3 July 2020 | Podcasts | Article by Alan Collins

HJ Talks About Abuse: An Interview With Hugh Koch: Remote Interviewing During Lockdown

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse Podcast, we discuss the topic of remote interviewing with returning guest, Clinical Psychologist and Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University Hugh Koch.

Part of the process for survivors of sexual abuse is to be interviewed. These interviews can be conducted by those trying to help them recover and rebuild their lives - such as psychiatrists or psychologists. Or, it may be by those who are trying to help them in other ways such as the police or their solicitor. In each of these interview situations, it is vitally important that the interviewee feels comfortable and able to share honest and open answers. It is also vitally important that the interviewer is able to clearly hear the person they are interviewing and, equally importantly, they need to be able to pick up on body language.

Both Hugh and I had conducted remote interviews prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, but neither of us was enthusiastic about the prospect of doing more of them unless they were strictly required by the interviewee. 

However, since the COVID-19 lockdown, remote interviews have become the accepted norm and both of us have had to use them extensively. A variety of platforms can be used for remote interviews with each having their pros and cons, but as long as the platform is easy to access for the survivor of abuse, it should work well.

With limited cause to use the technology prior to lockdown, we were more willing to cope with limitations like poor picture or sound quality. In some cases, there was a noticeable delay between a question being asked and the answer being given when interviews were done with people in North America. There have previously been issues with assessing body language of the lower torso and legs or if those areas of the body sustained an injury. But technology has improved a lot recently and there have been far fewer problems than anticipated. Empathy and listening is good for both ends of the call.

In March, there was a big discussion between solicitors, barristers, therapists and insurance companies about the validity of remote interviews. But, since BPS guidelines have been issued, client satisfaction with the process has been high, it has been easy to access for clients, and provides a good degree of privacy, confidentiality and security.

There have been specific issues with remote psychometric testing, as the process becomes much more complex when done remotely. It’s not that it can’t be done, just that it takes much more skill and attention.

Overall, remote interviewing has been working well and it may be used more in the future, even after lockdown ends, but it will never replace the face to face interview.


Author bio

Alan Collins is one of the best known solicitors in the field of child abuse litigation and has acted in many high profile cases, including the Jimmy Savile and Haut de la Garenne abuse scandals. Internationally, Alan works in Australia, South East Asia, Uganda, Kenya, and California representing clients in high profile sexual abuse cases. Alan also spoke at the Third Regional Workshop on Justice for Children in East Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok hosted by Unicef and HCCH (Hague Conference on Private International Law).

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Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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