A critical analysis of selected interviewing techniques in commercial forensic investigations in South Africa
With the increase in economic crime globally, the role of the Commercial Forensic Practitioner (FP) is becoming increasingly important since this person can assist in the detection, investigation and prevention of economic crime. In order to commit to these aforementioned responsibilities, FPs should master a variety of skills due to the transdisciplinary nature of the commercial forensic investigative environment. One of these skills is the conducting of successful forensic interviews with role players, third parties, witnesses and suspects in order to obtain relevant information. Conducting successful interviews, however, requires intricate skills due to its interpersonal nature. Yet an assessment of the curricula of commercial forensic investigative programmes offered by South African tertiary institutions and professional bodies illustrates a distinctive lack of content on interviewing in a forensic context. Further to this, many forensic interviewing techniques appear not to be properly underpinned by theory. In order to assess what technique(s) may be the most appropriate in the South African commercial forensic investigative setting, a search was conducted which identified five techniques that are applied in the global context, namely the Reid technique, kinesic interviewing, the PEACE model, cognitive interviewing and the person-centred approach. These were critically analysed in terms of relevant legal considerations and bearing the existing academic literature in mind. Based on the literature reviewed (and the limited specific scientific and empirical evidence), it appears that certain apparent concerns can be raised against cognitive interviewing, kinesic interviewing and especially the Reid technique within the South African commercial forensic investigative setting. The person-centred approach and PEACE model, however, appear to be more appropriate for use within said context. Merging aspects of these two methods to form a new unique technique specifically designed for the South African commercial forensic investigative environment, should be considered. The person-centred approach may benefit from the comprehensive structure and empirical underpinnings of the PEACE model, and the PEACE model from the extensive interpersonal and humanistic approach of the person-centred interview. Subsequent to further research on this topic, the apparent lack of industry standards and proper training in forensic interviewing techniques in South Africa should be addressed.
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