‘Disclosure’ V ‘Report’ (in an investigation context). Does it Matter?
Are they one and the same? What impact does it have on justice? Do semantics matter?
In short, No, Lots, and Yes, I suggest!
Dictionary definitions (and Google!) do little to define or clarify the difference and their impact on an investigation so let me try and convince you why I think it matters.
Picture the scene…. 2007, recently appointed in a full-time role as a strategic investigative interview advisor and guest lecturer at a Police Training College; on stage addressing over 100 multi-agency staff responsible for investigating serious sexual offending against children.
Applied investigative interviewing techniques and tactical use of evidence (in child abuse investigations).
- 1992, Memorandum of Good Practice (for interviewing young children) and Introduction of PEACE investigative interviewing framework (then called a model).
- Police interview training delivered in silos, witness skills units and suspect interviewing and never the twain shall meet!
- Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) drafted and published in January 2002, later revised and published in 2007 by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), subsequently revised in 2011 and currently under review.
- With rare exceptions staff of ‘Child Protection Units’ were not required to be trained investigators.
- Social workers and police officers undertook joint child interview training.
- There was no requirement for trainers to be operationally competent.
Presentation delivered and time for questions and a hand goes up.
A Social Worker, clearly devoted and committed to their role in what we’ve now come to refer to as ‘safeguarding’. The gist of the subsequent exchange is etched in my memory and it goes like this:
SW: “I’ve been a social worker for over 20 years and did my joint agency interviewing training here. You’ve talked about questioning style and explained that we can use closed questions when interviewing children, it’s just how and when we use them”.
SW: “But that goes against all the training that we’ve had that a child must freely ‘disclose’ before we can do anything and if they don’t there’s nothing we can do, if we ask them directly it would be inadmissible evidence”.
IH: (Quizzical expression) “Can you explain a little more”?
SW: “Yes. I recently dealt with the referral of a 13yr old child from a school. She had disclosed to her teacher that every day she went home from school and her Grandad looked after her he would (perform oral and penetrative sex) on her and that this had been going on for a few years”.
IH: “Mmmm, please carry on”.
SW: “So we made an appointment to interview her, did the ‘ABE’ with a police officer, but she didn’t ‘disclose’ so there was nothing we could do”.
IH: “Tell me what happened then”?
SW: “Nothing, she didn’t ‘disclose’”.
So when is a ‘Disclosure’ a ‘Report’ and does it matter? Is it relevant today?
I suggest that it does, that it impacts on investigation and natural justice, and that semantics impact significantly on well-intentioned endeavours to support victims, and that using the ‘disclosure’ word enables inertia and excuses inaction.
With this in mind and to support the work we’re doing to drive up investigating standards across several sectors we’ve developed the following acronym specifically to help Higher Education manage investigations into serious misconduct that might constitute a criminal offence:
To this day I don’t know if that ‘Grandad’ was ever investigated though I advised on a course of action to repair the situation and, hopefully, prevent recurrence.
My suspicion? A serious sexual offender evades justice and (at least) one damaged survivor not delivered justice, likely many more, and one compelling reason why ‘disclosure’ must not be confused with ‘report’ and why semantics matter.
If you or your team would like to learn more about investigation or are interested in becoming a Level 3 qualified investigative interviewer (RGF) contact me or my team at firstname.lastname@example.org