, socialist, or, most likely, both.

In Anglo-American discussions of audiovisual recording, technology provided a simple solution to one of the common concerns about recording police questioning, that the record would be subject to interference and alteration. VHS and audiocassette tapes were inscribed with a timeline, making any editing clearly detectable. Even more simply, recording machines were developed which simultaneously recorded several tapes, one of which was given to the suspect on completion of interview. Similar security procedures apply to digital recording. No doubt, interference with a recording may exist as a technological possibility: however, this has not been a practical concern in jurisdictions which have implemented general recording regimes. Digital recording provides an additional level of security. In sophisticated, connected digital systems, it is increasingly difficult to delete a record permanently and comprehensively. One of the less-noted scandals in the Guantanamo story was the destruction of tapes recording the torture and coercive interrogation of detainees. Such interference with justice processes should be more difficult today.

Emerging technology should solve one current problem, resulting from the involvement of people in the process. In England and Wales, significant problems have been reported in the accuracy of synopses and transcriptions of interviews (Baldwin 1993; Gudjonsson 2003: 86, 114). In the state of New South Wales, Australia, police rely on transcripts produced by an external contractor. This introduces a new realm of potential problems, with concerns over the security and reliability of such contractors. As the accuracy and reliability of voice recognition technology improves, the need for human transcription diminishes.

The Problem Which Technology Is To Address

Police interrogation has long been a source of problems and controversy in criminal justice around the world. Police malpractice has ranged from unintentional inducement of false confessions, to fabrication of confessions (“verballing”), to torture. Sometimes of equal concern to the authorities have been allegations of abuse which have been false or unverifiable, but which cause delay in the justice process and harm the reputation of police. A series of connected responses developed in English-speaking countries. In the 1960s, the US Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to require protection of suspects’ rights, notably through access to legal counsel (Miranda v Arizona 384 US 436, 1966). In the 1980s, detailed statutory regulation of custodial interrogation was introduced in England and Wales via the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In Australia, the High Court developed the law of evidentiary admissibility, and Commonwealth and state statutory regulation was introduced (Dixon 1997: Chap.5).

In the wake of these responses, official concern about interrogation and confessions waned, partly because it was thought that judicial and statutory responses had been adequate, partly because of the shift in public concern from due process to crime control, partly because other issues became more fashionable for policymakers, grant-funding agencies, and academic researchers. However, such concern has been sharply revived in this century as false confessions emerged as a significant source of the miscarriages of justice which have been disclosed by the use of DNA analysis. This is particularly the case in the USA, where the limits of judicial supervision even in capital cases have been exposed by the acknowledgment of a mass of miscarriages of justice through use of DNA. False or coerced confessions have been a significant contributor to the wrongful convictions which have become a national scandal (Gross 2008; Justice Project: 2007). Similarly in England, some of the contentious disputes over alleged miscarriages of justice stemming from false confessions have been resolved by DNA analysis.

There has been a common theme in many responses to these controversies: police interrogation should be audio-visually recorded. Indeed, electronic recording is frequently presented as a solution to the ills of custodial interrogation. Interest in such recording is not new: there had been calls for its use from the time that recording equipment was widely available. These inquiries did not just identify the problem: they also usually reported that a solution was available in the form of electronic recording. In 1987, McClintock and Healey observed that in “Australia over the last 20 years, virtually every report which has touched on the law relating to criminal investigation” had recommended the tape recording of interviews and that the “same concerns have been echoed in nearly every common law jurisdiction across in the world” (1987: 7). However, the contemporary calls for audio-visual recording are more widespread, united and urgent than before. They draw on the widespread familiarity with electronic recording as a means of social control via CCTV (Newburn and Hayman 2002).

Notably, calling for the use of electronic recording has become a standard component of proposed programs to avoid miscarriages of justice in Canada (FPT Heads of Prosecutions Committee 2004; PPSC 2011: Chap.6) and the USA (Drizin and Reich 2004; Leo 2008). A prominent example was provided in 2003 by the state of Illinois. In response to concern about the execution of people who had been wrongfully convicted, Illinois required police to electronically record interviews with murder suspects. The reform was designed “to restore the integrity of the criminal justice system.” (Governor Rod Blagojevich, quoted “Ill. Law 1st to order taping murder confessions” USA Today, 18 July 2001, 3A.) All too often, electronic recording is put forward as a panacea. There is little consideration of how it will deal with the problem: it is taken for granted that it will.

