What really is effective in interviews with suspects? A study comparing interviewing skills against interviewing outcomes


Correspondence should be addressed to Dave Walsh, School of Law and Criminology, University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby DE22 1GB, UK (e-mail: d.walsh@derby.ac.uk).


Purpose. The present study examines whether interviewing in a manner that is compatible with a recommended model of interviewing (called the ‘PEACE’ model) impacts on outcomes of the interviews examined in contrast to prior studies which have usually been concerned whether the conducted interviews were fair and not coercive or whether there had been positive effects of training upon subsequent interview performance.

Methods. This study, examining in detail 142 actual suspect interviews, is set in the barely researched area of social security benefit fraud, reflecting current trends in Britain concerning increasing numbers of interviews with suspects undertaken by public sector organizations and the pluralization of policing.

Results. It was found that good interviewing in each of the recommended stages that make up the PEACE model generally led to better interviews, indicating the importance that each stage contributes to overall interview quality. Further, the quality of interviews was compared against a range of interview outcomes and it was found that skilled PEACE interviewing was associated with the securing of full accounts, including confessions.

Conclusion. Given the few examples of skilled interviewing found in the study it is argued that further training of investigators is necessary to improve both interviewing performance and organizational outcomes.