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5.18 Procedures for Video Recording Interviews with Children


This chapter was slightly updated in January 2012 in regard to digital recordings stored on video camera hard disc drives (HDD))

This chapter is currently under review.


  1. Introduction
  2. Interviews to be Recorded
  3. Admissibility in Evidence
  4. Ownership of Evidence
  5. Interviews to be Conducted by
  6. Planning
  7. Venue
  8. Consent
  9. Video Tapes / DVDs
  10. Video Recording Equipment
  11. Operation of Equipment
  12. Action Prior to Interview
  13. Recording the Interview
  14. Post Interview Procedure
  15. Statement of Evidence
  16. Summaries
  17. Equipment at Court
  18. Child Witnesses at Court
  19. Access to and Copies of the Recording
  20. Movement Record of Recordings

1. Introduction

These instructions contain a standardised procedure for the use of recording interviews with children conducted as part of investigation under S 47 enquiries.

These instructions are put together in accordance with the recommendations contained in Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceeding: Guidance for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including children and guidance given in the publication by the Police Scientific Development Branch "Video Recorded Interviews with Child Witnesses and should be read in conjunction with those publications and local guidelines from the LSCP's Policies and Procedures / Code of Practice with specific reference to the LSCP Practice Guidance for Police/Children's Services (Social Care) Undertaking enquiries under Section 47 of The Children Act 1989

It is an essential condition that both police officers and social workers conducting interviews with children are fully familiar with the Home Office, Lord Chancellor's Department, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Health and Social Care and National Assembly for Wales (2002). Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceeding: Guidance for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including children. London, Home Office (for more information see the Home Office website)and have received joint investigation training and training in the use of video recording equipment.

The purpose of the interview is to listen to what the child has to say. The terms "therapeutic" or "disclosure interview" must not be used. However each child is unique and the effective interview will be one which is tailored to the child's particular needs and circumstances.

The Criminal justice legislation, in particular the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, creates particular obligations for Courts who are dealing with witnesses under 17 years of age. These include the presumption of evidence-giving through pre-recorded interviews, as well as the use of live video links for further evidence-giving and cross examination. Cross-examination in pre-trial video hearings may also occur in relevant cases. The recording of the interviews with children is desirable to reduce the stress and burden of proceedings for the child witness whilst ensuring that his or her testimony can be properly tested as evidence in chief. Cross examination and re-examination if proceedings get that far are conducted by questioning the child live at the trial.

2. Interviews to be Recorded

Formal investigative interviews should not be carried out routinely in all cases, but will be appropriate in some cases, with a view to gathering evidence for criminal proceedings.

A child should never be interviewed in the presence of an alleged or suspected perpetrator of abuse, or somebody who may be plotting with a perpetrator. Consideration must also be given as to whether the child is of sufficient age and understanding to be interviewed and taking the child's or where appropriate the parent's wishes into account.

Other considerations for undertaking an interview of a child victim are outlined in Section 3 of the LSCP Policies and Procedures / Code of Practice.

Interviews should be recorded where there is:

  1. An allegation or suspicion of an offence involving assault, injury, threat of injury or cruelty and the witness is a victim under 14 years of age.
  2. An allegation of a sexual offence where the witness is a victim under 17 years of age.

NB: Where there is a suspicion of physical abuse only and this is an isolated incident e.g. there is no history of abuse in any form and the injury is of a minor nature not requiring medical treatment, the social work assessment interview need not be conducted under recorded conditions.

Interviews with child witnesses may be video recorded where:

  1. They are under 14 years of age and are a material witness in any offence involving assault, injury, threat of injury or cruelty.
  2. They are under 17 years of age and are a material witness in any sexual offence.
  3. Where a child over 14 years of age and under 17 years of age is a witness in an offence as described at a. above, a written statement should be obtained. However, if evidence of the witness' physical/mental state is desirable, a video recording of the taking of such a statement MAY be made.

NB: The provisions outlined in this section do not apply to interviews with children who are the accused.

Close liaison in any investigation with the Crown Prosecution Service is essential. Advice must always be found before any following interview is carried out. 

3. Admissibility in Evidence

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 came into force on 1 October 1992. The testimony of a witness under 14 years of age (of any offence involving assault, injury or threat of injury to any person OR of cruelty) may now be admitted as evidence in chief at any trial, provided it would not be contrary to the interests of justice in the case. (Section 54 Criminal Justice Act 1991).

The recorded statement of a witness (under 17 at the time of recording) of any sexual offence (as defined in the Criminal Justice Act 1988) is similarly admissible as evidence in chief. (Section 54 Criminal Justice Act 1991).

The term "video recording" is defined in Section 24A of the Criminal Justice Act 1991.

