Police use of interpreters in routine cases: Challenges and innovative solutions

Dr Loene M Howes1
1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Police use of interpreters is a matter of human rights. It is one important practice that can contribute to equitable access to justice, from the start of the justice process. Recent research has focused on police use of interpreters with high-value detainees in the contexts of national and international security. This focus can be explained by a high level of scrutiny of such cases and an explicit duty of care to detainees. By contrast, limited research has considered police use of interpreters with victims, witnesses, and suspects in the types of cases to which police routinely respond in the context of a multicultural Australian society. Drawing from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, this presentation considers emerging best practices in police use of interpreters. It reports the findings of a study of police investigators’ experiences of working with interpreters in two Australian jurisdictions. The presentation discusses the challenges identified by police investigators in their work with interpreters. It reports innovative solutions that are developing in practice in investigative interviews and other interpreter-assisted aspects of police work. The presentation concludes by proposing a research agenda to enhance current practices in police use of interpreters and contribute to improved access to justice for all.


Loene is a lecturer in Criminology in the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania. She is a researcher in the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies and the Institute for the Study of Social Change. Loene’s interdisciplinary and applied research aims to contribute to improved social justice by enhancing the effectiveness of communication in the criminal justice process. Her current research projects explore the internationalisation of criminology in higher education and police interviewers’ experiences of working with interpreters.


The association between offence type and frontline police trainee interviewing performance.

Hamida Zekiroski1, Rachel Gerrie1, Martine Powell1,

1Centre for Investigative Interviewing, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Interviewing witnesses of crime is a central plank in frontline police work. Therefore, officers must be skilled in eliciting the highest quality and quantity of information from the witness. Decades of research has shown that the use of open-ended, non-leading questions elicit the most accurate, elaborate statements from witnesses. We also know that quality of training accounts for most of the variance in non-leading open-ended question use (which is the main indicator of interview quality).   This study examined the association between crime type and adherence to open-ended questioning (i.e., best-practice interviewing) in 38 frontline police officers from an Australian jurisdiction enrolled in an investigative interviewing training course. Proportion of open-ended questions was compared across five different stages of skill acquisition.  Results showed significant differences in open-ended question usage asked across crime types in many of the assessment positions. The implication of these results, and recommendations for future research, are discussed.

Hamida Zekiroski is a researcher and trainer for the Centre for Investigative Interviewing and assists with the management and implementation of a comprehensive investigative interviewing training course for frontline police. She is currently completing a PhD on the utility of mock interviews in police training programs.

False confessions in Australian Wrongful Convictions

Lisanne Adam1
1RMIT University – Graduate School Of Business And Law, Melbourne, Australia

Confession evidence is considered the strongest evidence in criminal proceedings, hence, a false confession could be problematic. The exonerations of innocent individuals who falsely confessed have led to global awareness of this issue in criminal justice systems.  Although most is known about US exonerations, it would be unrealistic to believe wrongful convictions do not happen outside the US. Indeed, more and more evidence surfaces around the world that false confessions are made in every country. In Australia, the general public has been confronted with wrongful conviction cases in which a false confession was made. The media coverage of exonerated individuals such as John Button, Darryl Beamish and more recently Gene Gibson have brought the issue to the attention of the general public.  The underlying reason for their false confessions differ, Button, for instance, was distraught and exhausted and confessed to escape his interrogation. Gibson’s English proficiency was limited and came to believe that he would get ‘big time’ jail if he did not confess. This presentation will focus on the underlying reasons why an individual confesses to a crime he or she did not commit. The presenter will differentiate the types of false confessions identified by Kassin and Wrightsman (e.g.  voluntary false confessions, coerced internalised and coerced compliant) and explain these different types of false confessions in Australian wrongful conviction cases. The presenter will also emphasise the importance of defence lawyers’ knowledge on this issue and the importance of their ability to identify false confessions in police interviews with their clients.

Lisanne Adam (LL.M) is a PhD candidate at the GSBL of RMIT University. She was previously affiliated with the Not Guilty: The Sydney Exoneration Project of the University of Sydney. During her work for this project she identified the key issues with regards to false confessions and wrongful convictions. In her PhD research she analyses the prevalence of- and underlying reasons for false confessions which contribute to Australian wrongful convictions.


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