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Commentary on "Evidence-Based Investigative Interviewing"

Dr Barry McGurk was the lead author of the first study to evaluate PEACE

Commentary on "Evidence-Based Investigative Interviewing" (Blog 01)

In Blog 01 Jan 6 2021 you say:

“To date, there have only been two evaluations of PEACE training with police officers. The first was conducted shortly after PEACE training began (McGurk et al., 1993), the second a few years later (Clarke & Milne, 2001). Subsequent evaluations of PEACE have either used non-police samples (e.g., benefits centre investigators) or lacked a relevant comparison group. Neither of the original two police studies provides a compelling case for the adoption of PEACE (nor do the non-police studies).”*

In fact our study (McGurk et al., 1993) was carried out before PEACE training started. We found 4 pilot courses to be successful and good enough to roll them out nationwide. Clarke and Milne’s (2001) study carried out eight years later found the courses to be unsuccessful in all manner of ways.

It does seem to me that the effectiveness of the courses is largely down to the quality of the training and hence the trainers.

The original pilot courses we evaluated for the Police Service were run by committed, skilled police trainers who were doing their bit, they believed, to free their profession of the stigma of notorious cases like the Guilford 4. They had all been brought up as young officers in the Police Service to interview suspects by watching ‘Nellie’ - older experienced officers who invariably started an interview with the words “We know you did it..... you did it didn’t you?” Interviews with suspects were based on the prior belief of guilt. Before the introduction of PEACE courses police officers effectively had no formal training in interviewing. So the PEACE model and the courses were seen as a huge step forward. And our study confirmed this.

In a further unpublished study I carried out in 1996 for the Insolvency Service to train their examiners to interview bankrupts PEACE courses were also judged to be effective. Those trained were compared to a waiting list control group. Interview time was less and there were more successful prosecutions and disqualifications in the trained group than the control group.

The Insolvency Service courses were run by two ex-police trainers who had also been brought up watching ‘Nellie’. They also believed the courses were a huge step forward. I monitored the training and can attest to the fact that they were run to the highest possible standards Note this was a commercial operation. My company was employed by the Insolvency Service to run the courses. The trainers were my employees, I monitored the courses and did the evaluation. I can, of course, be accused of bias in this evaluation, but the data was provided and analysed by the Insolvency Service and quite clearly showed they were successful.

All this begs the question how well were the courses in the Police Service, evaluated by Clarke and Milne, being run 8 years after they were started? Perhaps some of the findings of Clarke and Milne, which are frankly damning, are attributable to the fact that they were poorly run? Large numbers of trained officers in the Clarke and Milne study didn’t even introduce themselves or state the purpose of the interview. What hope then that they were carrying out conversation management properly? Good trainers confront these issues with trainees. What evidence is there that eight years after the training was commenced it was being carried out properly?

Stephen comments

Barry is quite right in pointing out the error in the way I cited his study. The McGurk et al. (1993) study evaluated pilot versions of the PEACE model and as the findings were positive the training was adopted. Therefore it would be accurate to say that the study provided compelling evidence for the adoption of PEACE training. Obviously it did as that’s exactly what happened! Sorry Barry.

What I should have made clearer was that Barry’s study provided evidence for the initial adoption of the PEACE model, but after that something seems to have gone awry. It may be, as Barry suggests, that the way the training was delivered was responsible for the poor evaluation outcomes. That’s an important question. It would be possible to know the answer if there had been more evaluations, but that didn’t happen.

Thanks Barry.


Clarke, C., & Milne, R. (2001). National evaluation of the PEACE Investigative interviewing course. Home Office.

McGurk, B. J., Carr, M. J., & McGurk, D. (1993). Investigative interviewing courses for police officers: An evaluation. Police Research Series Paper 4. Police Research Group, The Home Office.

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Blog 11 Commentary by Dr Barry McGurk
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