GUEST BLOG Geoff Peck - FTI Consulting
This week, we introduce a guest writer for the HR Staff n’ Stuff blog as we look at how to effectively handle an interview that forms part of an investigation.
Sounds like something out of a police drama and it kind of is with investigations required when fraudulent activity is suspected or when you are trying to determine the sequence of events in the case of workplace conflict or harassment.
We have worked with Geoff Peck across several cases that relate specifically to his skills around forensic investigations involving theft and misconduct by an employee and we have seen that his knowledge and calm approach know no bounds.
Investigative interviewing is an important tool in any investigation. Both witnesses and those suspected of being involved in wrong-doing will have information critical to the investigation and it is the investigator’s job to elicit that information.
An investigative interview is often described as a conversation with a purpose.
Briefly, the interviewer should:
The purpose of an interview is not to extract a confession, rather it is to obtain relevant information, whether the interviewee is a witness or suspect. If an investigation outcome is reliant on a confession, then the case is likely a weak one.
However, if a person does make a confession, it is simply a good start to an investigation. Every element of the confession must be validated.
The PEACE model of investigative interviewing
In the early 1990s, a model of investigative interviewing was developed in the United Kingdom aimed at achieving effective and persuasive investigative interviewing, known as PEACE:
The PEACE model remains relevant today and provides a very good framework for conducting an investigative interview.
Plan and prepare
Investigators should attempt to obtain as much information as possible prior to the interview. The more information the interviewer has, the greater the likelihood of a successful interview. While witnesses are typically interviewed during the course of an investigation, a suspect is usually left to the end.
Note there will be times where this is not possible, for example where a suspect approaches an investigator and requests to put their point of view across. It is entirely appropriate to have that conversation. The investigator may not ask many questions, but should make a record what the person has to say. A follow-up interview can be conducted at a later stage.
In terms of planning the interview, know what needs to be covered and ensure any documents or data is readily available to be put to the interviewee. It is not necessary, or even advisable, to write out each question to be asked, but themes should be identified to ensure all relevant matters are addressed.
Interviews should always be undertaken in pairs, with a ‘primary’ interviewer and an assistant (known in policing terms as a ‘corroborator’).
Engage and explain
An interview commences from the time an investigator greets the interviewee. It is important to try to establish rapport with the interviewee, although this should not be confused with attempting to be an interviewee’s friend. Try to be professional and formal, but project to the interviewee their welfare is front of mind.
Remember, being a witness is difficult and being a suspect is stressful.
Introduce the interviewee to the subject of the interview and explain how the interview will be conducted. While an interview with a witnesses may be recorded by the interviewer in the form of notes or a statement, usually an interview with a suspect is recorded by audio or (on rare occasions) video device.
A good way to start an investigative interview is to say:
This is a record of a conversation between [name of interviewer] and [name of interviewee] conducted at [location]
on [date] at [time]. Also present are/is [interviewer’s assistant] and [any other person present, e.g., support person of
The interviewer should then specify the reason for the interview. In the case of a suspect, the allegations or suspicions should be specified with sufficient particularity to enable the person to understand what is alleged or suspected.
This stage is where the interviewee is invited to tell their story, or their account of events. The interviewer should initially provide the interviewee the opportunity to speak with minimal interruption.
When the interviewee has concluded, the interviewer will explore what the interviewee has said. The interviewer may:
The interviewer must be prepared to:
The ‘Account’ stage will occupy the bulk of the time spent with the interviewee. The interviewer should take their time and ensure all relevant mattes are addressed.
Where a suspect declines to provide any answers, or responds with ‘No comment’, the investigator should at least put every allegation or suspicion to the person and seek their response.
Although the interviewer is not required to ‘prove their case’ to a suspect, or put every piece of evidence to them, a suspect is entitled to be provided the opportunity to respond to information or any piece of evidence that:
Do not be tempted to rush the closure of an interview. Take sufficient time to:
Where the interview has been recorded by audio or video device, the interviewee may ask for a copy. Generally, this is an entirely reasonable request and can be complied with. The interviewer should bear in mind however, any impact to ongoing investigations. It may be appropriate to only provide copies of interviews at the conclusion of the investigation and after all witnesses and suspects have been interviewed.
A good way to conclude an investigative interview that is being recorded, is to say:
Conversation between [name of interviewer] and [name of interviewee] is concluded at [time] on [date].
This stage requires the interviewer to reflect on the interview and assess:
It is important to include the interview assistant in this evaluation because this person is likely to be in the best position to critically evaluate the interviewer’s performance.
When a person takes on the role of an investigator/interviewer, they become a potential witness in any proceedings that may result, whether disciplinary, civil or criminal.
With that in mind, an investigative interview can be confronting not only for the interviewee, but also for the interviewer. However, with sufficient planning and preparation, by following the PEACE model, and approaching the conversation with the mindset of being scrupulously fair to the interviewee, the task can be undertaken successfully and with confidence.
About the Author:
Geoff Peck is a Managing Director in the Risk and Investigations practice of FTI Consulting. Geoff specialises in fraud, corruption and misconduct investigations, anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing advice, fraud and corruption risk management, whistleblower management, and anti-bribery and corruption reviews.
Geoff commenced his career as an officer with Victoria Police and served many years as a Detective with the Criminal Investigations Branch and as a Detective Sergeant with the Major Fraud Group. He also served as a prosecutor before the Victorian Magistrates’ Court. Geoff gained extensive investigation experience during his 22 years with Victoria Police including specialist fraud and corruption investigation experience during his seven years with the Major Fraud Group.
Geoff moved to the private sector in 2000 when he joined the Forensic practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2009, Geoff took a senior position with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in its Forensic practice and in 2015 joined FTI Consulting.
Geoff’s experience includes fraud, corruption and misconduct investigations, fraud and corruption risk management, whistleblower management, anti-bribery and corruption reviews, and physical security strategy advice.
Geoff can be contacted on +61 402 890 019 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!