Improving evidence in sexual offending cases

Dr Nina Westera.

How the criminal justice system can improve evidence quality in sexual and violent offending cases is the focus of criminology lecturer Dr Nina Westera’s research.

Awarded a three-year Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Dr Westera will use her model of evidence-based interviewing developed as a police officer with the New Zealand Police, as the basis for her research.

“I am interested in how police use video recording in an adult complainant’s interview, and how using that recording as the basis for the complainant’s evidence, can be used to improve the quality of the testimony available at trial,’’ she said.

She is currently working on a project examining the best method for police to interview complainants of sexual assault (rape, historic allegations of child sexual abuse, etc) to improve the evidential use of video interviews.

Dr Westera’s impressive expertise in investigative interviewing was recently recognised when she was awarded the 2014 International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG) Practitioner Excellence Award.

iIIRG Deputy Chair, Dr Becky Milne said the Dr Westera thoroughly reviewed the academic literature on interviewing and training and applied it to practical interview training.

“Importantly, she also made sure that effective interviewing was put into practice by adopting workplace monitoring,’’ she said.

“This is often overlooked, difficult to do, and critical to success – others would have taken an easier route of simply delivering training and hoping it worked. Nina took a more systematic, difficult and ethical approach.

“She is a tireless advocate of evidence-based investigative interviewing and her willingness to share her work means it now makes up part of the training in Queensland, Western Australia and many other parts of the region.”

“I am privileged to work closely with many police, lawyers and other justice sector stakeholders, who are passionate about improving how we investigate and prosecute these important cases,’’ Dr Westera said.

“Winning this award is especially gratifying because it shows how practitioners and scholars can work together to improve practice and benefit fair criminal justice outcomes.”