Adopting a holistic approach to the development of a bespoke informant interview model

Moffett, Lee (2022) Adopting a holistic approach to the development of a bespoke informant interview model. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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The current thesis provides a unique contribution to research by presenting a bespoke informant interview model (RWITS-US). The model was developed by adopting a holistic approach to the conceptualisation of an informant interview. This involved defining the legal and operational context of an informant; identifying a range of interview objectives; and exploring how the informant’s own objectives and communication strategies can affect an informant interview.

Chapter One highlights the timeliness of the current research, identifying how the advent of intelligence-led policing contributed to the legalisation and professionalisation of informant handling. However, the use and conduct of informants has recently come under scrutiny, and it is argued that the covert nature of informant handling may have prevented the adoption of evidence-based practice. In particular, there are no recognised informant specific interview models. Therefore, Chapter Two will examine existing interview models that have previously been recommended for use with informants, and Chapter Three will examine the unique social factors of an informant interview that may hinder their success.

Given these unique social factors, Chapter Four reviews the extant literature pertaining to the social objectives of an informant interview, whilst Chapter Five reviews the literature relating to organisational objectives. A Study Space Analysis was conducted to identify how these objectives have previously been empirically tested, and this is reported in Chapter Six. The same objectives were then presented to practitioners as part of a novel online survey to determine their relative importance. Findings suggest that research conducted to date has failed to recognise the inter-dependence of these complex and sometimes competing objectives. The practitioner survey is fully reported in Chapter Seven.

Chapter Eight examines how the personal objectives of an informant are likely to impact their communication strategies. This was achieved by manipulating deception in a unique mock-informant paradigm followed by a triangulation of narrative analysis. Results indicate that informants communicate using a gossip narrative, but that the content, structure and narrative identity are all effected by an intention to deceive. The RWITS-US interview model was therefore designed to accommodate the informant’s tendency to communicate narratively whilst attending to a range of handler objectives. A novel online paradigm was employed to test its efficacy against an existing interview model (PEACE), and this is presented in Chapter Nine.

Findings suggest that practitioners can benefit from the use of a bespoke informant interview model that has been specifically designed to meet a range of interview objectives whilst being cognisant of, and adaptive towards, the informant’s narrative contribution. Whilst further research is recommended, these findings have implications for informant handlers who are coming under increasing public scrutiny and need to demonstrate their adherence to effective and ethical interviewing methods. These findings, recommendations and implications are fully discussed in Chapter Ten.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: covert human intelligence source, CHIS, HUMINT, RWITS-US, evidence based policing
Subjects: L900 Others in Social studies
M900 Other in Law
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2022 08:13
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2022 08:15

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