Risks and benefits of interpreter-mediated police interviews

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Natalie Martschuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Identify best practice in interpreter use in suspect and intelligence interviews conducted by an international sample of experienced law enforcement practitioners in Asian Pacific jurisdictions (Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Sri Lanka).
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 121 practitioners who described their experiences with and perceptions of interpreter-mediated interviews. Responses were transcribed and coded by trained research assistants,
achieving a high degree of inter-rater reliability.
Findings: The practitioners agreed that interpreters changed the interview dynamic, and identified benefits and risks of interpreter use. The responses revealed misconceptions about interpreter codes of practice regarding neutrality. Major concerns were maintaining control of the interview, accuracy loss, maintenance of nonverbal communication, interview duration and fatigue. Strategies used to manage interviews were the selection of the interpreter, advance preparation regarding ground rules and content, and placement of the interpreter (behind/adjacent to the interviewee). The key to a successful interview was a skilled,
experienced interpreter.
Research Limitations: Although the purposive sample was not representative, data from multiple practitioners revealed commonalities across jurisdictions. Self-reports are subject to memory distortions and cannot be validated, thus future research in a controlled
experiment is recommended.
Practical Implications: Interviewer training is needed: (i) to familiarise interviewers with differences between trained, accredited interpreters and untrained bilinguals; and (ii) effective strategies to ensure accurate information, maintain nonverbal communication
and the legal right of interviewees to a fair interview.
Originality/Value: Unique insights were gained from experienced practitioners in the field on an important global issue. Their observations hold significance for interviewing practitioners, interview training programmes, and researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451‒471
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice and Security
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Risks and benefits of interpreter-mediated police interviews'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this