Police Attitudes To Electronic Recording

In the 1980s, many police officers expressed outright opposition to mandatory recording schemes, stressing the practical problems of audio or audio-visual recording: it was claimed that electronic recording would be expensive, mechanically unreliable, difficult to arrange in remote locations and open to manipulation by suspects pretending they had been assaulted by investigators during audio-recording or playing to the camera in audio-visual recording. (Some objections were dealt with the way electronic recording was introduced: notably, the incorporation of video recording met the concern that suspects would pretend they were being assaulted.) These instrumental police objections to electronic recording are only part of the story. They were often vehicles for expressing opposition to proposals seen as a slight on their integrity and an inappropriate interference in their business. Specifically, the interrogation room has been the heart of private police territory and interrogation practice seen as a confined, confidential police concern. Having outsiders intrude both symbolically and instrumentally into the interrogation room touched raw nerves among many police.

However, such opposition is usually short-lived. Experience in several jurisdictions suggests that most fears about electronic recording of interviews with suspects were exaggerated or misplaced. Police reluctance to adopt electronic recording inevitably raised suspicion that they had something to hide. It also sat uncomfortably with their enthusiasm for other technological developments, such as wiretapping. As appears to be typical, police resistance to taping faded away as officers were reassured about its detrimental effect, or simply came to accept electronic recording as part of normal, everyday practice. Police also came to appreciate the benefit of electronic recording: they could rebut accusations of malpractice and (when using audiovisual) present to courts images of the defendant as they were when arrested, which often contrast unfavorably with that of the polite, well-dressed person in the dock. Police officers and prosecutors routinely were enthusiastic about the court being able to see the contrast between the neatly dressed, polite defendant in the dock and the scruffy, abusive suspect shown in the audiovisual record. The outcome is that police and prosecutors are much more favorable towards electronic recording than defense lawyers. More worryingly, police have come to rely on images for other purposes.

Reading Images And Detecting Deception

In Australia, there was concern that using visual images in evidence could be problematic, considering whether “a record of things such as tattoos, speech, mannerism, dress, demeanor and language” might be prejudicial to some defendants. This was balanced by advantages to suspects, such as showing the pressure applied by police or the drug-affected condition of the suspect (CLRD 1986: 15). However, the CLRD did not foresee that the problem would be not responses to objectively identifiable matter such as dress and tattoos, but subjective interpretations of behavior – the reading of “body language” in order to draw inferences and, particularly, to detect deception. This meant that a potential problem of using video was (and continues to be) underestimated.

In the USA, an industry has grown providing training to police in detecting deception. The major interrogation trainers include deception detection as a key part of interrogation training. The availability of videotaped records of interview encourages such training, but also allows prosecutors, judges, and juries to participate in deception detecting. In Australia, some judges accepted unscientific claims about detection with remarkable ease. Judges and prosecutors are more likely than police to believe that demeanor is an indicator of veracity (Dixon 2007). Such judicial enthusiasm led to pressure for improvement in audio-visual technology picture quality, and, most significantly, the introduction of technology providing an image alternating between a general picture of the interview room and those present to a close-up of the suspect.

Alternating images have both advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious advantage is that for the first time the viewer can see a large, clear image of the suspect’s face during the interview. After years of (at times frustrating) attempts to make out how the suspect looks (Are his/her eyes closed? Is he/she falling asleep during some questions? How serious an injury is that mark on the forehead which is a blur from the distance? Is she visibly alcohol affected?), it is good to be offered such a large clear image of his or her face. The size and clarity of this image of the suspect greatly reduces what previously may have remained in the realm of guess work.

Among the disadvantages are that other persons present in the interview are only seen briefly, if at all. The camera records the whole interview table only for some 20 s every 3 min, before reverting to the face of the suspect. For most of the time, the interviewers are not on screen. If audio-visual technology is to be used as a mechanism of supervision and accountability of interviewing officers, something is lost by focusing on the suspect. There is a relatively simple technological solution to this aspect of the problem. Replacing audio-visual recorders with units including two cameras which could produce split image or “picture in picture” images would allow simultaneous recording and presentation of both the suspect’s face and the room as a whole. However, this would not deal with the problem of misinterpretations of images.

This is not the place for a review of the extensive psychological literature on this topic. It is sufficient for present purposes to point out that the research evidence clearly establishes that, whatever a highly trained psychologist may be able to do in detecting deception, a judge (or indeed prosecutor, jury or police officer) cannot do so accurately, and that standard interview training does not increase the capacity to correctly identify deception (Vrij 2008). The widespread dissemination of schlock psychology through magazine articles or brief professional education courses is a matter of real concern, indicating the need for a vigorous program of appropriate education and training for criminal justice professionals, including judges and prosecutors, in any jurisdiction considering the use of video to record interviews with suspects.

