Achieving Best Evidence Interviewing Training – Course Outline

Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings – Joint Working and Interview Awareness Training – More Information

Achieving Best Evidence Interviewing Training Phil MorrisThis course is primarily aimed at local authority staff who are required to work with children and young people in investigative situations. It is also relevant to other staff/agencies who are required to work in this field with other agencies and professionals (e.g. legal, healthcare and educational staff).

This course starts by looking at the importance of promoting a multi-agency and close working relationship with fellow professionals, particularly when the case/investigation is complex. The key elements of ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) are visited and the roles and responsibilities involved in the appropriate thresholds for referral. The function and importance of strategy meetings/discussions will be highlighted and the appropriate action to adopt on initial contact with a witness. The need to challenge other professionals will be discussed and how staff should record and justify key decisions made within a case/investigation.

The interviewing of children (and other vulnerable and intimidated victims) is underpinned by the Ministry of Justice’s guidance “Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings” (2011), or ABE. Interviews that elicit information in a manner that is compliant with ABE principles is crucial to ensure that interviews are deemed to be admissible by the criminal justice system. Interviewers tasked with interviewing vulnerable and intimidated witnesses must be aware of their interviewing responsibilities under ABE guidance. Failing to follow ABE guidance could potentially compromise any criminal investigation or prosecution.

This course looks at all the practical features of interviewing in accordance with ABE to ensure that interviews are conducted in a professional manner. Child competency is considered in light of authoritative case law and the importance of planning and preparation for an interview is emphasised. The types of appropriate questioning techniques to be adopted within a forensic interview are considered as are the types of questions to be avoided. The course will visit cognitive interviewing styles of interviewing and techniques and tips to improve the quantity and quality of a young person evidence within a forensic interview.


To raise awareness of and explore issues around joint child protection enquiries and examine the different roles of the professionals within these investigations.

To explain all aspects of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses under the Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and examine all the elements of an investigative interview in accordance with Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings.


By the end of the training the participants will be able to;

  • Explain the importance of close working relationships with fellow professionals in child protection enquiries particularly where the case/investigation is complex
  • Summarise the multi-agency response to child protection investigations
  • Describe the key elements of Working Together 2015 that are directly relevant to professionals undertaking complex child abuse enquiries or investigations
  • Outline the roles and responsibilities and appropriate thresholds for referral
  • Explain the process of referral of cases to/from the police
  • Explain the function and importance of strategy meetings/discussions
  • Recognise the importance of questioning and challenging other professionals involved in the investigation
  • State how to record and justify key decisions made within the case
  • Define a vulnerable and intimidated victim/witness in accordance with the Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999
  • State the special measures potentially available to child victims and witnesses under the Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999
  • Identify relevant factors to take into consideration when planning an interview with a child victim/witness and state how these factors may affect an interview
  • State the essential components of the rapport phase of a ABE interview
  • State the principles of covering points to prove within a criminal investigation interview
  • Explain how to request a free narrative/free recall from a child victim witness interviewee
  • Explain what types of questions are recognised as being forensically appropriate within a child victim/witness video interview
  • State the types of questions that should be avoided within a child victim/witness video interview
  • Explain the features of the closure phase of a child victim/witness video interview
  • State the current legal position regarding child competency in the courtroom
  • Explain the importance of interview plans
  • Explain the techniques and principles of cognitive interviewing
  • Identify the use of summaries and how the use of summaries and their application needs to be balanced between the needs of the interview and adducing the interview as an evidential product
  • Explain the co-interviewer’s role in taking contemporaneous notes during an ABE interview
  • Explain the difference between case specific and heart of the matter topics within an ABE interview

Course Outline

Day 1

Registration, housekeeping safe learning environment, aims and learning outcomes

Opening Remarks & Introductions


  • Complex investigations
  • Effective collaboration
  • Referrals
  • Thresholds
  • Information and evidence gathering
  • The differences between a single agency and a joint agency investigation
  • Strategy meetings/discussions
  • Follow up plans and meetings

Day 2


  • Case study/group work exercise looking at issues of referral, strategy meeting, decision making, documentation
  • Communication and questioning professionals

Day 3


  • Vulnerable & Intimidated witnesses S16 & S17 Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999
  • Special Measures
  • Planning and preparation for an ABE interview
  • Interview plans
  • Interviewing using PEACE
  • Rapport
  • Ground rules at the start of an interview
  • Truth and Lies
  • Sexual Offence legislation
  • Points to prove

Day 4


  • Securing a free recall/narrative
  • Appropriate questioning techniques
  • Closure of an interview
  • Case study of a local authority led interview
  • The cognitive interview
  • Duration of interviews – heart of the matter material in contrast with case specific material
  • Co-interviewer note taking

Day 5


  • Live interviewing with professional actors showing the application of interviewing techniques from the week

Underpinning Legislation

The Children Act 1989 & 2004

There is no single piece of legislation that covers ‘child protection’ or ‘safeguarding’ in the UK but a number of laws that are continually being amended, updated or revoked. The Children’s Act 1989 provides a comprehensive framework for the care and protection of children. It centres on the welfare of children up to their 18th birthday. It defines parental responsibility and encourages partnership working with parents. Interagency co-operation is encouraged.

The Children’s Act 2004 supplemented the 1989 Act and reinforced the message that all organisations working with children have a duty in helping safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (YJCEA) aims to help vulnerable and intimidated witnesses give the best evidence they can in criminal proceedings. This is to be achieved by allowing certain witnesses access to a range of special measures where it is felt that their evidence will thereby be improved. Reducing the stress associated with a court case will, it is hoped, mean that vulnerable witnesses are more confident and give better testimony. In addition, individuals who in the past would have been unable to participate in proceedings and were therefore considered incompetent to give evidence will now have a voice. The reasoning behind the YJCEA is clear. In cases of abuse in particular, the prosecution case is often based almost entirely on the evidence of one witness, often a child. It is important that what evidence there is in such situations is presented as well as possible.