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Investigation Interview Observers

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The interviewee in an investigation situation may be entitled to have an observer present for the interview.

Unfortunately the observers often interrupt the interview, distract the interviewer and do their best to prevent him or her from getting to the truth.

Here are some tips to help ensure that the observers do not disrupt your interviews

  1. Before the start of the interview arrange the seating so that the observer sits out of sight of the interviewee, preferably behind him or her.

    This will prevent the observer communicating with the interviewee by mouthing words and using gestures, body language and expressions.

    It also allows you to see the person all the time.

    Sitting the observer behind you is the worst alternative of all as you cannot see what he is communicating to the interviewee, which may significantly hamper your interview.

  2. Before the interview starts, advise the observer of his or her role in the interview.

    Use a standard introduction or checklist to ensure you cover all the issues.

  3. Make sure that the observer understands that he or she is to observe only and not to say anything.

    Explain that if the observer does not comply with these conditions he or she will be asked to leave the interview.

  4. Record everything that you say to the observer. This can be done in the same manner as you are recording the interview.

    Recording what you say will help prevent any allegations that you acted unreasonably.

  5. If the observer disrupts the interview remind him or her of the observer’s role.

    If the observer interrupts a second or third time, generally ask him or her to leave.

  6. Generally do not let the observer inspect a copy of the interviewee’s record of interview or statement before the interviewee signs it.

    If the observer sees the record of interview or statement before it is signed he or she may try to discourage the interviewee from signing it or raise spurious objections.

    Note any comments that he or she makes and take appropriate action.

  7. Watch the observer’s expressions and body language if practical. It can give you very strong signals about whether or not you are asking the right questions.

    Often the greater his or her discomfort or dismay the better you are doing.

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For more tips, advice and practical pointers see our Investigation Manual.