It is essential in the interests of justice and to ensure that as far as possible video recordings are admissible as evidence, investigating teams develop a clear appreciation of the rules of evidence in criminal cases and take proper account of both the rules and the law in interviewing children. 

4. Ownership of Evidence

The recording will be treated as a "document" for the purpose of criminal proceedings. The statements contained are the property of the person who made them. The medium (video tape/ DVD/digital recordings stored on video camera hard disc drives (HDD)) is the property of the police. Ownership of the DVD/ tape itself expresses certain rights and responsibilities which if properly exercised will ensure that the recording is appropriately safeguarded.

5. Interviews to be Conducted by

Interviews will only be conducted by trained Public protection Unit police officers and/or designated social workers, i.e. those who have received joint investigation training and training in the use of recording equipment where they take responsibility for its operation. 

6. Planning

Adequate planning is essential to the efficient conduct of any interview with a child. The strategy agreed should reflect the skills and experience represented by the joint investigating team. A child's interview plan MUST be completed in all cases.

A careful note must be made of all planning meetings. Consideration must be given to:

  1. the needs of the child
  2. the child's development
  3. the use of appropriate language
  4. social and sexual understanding
  5. concept of time
  6. understanding of trust
  7. legal aspects

Specialist help should be sought where appropriate e.g. in the case of a child with a disability, communication problems, or whose first language is not English. Gender issues of interpreters must also be considered.

An appreciation of the child's emotional welfare at the time of the interview may assist interviewers which should also take into account the child's cultural background and any disabilities he or she may have. 

7. Venue

Interviews will be recorded only at approved centres or using the police mobile unit. Only in exceptional circumstances will this not be the case.

The police officer must ensure the following information is recorded:

  1. recording reference number
  2. venue of interview
  3. name of person interviewed
  4. name(s) of persons present
  5. Time/date of interview
  6. above completed by

8. Consent

Whilst parental consent to recording is not required by law, it will be considered good practice to obtain such consent.

Children, parents or accompanying adults should be given clear information regarding the form and nature of the interview. The interview plan will consider who has responsibility for this.

Persons other than the interviewer should not normally be in the interview room. A SUSPECTED OFFENDER MUST NEVER BE PRESENT. Only in exceptional circumstances should a supporter be present.

9. Video Tapes / DVDs

The police will be responsible for the provision of video tapes/ DVD's/digital recordings stored on video camera hard disc drives (HDD). High quality recording equipment will be used at all times.

The Public Protection Unit Sergeant for each sub-division will be responsible for the registration and storage of video tapes in accordance with Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings.

Master tapes / DVD's will be kept as long as the related crime file. Recording equipment may be destroyed after the appeal period. The decision to destroy tapes / DVD's will be taken by the Police after consultation with Children's Social care or NSPCC.

10. Video Recording Equipment

The interview is recorded by two cameras, one of which is static and the other which has a pan/zoom/tilt facility. The main picture recorded is obtained from the moving camera, whilst the still camera provides a small security picture (picture in picture) in one corner of the screen.

The equipment incorporates a date/time facility which is displayed on the monitor and recorded simultaneously onto the recording medium to ensure the integrity of the recording.

11. Operation of Equipment

Wherever possible a person who is familiar with and trained to operate the recording equipment should be identified to act as operator. Where this is not possible neither the investigating police officer or social worker should assume this responsibility. Irrespective of which, the investigating police officer is responsible for ensuring the integrity of tapes by compliance with sealing and storage arrangements. The police officer present will take possession of the tapes on completion of the interview. 

12. Action Prior to Interview

The interviewer must check the equipment prior to recording beginning to ensure:

  1. both cameras are working effectively
  2. both video recorders are functioning
  3. the "picture in picture" facility is visible
  4. the time/date is visible on screen

The child should be shown the cameras, viewing room and introduced to everyone present. This should be accompanied by an explanation, at the level of the child's understanding, in relation to recording procedure, interview etc. Rapport building should be off camera.

13. Recording the Interview

Recording must begin once the child and interviewers are in the interview room. All persons present must identify themselves by name. Where the child is unable or unwilling to give their name, he/she should be introduced by the interviewer.

Once an interview has begun NO ONE must enter the interview room.

Where it is necessary to have a short break, e.g. toilet break, refreshments, the recording device should NOT be switched off.

The interview should not exceed two hours and tapes should be changed at 1 hour 50 minutes (this only relates to recording on tapes) to ensure the evidence on both tapes is identical. It will be the responsibility of the operator to monitor the start time of their interview to ensure that the changing of tapes is controlled.

When closing, the interviewer must round off and make it clear that the interview is over.

