Towards the development of a framework for the interviewing of vulnerable people by the police in Japan

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: Leicester De Montfort Law School


This application develops research collaboration between researchers and police officers, both in Japan and the UK, to identify, for the first time, the framework for a best practice model for the interviewing of vulnerable adult victims, witnesses and suspects in Japan (e.g. those with learning difficulties or experiencing post-event trauma). Such a model would, through academic-practitioner dialogues, assist the police in Japan as they strive for better investigative interviewing practice, which has underlined their revised approaches to criminal investigation over the past decade.

Criminal investigations are often characterised by the police attempting to establish what happened, and by whom, and to whom. As such, it also common to find that information from victims themselves (and indeed eyewitnesses and suspects) is crucial to these goals.While there have been steps taken recently in Japan to enable the police better interview children, less is understood of other vulnerable people. A similar absence of guidance has been found elsewhere to lead to miscarriages of justice. As such, the demand for such a protocol, based on scientific evidence, is urgent.

This timely research builds on the excellent bilateral relations that exists between the researchers in Japan and the UK, and the project will answer the following research questions:

What do the police in Japan believe they do when interviewing vulnerable adult victims, witnesses and suspects?

Can the police in the UK, with the benefit of the established guidance and the training they have received assist the Japanese police to develop a protocol for the interviewing of such vulnerable adults?

Are the interview techniques (as recorded in the scientific literature, and also as professed by practitioners) believed to be effective in their aims of obtaining reliable testimony (and why)?

What are the particular challenges for the police in Japan when they interview vulnerable adult victims and witnesses (and how do they address them)?

This research is pioneering in that it will provide the conditions for future research collaborations that includes practitioners from both countries. Firstly, by building relations with the police in Japan the research team will examine how they can assist the police when they undertake interviews with vulnerable adults. This will be achieved by exploring current practices and procedures (as well as attitudes) underpinning police interviews with these people. This initial information will provide a baseline for identifying ways of improving the investigative interviewing of such interviewees.

Following review of the extant literature pertaining to this topic, there will be three symposia (two in the UK, and one in Japan), which will act as the platform for developing relations between academics and practitioners from both countries in order to exchange views on the project and its direction and its emerging findings. These findings will be supplemented by a survey of police officers in Japan to develop an understanding of their current practice concerning interviews with vulnerable adults.

The data yielded from the symposia and the survey will be presented to front line officers in Japan at a workshop in that country with recommendations for the development of a protocol, gaining their responses
Our final findings will be presented to a senior team of police officers from both UK and Japan, acting as a baseline to empirically test our findings both in the laboratory and in the field in a future research project.

As such the project brings together a multi-disciplinary team of academics and police officers from both countries, delivering benefits gained from international co-working, through cross-cultural and international research collaborations, as well as developing better ways of interviewing vulnerable adults to achieve criminal justice in the UK and Japan.

Planned Impact

The project team will develop evidence-based recommendations, enabling Japanese academics, practitioners and policy makers to further their understanding of criminal investigations involving vulnerable adults.
The results from the survey will be disseminated to both academics and non-academic stakeholders, through several pieces of written literature, appropriate to the target audience. In addition, the results will be disseminated at academic conferences. As such, this range of activities will inform academic and practitioner audiences and contribute to overcoming shortfalls in current knowledge.

The three symposia and the workshop will be designed to allow issues to emerge and discussions to be conducted that will enable the project to progress towards meeting its aim. Senior Police officers from both Japan and the UK will attend the symposia (with officers from the UK travelling to Japan, and vice versa) allowing them to be well placed to formulate and embed further bi-lateral relations and mutual learning. Further, the project findings at the workshop will provide a much needed information evidence base for Japanese police officers to conduct effective interviews with vulnerable adults. Immediately after the workshop a presentation followed with a Q & A session to senior police officers in Japan will be undertaken to act as a platform for subsequent research activity beyond the life cycle of the current proposed project.

In terms of measuring our impact, an integral element of the research strategy is to develop measures to identify existing beliefs and attitudes of practitioners towards vulnerability (through both the survey conducted in the early stages of the project and in the symposia). Moreover, the final workshop in Japan provides opportunity to measure these beliefs as the project concludes. Accordingly, our research methodology will be fundamental to the metrics of the project, providing information and understanding of the trajectories of learning in the symposia and in the workshop, once compared to that baseline obtained from the initial survey. It is envisaged that our range of planned activities will be supported by a publicity strategy by De Montfort University to disseminate to wider audiences globally. DMU is the United Nations' chosen partner to collaborate in meeting Sustainable Development Goal 16, whose aims possess compatibility with those of the proposed project (i.e. the provision of access to justice for all). As such, it is expected that we will gain exposure internationally, including that of the United Nations. A one-day event showcasing the project will be undertaken at DMU, available to academics, students and practitioners.

Our research project involves various tasks

Establishment of current knowledge
Seeking views from senior practitioners in the UK and Japan at symposia and the final Q and A session
Seeking views from frontline practitioners at the workshop in Japan
Seeking academic views through informal discussions during the project and when we disseminate project findings in articles and at conferences.

Hence the final report will be sourced from a myriad of perspectives, and, thus, will provide the initial platform to develop an evidence-based protocol that will enable victims to have increased confidence, both in the police and the criminal justice system, encouraging them to come forward to provide evidence and bring more offenders to justice. The police will develop understanding of how best to interview vulnerable adults to gather more detailed information, while reducing the risk of false confessions. Our findings will demonstrate how such research is enriched through co-production with different academic disciplines and partnerships in alliance between academics and practitioners, illustrating the benefits gained from such international co-working, while informing wider audiences of the benefits of cross-cultural and international research collaborations.


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