Conducting the interview

The two social workers or police officer and social worker should interview the child on his/her own or in the presence of a supportive adult. Efforts should be made to avoid the child being interviewed in the presence of parents who have allegedly abused him/her. Children should never be placed in the position of having to ask their parents to leave the room.

Questions should be open-ended where possible and care should be taken to ask leading questions only as a last resort.

One worker should conduct the interviews and the other should record. The recorder should make efforts to take as accurate a record as possible of the dialogue. Contemporaneous notes of the interviews must be dated and signed and kept on file, as staff may be asked to reproduce these in future at court.

In cases of joint police/social work investigations where criminal proceedings may follow, originals of notes, write-ups, drawings, etc. are retained by the police and may be used at a later stage in court proceedings.  Photocopies of these may be taken and retained in the social work file.

In most cases one interview of the child will be sufficient. In some situations, when new information has come to light, a second interview may be required..

In order to avoid contamination of evidence it may not be appropriate for the same member of staff to interview more than one child.

Unless there is very sound evidence that the referral is groundless, or unless it is very clear from the circumstances of the referral that only one child in the family is at risk, other children in the household should be interviewed and/or checked for injuries where appropriate.

The team leader should debrief the social worker and police officer after a joint investigative interview; all parties should sign the debriefing form. Discussion should take place about future action, if it is required, by either police officers or social workers in respect of further investigation or action to safeguard the child.

The team leader should de-brief social workers after interviewing a child.

Guidance on Joint Investigative Interviewing of Child Witnesses in Scotland.