A critical evaluation of the role of communication aids in police investigative interviews with witnesses with a Learning Disability
This study evaluates the use of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) in police investigative interviews with witnesses with a Learning Disability in England and Wales, through an analysis of anticipated and typical repairs within a Conversational Analysis framework. Communication breakdowns are frequently observed in Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) interviews with vulnerable witnesses due to a range of interviewer, interviewee or other reason (Sanders et al. 1996; Milne and Bull 2006; Antaki et al. 2015). Registered Intermediaries (RI) facilitate communication between the police and the witness so that the quality of evidence (i.e. completeness, coherence and accuracy) is improved. Typically RIs do so using Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC). When planning the interview with the interviewing officer, the RI frequently anticipates instances of probable breakdown and/or will intervene with a typical repair. The research here adopts mixed methods to analyse this specific type of institutional interaction to identify the extent to which the use of AAC impacts on the quality of evidence that is provided by a vulnerable witness. Different types of AAC will also be evaluated to establish which type(s) elicit qualitatively better evidence when used with witnesses with differing cognitive abilities.