New briefing on ‘The Child’s Free Narrative in Child Protection Investigations’

Categories: Protection from abuse or neglect, Respect for the views of the child and Special protection measures

8th December 2015

Several approaches to interviewing children and young people who are subject to child protection investigations have been developed, including knowledge and skills for interviewers in encouraging free narrative. WithScotland has recently published this research.


Children in Scotland who are subject to child protection investigations are often interviewed jointly by specially trained police officers and social workers. Information gathered during these interviews informs risk assessment and may contribute to legal proceedings, either through the Children's Hearing system or criminal courts. In Scotland, visually recorded interviews may be used as Evidence-in-Chief.

The knowledge and skill of interviewers in encouraging free narrative from the child during interviews can contribute greatly to the quality of evidence obtained for risk assessment and potential legal proceedings. Interviewers need to have an understanding of how children access their memory and be able to use facilitative techniques in order to obtain best evidence, while keeping the child's best interest as their foremost consideration throughout the interview.

Key messages:

Research shows that children and young people who are jointly interviewed in relation to child protection concerns provide best evidence when they are enabled to access free-recall memory and are encouraged to provide a free narrative account of their experiences.

The free narrative style is a departure from everyday conversation in British culture, where a direct questioning style is the norm. Several approaches to interviewing children and young people have been developed.

Their effectiveness has been researched and evaluated to varying degrees. Professionals conducting joint investigative interviews in Scotland are generally confident in their ability to conduct interviews in accordance with the Scottish Government Guidance. However, research shows that interviewers consistently struggle with the open questioning style required in joint investigative interviews.


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