The value of good psychological research in this area is shown by studies by Lassiter et al. (1986, 1992) which show how changes in the angle and direction of video-recording significantly influence understandings of interaction and assessments of police and suspects. This reinforces the crucial lesson that technology is not neutral: its social and psychological impacts are as important as its technical details.

The Context Of Recorded Interrogation

In the USA, electronic recording has set a significant challenge to criminal investigation practice. The dominant approach to police interrogation, the Reid Technique, emphasizes the psychological benefits to police of isolating suspects. Employees of Reid & Associates explain that interrogation involves psychological pressure on the suspect via “pretense and duplicity. It is therefore understandable that investigators were reluctant to publicly disclose these techniques to criminals who may benefit greatly from this knowledge and thus fortify resistance to telling the truth” (Buckley and Jayne 2005: 1). Perhaps a more substantial concern should be that judges, juries, and the general public who saw the whole interrogation process might disapprove of investigators who “may use vulgar language, may have physical contact with the suspects, may look at the suspect in an intimidating fashion, may make reference to incriminating, sometimes fictitious evidence against the suspect” (Buckley and Jayne 2005: 42) and other types of psychological coercion which the Reid Technique involves. If investigators fear criticism if their techniques were to be seen by courts, an obvious corollary is that they should not use them. If the introduction of comprehensive audio-visual recording leads to US police following their colleagues in the UK and Australia in abandoning interrogation techniques which have been shown to produce unreliable confessions, this would be a beneficial effect of the technology (Dixon 2010).

By contrast, in Australia, when audio-visual recording was introduced, it was presented as a technology which would deal with the problems – real and alleged – of police questioning by allowing outsiders to see what happened in the police interview room. It was taken for granted that the full interview, not just a rehearsed confession would be recorded. Through this clear “objective” window, the court should be able to see how a defendant came to confess. As McConville comments, “What seems to be on offer, for judges, lawyers and juries, is the chance to have the past replayed, enabling the viewer to look on as reality is being constructed. It is that promise which invests the video with such persuasive character” (1992a: 548). If, however, the recorded interaction is the product of earlier, unrecorded questioning, then video’s promise may be illusory. The danger that video may give a false gloss of authenticity is real: simply by virtue being on camera, the interview seems more compelling and tends to be accepted as legitimate.

Anyone who feels complacent about police questioning practices in an age of audio-visual recording would do well to read McConville’s disturbing account (1992a) of how some English police officers evaded controls on the questioning of suspects and were able to present audiovisually recorded accounts which gave no indication of the unrecorded misconduct in “interviews” which preceded them. While these were not officially recorded, they were captured by cameras and microphones installed in the station as part of a documentary project by a television company. The police force was experimenting with the use of audio-visual recording. In England and Wales, a system based on audiotaping was introduced in the later 1980s: there has been spasmodic interest in videotaping (Newburn et al. 2004). Apparently voluntary confessions given in bland interviews were shown to have been produced by deals, threats, and inducements. The official record of these interviews gave a misleading account of what occurred in a way that would have been convincing had not an unofficial record been available.

McConville argues that the misrepresentation effected by incomplete recording jeopardizes suspects, and that, far from protecting suspects’ rights, electronic recording undermines them. He warns that “where the police make threats or inducements or strike deals with suspects in private which then lead to a confession in the formal interrogation, the position of a complaining suspect will be weakened rather than strengthened by the supporting videotaped record of the confession because of its apparent ability to capture reality” (1992b: 962). Responding to similar earlier concerns in Australia, the Criminal Law Review Division had warned of the danger that electronic recording might be used to record rehearsed interviews, and consequently recommended that all questioning should be recorded (CLRD 1986:17, 41–42).

Much of this preparatory interviewing is innocuous. Far from the dramatic myth, many police investigations and interviews are mundane and not contentious. An assumption that unrecorded questioning routinely involves attempts to coerce or persuade suspects into confessing distracts attention from a less dramatic reality. Typically, officers talk to suspects to find out how they will respond to formal questioning and to prepare themselves for a formal interview. From this perspective, much informal interviewing is part of the process of planning and preparing for the formal, recorded interview. At its simplest, it tells an officer how much work he or she is going to have to do for the interview to be successful. These comments seek to be realistic about the nature of everyday police investigations without being complacent. It is recognized that, as McConville’s examples showed in England, an audio-visual record may present a completely misleading picture from which unreliable, unfair, and inappropriate tactics used during preparatory interrogation are obscured.

