Interview Process Important In Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault Prosecution

Regional Security System | Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Persons who are on the front-line in investigating domestic violence and sexual assault cases are urged to approach victims in an understanding manner, in an effort to encourage them to divulge relevant information. (Stock photo)

According to statistics from UN Women, there were significant increases in reports of domestic violence across the region in the first half of 2020, coinciding with the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was therefore timely for the Regional Security System to host a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Course for law enforcement officials from Regional Security System’s (RSS) Member States.  

For Principal Crown Counsel in Barbados, Krystal Delaney, the course included several valuable topics which would be necessary in prosecuting sexual offences and domestic violence cases, in particular the interview technique.

Speaking to the participants during a virtual closing ceremony, Ms. Delaney, drawing from her own experiences, emphasised the importance of executing a thorough and appropriate interview, and underscored that the interview process differed based on the situation and the victim.

Alluding to a previous case involving a young child who was a victim of sexual abuse, the law official stressed that a child cannot be questioned in the same manner as an adult.

“In order to get the best information possible from a child… they should be made to feel comfortable and reassured, which will encourage them to disclose what they have been through. I’ve learned that asking children questions like what time and how long is counterproductive, and sometimes detrimental, as they often do not grasp abstract concepts like time. …

“I see from your course outline that you were taught the Lyons 10 Step Investigative Interview Technique. I cannot emphasise the importance of this type of interview enough in providing a statement that is objective and reliable,” she asserted.

Ms. Delaney also spoke to the interview techniques that were required for adults who were victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, pointing out that there should be a “victim-focused approach to interviewing”. She therefore urged persons who may be on the front-line in investigating such cases to approach victims in an understanding manner, in an effort to encourage them to divulge relevant information.

“First responders must be respectful, sensitive, compassionate, patient, non-judgmental and understanding. The interview, and the information gleaned therefrom, is crucial in laying the foundation on which the prosecution is ultimately built… As we say in Barbados, if you start right, you will end right.

“We have legislation criminalising domestic violence and sexual offences… The legislation means nothing if we cannot get the information from the victims and witnesses in the best way for presentation at court,” the Principal Crown Counsel outlined.

The Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence course was made possible through a capacity building programme with the Georgian College in Ontario, Canada, which offers specialised programmes in police studies.