One of the key aims of interview recording early investigative interviews is to reduce the number of times a child is asked to tell his or her account. However, it may be the case that even with an experienced and skilful interviewer, the child may provide less information than he or she is capable of divulging. Another interview may therefore be necessary and this too should be recorded. Consideration should always be given as to whether holding such an interview would be in the child's interest. In no circumstances should the extra interview for evidential purposes be conducted by members of joint investigation teams unless they are fully satisfied, in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, that another interview is needed.

The reasons for conducting another interview should be clearly expressed and recorded in writing. More than one added interview is unlikely to be appropriate unless the joint investigating team makes the decision at the planning stage to divide the phases of an interview with a very young or a child with emotional difficulties into a number of sections to be conducted by the same interviewer on different days, with the rapport and closure being achieved each time. 

14. Post Interview Procedure

Once the recorder has been switched off the tape (if used) should be allowed to run on for 30 seconds before being unloaded. The operator will then remove the tapes from the machine. The "record protect" on the tapes will be removed to prevent any accidental recording taking place. They will not be rewound at this stage. The operator will select one of the two tapes as a master copy, complete the master tape seal and affix it to the selected cassette. The second tape will be used as the working copy and identified by the working copy label being placed on the cassette. This label must be fully authorised before the master tape is sealed.

Irrespective of who is acting as operator, both copies of the tapes / DVD/digital recordings stored on video camera hard disc drives (HDD) will be handed to the police officer who must keep them in his personal possession at all times to preserve continuity.

At the first available opportunity the working copy tape must be checked to ensure the quality of the recording is of satisfactory standard. If there are difficulties or concerns about this the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service should be sought without delay.

A brief index of the tape content must be prepared by the police officer in liaison with the social worker. It should be suitably cross referenced by use of the time indicators recorded on the video tape to enable relevant passages to be easily located at a later date. This index should be retained with the appropriate case papers.

Once sealed, master tapes / DVD must not be opened except in the presence of a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service. 

15. Statement of Evidence

In any subsequent court proceedings - criminal or civil - the interviewer and operator or any other person connected with the interview may be questioned about the conduct of the interview and the events surrounding it. The interviewer and operator must maintain a careful record of events which, in the case of police officers, will be recorded in their official notebooks.

It should be considered good practice to obtain a written statement from any person to whom a child has disclosed to before the taped interview. 

16. Summaries

In accordance with National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) policy, transcripts will not be prepared of recorded interviews with victims. The summary of the evidence will be prepared.

17. Equipment at Court

The police officer in the case will be responsible for arranging the provision and operation of suitable equipment at Court for relevant cases including recorded interviews. 

18. Child Witnesses at Court

The police officer in the case will be responsible for ensuring that appropriate adults are available to support the child witnesses at Court. 

19. Access to and Copies of the Recording

Great care is required to ensure that recorded interviews are seen only by those who have a need to see them. A working copy will be supplied to the Crown Prosecution Service when a file is submitted to that service for legal advice.

Where a person is charged with an offence and transfer proceedings are to be called upon, three copies of the recording will be supplied to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The purpose being that the Crown Prosecution Service may serve one copy on the court, one copy (with the appropriate undertaking) on the Defence solicitor and one copy retained by the Crown Prosecution Service for the Prosecuting Counsel.

Recordings required by the Crown Prosecution Service will be delivered by hand to the relevant CPS office by a member of the police Public Protection Unit and a receipt will be obtained to acknowledge delivery and this will be retained by the PPU Sergeant.

All copies supplied must be returned without delay when no longer required and in any event at the close of the trial or after the time limit for appeal.

The receipt should be suitably authorised and retained in the Public Protection Unit for record purposes.

Applications from a third party to view a copy of the tape will not be granted unless the interests of the child clearly require it and satisfactory arrangements can be made to safeguard it against unauthorised viewing. Any such viewing should be in consultation with Detective Superintendent Support.

Any viewing of a recording by an unrepresented defendant will take place under close supervision at a police station.

At no stage should a defendant be unsupervised.

Records regarding movement of recordings should be maintained within the Public Protection Unit. The record should include the name(s) of persons allowed to view or borrow a recording together with details of the specific authority granted to them and must be carefully recorded in the log.

The log should remain with the case papers. 

20. Movement Record of Recordings

The responsibility for recording the movement of recorded interviews requested by a third party will be undertaken by the Public Protection Unit Sergeant.

Movement of recordings will be recorded and retained until the conclusion of the enquiry before filing for future reference.

In any criminal investigation master recordings will be retained for five years before destruction. The working copy tape/digital recording/DVD will be handed to the Children's Social care for signature against signature for their retention if requested.

Returned recordings at the conclusion of the enquiry will be forwarded to Headquarters (TV and Visual Aids Department) for destruction.