Procedural justice at the custody desk: exploring interpreter need identification

Hollands, M.J. (2017) Procedural justice at the custody desk: exploring interpreter need identification. M.Sc. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.

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The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) Codes of Practice C (revised February 2017) sets the statutory provision of an interpreter for suspects detained in police custody in England and Wales. In practice, interpreter determination is reliant upon police officer discretion where they must become linguists (Cotterill, 2000). Determination is therefore liable to inconsistency, inaccuracy, and even prejudice, with clear potential for unjust process. Through a mixed method research design driven by grounded theory, utilising semi-structured interviews (n=9) and an e-questionnaire (n=42), this exploratory research conceptualised the interpreter need determination by Custody Sergeants within the custody booking-in procedure within a medium-to-large sized police force.

The Custody Sergeant’s determination was theoretically positioned using the procedural justice model, where more accurate and fairer determinations would be theoretically associated to improved perceptions of empirical legitimacy amongst limited-English speaking detainees and their communities, rather than a solely normative approach through provision alone. Affecting the ‘field’ not just the ‘habitus’ (Chan, 1996), the application of procedural justice theory in this way evolves police-minority engagement from the traditional ‘take me to your leader’ approach (Bradford, 2014), through a cost-effective employment of theory (Myhill et al, 2011).

The interpreter determination was conceptualised by the core concept of ‘comprehension doubtfulness’, formed of 4 theorised independent variables or dimensions: ‘competency discovery mechanisms’; ‘competency threshold construction’; ‘linguistic vulnerability’; and ‘linguistic naivety’, each consisting of operational attitude statements. Reliability analysis was used to concentrate each scale. Results showed substantial variance between participants across the attitude items, where attitudes or a lack thereof, are potentially harmful to the accuracy of ‘comprehension doubtfulness’. The results suggest limited speaking foreign national detainees, particularly of middling English competency, face an interpreter provision lottery when arriving in custody, meaning they become even more vulnerable to their linguistic vulnerability.

This research makes an original contribution to the literature of interpreter determination within policing, providing a more detailed and operationally tangible framework than the proficiency-demand dichotomies of Valdes (1990) and Cooke (2002). It raises debate and possibilities in relation to future minority engagement through targeted employment of theory and challenging prevailing notions of vulnerability. Findings support the current research theme relating to the ineffectiveness of PACE to increase vulnerability detection amongst detainees (Young et al, 2013).

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV7551-8280.7 Police. Detectives. Constabulary
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study > MT0075 Interpretation
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing
Depositing User: Miss Rosemary Cox
Date Deposited: 25 Apr 2018 09:10
Last Modified: 30 May 2018 17:26

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00