Equally, even if such tactics are not employed, a suspect or defendant could allege that they were. The result could be to revive the costly and damaging cycle of allegation and denial which electronic recording was intended to kill off. Dixon’s (2007) research reported some confessions which may have been obtained entirely properly, but the recording of which raises rather than dispels doubts. In one, a suspect confessed on a tape to a long series of armed robberies, including several for which he had apparently not been a suspect. On tape were merely the bland confessions, with no indication of the circumstances of their production. The investigating officers were at pains to record the suspect’s statement that he had not been offered any inducement. However, incidental references to access to legal advice and entry to a witness protection program indicated that these were important factors in the production of his confession. The potential for conjecture, and for lengthy legal dispute, about the reliability of such confessions is evident.

Competing claims have been made about whether malpractice preceding formal interviews can be detected from observing tapes. On one hand, McConville asserts that “it is not possible to tell from the video recording whether suspects have been the subject of improper pressure” (McConville 1992b: 962). Those of us who are skeptical about the ability of police interviewers to detect deception should be modest in their own claims that they can identify deception by police officers (Dixon 2007). Baldwin is slightly more optimistic, suggesting that “a recording is valuable in offering some insight into what has happened when a suspect is questioned and in providing a means by which an assessment might be made of whether a suspect has been bullied or primed beforehand” (Baldwin 1993: 328). Identifying pre-recording police misconduct was not straightforward, even with the availability of a visually recorded police interview. The audio-visual record may be valuable in indicating how a suspect has been treated earlier, but it is by no means conclusive (Dixon 2007).

Baldwin also suggests that “the techniques of discourse analysis have already been used in the courts in challenges to various forms of confession evidence, and there is no reason why they could not be used to good effect to expose indications of earlier conversations from the transcripts of formal interviews” (1992: 1096). Discourse analysis will, of course, only be a resort available to a small minority of suspects. For most of those who confess and plead guilty, the prospect of obtaining linguistic experts to analyze their interview will be remote.

It would be naive to think that the need to produce an audio-visual record exerts no influence on officers’ behavior, or that suspects can be coerced into agreeing to anything. Even officers who are prepared to coerce suspects have to be confident that any mistreatment of, pressure on, or deal struck with a suspect is going to be effective enough to ensure that there is no embarrassing outburst when the interview is recorded. Equally, it would be naive to suggest that it is only police who prefer some interaction to be unrecorded. Some suspects may be prepared to speak informally, but not to cooperate during the recorded interview. Some detectives suggest that many experienced criminals will talk to the interviewer informally, but will not cooperate when what they are saying is recorded (Dixon 2007). Perhaps more significantly, suspects may well be reluctant to talk on the record about other people’s involvement in offenses, or indeed their own involvement in offenses other than that for which they were arrested.

Concentrating on coerced confessions which have been obtained before the audio-visual recorder is activated would divert our attention from more mundane but significant issues. It would be valuable to pay closer attention to cases in which such interviewing is openly acknowledged. For example, from a psychological perspective, the compliant and responsive role allocated to the suspect in procedures for adopting previous questions and answers may have significant effects. Dixon reports one extreme instance in which a suspect was asked no less than 96 “Do you agree … ?” questions in 15 min, all of which were answered “Yes.” The repetition of questions in this form is highly conducive to compliance. Psychological and linguistic analysis may demonstrate the subtle reconstruction of statements in these processes. Almost inevitably, a DYA question will contain the officer’s paraphrase of the original exchange even if an attempt at contemporaneous note-taking is made: a suspect’s cursory signature confirms the semblance of quoted speech.

This point must not be overstated. It is certainly better that a suspect is asked to “adopt” on tape a confession or admission which has been made away from recording facilities than that police are permitted to give evidence of unrecorded confessions and admissions. This was vividly demonstrated by a case in which the High Court of Australia unfortunately declared admissible police evidence of an unrecorded, incriminatory comment made by a suspect in police station car park soon after the conclusion of a recorded interview in which he had denied the offense. (Kelly [2004] HCA 12. By contrast with this narrow legalism, the High Court adopted a purposive approach in Nicholls and Coates [2005] HCA 1.) This approach simply invites process corruption.

