Getting Transcripts Right for PACE and ABE Interviews

The best transcription providers work continuously to improve the accuracy of their written records. But sometimes, clients need more. For interviews carried out as part of a criminal investigation, transcripts must also be produced under prescribed conditions and in a specified format. If not, the implications can be serious for everyone involved.

In England and Wales, the questioning of a suspect (called an interview under caution) must comply with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1982). This legislation, known as PACE, was introduced to address failings in the criminal justice system revealed in a string of high-profile cases in the 1970s, in which evidence had been fabricated.

Before PACE, these interviews were not recorded; transcripts were written by the interviewing officer from memory. Today, audio recordings are made and then transcribed, usually by a specialist provider, to create a Record of Taped Interview (ROTI), which is used to question a suspect in court.

Whilst most PACE interviews take place at a police station, other organisations also carry them out, including Fire Authorities, regulatory bodies like the Health and Safety Executive, and local authorities, as part of official inquiries.

Some witness interviews, especially those involving children or vulnerable adults, must also be carried out according to clear guidelines. Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) is a national protocol, first published in 2011, setting out how witnesses to a crime, including victims, must be interviewed and how those interviews must be documented.

Both PACE and ABE aim to improve the quality of evidence used in court so that proceedings run smoothly and lead to a fair and just conclusion. But what makes a good PACE or ABE transcript, and how do you find the right provider?

1. Format

Transcripts for PACE and ABE interviews must be produced in a standard format, including stating where the interview is held, what time it starts and ends and who is present. If not, the transcript risks being ruled inadmissible in court. Look for a transcription provider with a track record of PACE and ABE work, as they’re likely to have experienced transcribers using tried and tested templates.

2. Accuracy

Courts rarely revert to original audio recordings, so it is vital that the ROTI is accurate. Any discrepancies between what’s written in the transcript and what’s said in court can destroy the credibility of a suspect or witness, potentially affecting the outcome. Look for providers like Appen that are ISO 9001 accredited and can show they are committed to continuous improvement.

3. Speed

Written records of PACE and ABE interviews are usually needed quickly so decisions can be made about whether to bring criminal charges and legal counsel can plan their next steps. Look for a transcription provider that carries out plenty of PACE and ABE work and has the capacity to take on work at short notice or with a fast turnaround.

4. Information security

PACE and ABE interviews often deal with sensitive or confidential material, so transcripts must be created and shared securely. In addition, any leaks could render them inadmissible. Check your provider complies with recognised standards including ISO 20071. Some providers, including Appen, have their own in-house facility offering enhanced levels of security.

When it comes to formal interviews, those carried out under PACE or ABE conditions arguably have the highest stakes of all, with the transcripts playing a key role in determining the outcome of criminal proceedings. But putting the rules in place is only half the story – what’s also required are transcription providers who can deliver. The good news is, they’re out there.

 


Find out more about Appen UK’s secure transcription services for PACE and ABE interviews at: appen.com/uk/#services

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