Responding To The Problem Of Unrecorded Questioning

It has been suggested here that unrecorded, preparatory interviewing is usually a matter of routine. Nonetheless, it threatens the integrity of the system. An audio-visual recording shows that a suspect made confessions or admissions, not how he or she came to do so. As noted above, establishing the reliability of a confession is harder than merely proving that it was in fact made. Given what we know from many jurisdictions about deliberate misconduct and inadvertent influence by interviewers and about apparently irrational responses by suspects, there is no room for complacency. It is necessary to have as much questioning recorded as possible. The problems of recording field interrogations mean that questioning should be conducted in police stations wherever feasible. This should not put unrealistic demands on police. Claims that spontaneous outbursts make recording impracticable echo arguments from the 1980s that electronic recording would be impossible. The response now should be same as then: of course, exceptions must be allowed, but these must be in defined circumstances and/or subject to rigorous scrutiny.

So long as much interviewing is conducted before the recorder is activated, there will be room for controversy about what happened. Such controversy includes doubt about the reliability of recorded confessions. The potential benefits of electronic recording are dissipated if it is used to record rehearsed material. It should be stressed that, from all the evidence available, the costs and problems to police of comprehensive recording are minimal. If a police officer feels uncomfortable about using an interviewing technique on tape, then that technique may well not produce reliable results. The costs are minimal, but they exist. As explained above, there are going to be occasions when recording is impossible or inappropriate – for example, when a suspect insists that he/she will not name an accomplice while being recorded. This is not an unusual dilemma in policing: the objective is the minimization of problems, not some problem-free utopia. Police should record all questioning of suspects conducted within police stations and should only interview suspects in police stations (except in cases of exceptional need which fall within specified categories). Wherever possible, suspects should be asked to repeat unrecorded confessions on tape. If they are not asked to do so (or their refusal to do so is not recorded), there should be grave suspicion about such confessions.

Dealing with partial recording requires a more general remedy. What is needed is a renewed commitment to the legal regulation of policing by the development of rules, policies, and standards (Dixon 1997: Chap. 7). This does not mean more rules, a message which would find favor with no-one. It means having better rules which become “working rules,” (i.e., part of the cultural and other norms which guide everyday working practice) rather than “inhibitory rules” (which are effective only if there is an immediate prospect of their enforcement) or “presentational rules” (whose main purpose is to placate a public audience).

Such rules must be made with legislative authority, not left to the police to produce. None the less, police should be directly involved in the production of the rules in this as in other areas (Dixon 1997: Chap. 7). While courts will play an important role in interpreting and enforcing rules, they cannot be expected to take the leading role in regulating policing. In their different ways, the experiences of the USA and Australia demonstrate that judicial control is inadequate because it depends on the vagaries of case law, which does not allow for detailed prospective regulation.

Legal regulation should establish positions from which a variety of pressures are put on the investigatory practice of police officers. Audio-visual recording is just one of those potential pressures. Others include proficient, well-resourced legal advisers (and, for vulnerable suspects, social workers trained to take the role of appropriate adult); rules of evidence in the hands of judges and magistrates who are prepared to be active in the control of policing; and senior officers who are prepared to supervise in order to ensure that investigators work within the rules and use approved techniques for questioning suspects. None of these is a panacea or a silver bullet. While it is as foolish to think of them as such, it is equally foolish to reject one or the other on the ungrounded assumption that it will not change police practices. Progress may be possible through the combination of various (admittedly flawed) mechanisms, of which audio-visual recording is one.


This assessment of electronic recording of police questioning of suspects raises much broader and more complex issue of regulating police practice. Audio-visual recording is not enough by itself: it must be used as a tool in a general regime of regulation. The recorded interview is just one stage in a suspect’s detention. Its reliability and propriety depend substantially on legal regulation of the context in which interviewing takes place. Such problems can only be tackled by much more rigorous regulation of investigative practices and, in particular, by requiring that (with the caveats noted above) all interviews should be electronically recorded in full. There are obvious incentives for officers to question suspects before a formal recorded session. If electronic recording is to have a significant role in controlling police interviewing and ensuring the reliability of confessions by providing more than confirmation of what a suspect said in a rehearsed interview, then effective legal and supervisory regulation of investigative practices is necessary. Audio-visual recording offers significant benefits to criminal justice, but is no panacea. It can even be counterproductive if it instills a false confidence that all is well. Indeed, there is an urgent need to acknowledge and deal with other problems in the regulation of custodial interrogation.


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