In the Belgian judiciary, police interviews with suspects involve the complex discursive task of transforming a suspect’s oral narrative account into a written record. Although such statement is supposed to be written down as much as possible in the suspect’s own words (Komter 2002), the written record usually provides a summarized version of the talk which is interactionally negotiated by police authorities throughout the interview (Mason & Rock 2019).
In multilingual interview settings, the additional layer of interpreter mediation complicates these interactional dynamics even further. In line with a growing awareness of pragmatics in legal interpreting (e.g. Jacobsen 2010, Gallai 2017, Nakane 2020) the present study zooms in on interpreter-initiated pragmatic shifts and discusses their effect on the highly institutional context in which they occur.
Drawing on video-recordings of authentic interpreter-mediated police interviews, as well as their corresponding written records, we investigate to what extent pragmatic alterations of the suspect’s statement undermine the suspect's credibility throughout the police interview and at further stages of the judicial process. The inclusion of such pragmatic items in the written record deserves particular attention, since the written record serves as a basis for judicial authorities’ decision-making and plays a crucial role in the evaluation of a suspect’s credibility, among others (De Keijser, Malsh et al. 2012).
de Keijser, J., Malsch, M., Kranendonk, R., & de Gruijter, M. (2012). Written records of police interrogation: differential registration as determinant of statement credibility and interrogation quality. Psychology, Crime & Law : PC & L, 18(7), 613–629.
Gallai, F. (2017). Pragmatic competence and interpreter-mediated police investigative interviews. The Translator, 23(2), 177–196.
Jacobsen, B. (2010). Interactional Pragmatics and Court Interpreting: An analysis of face. In M.Shlesinger & F. Pöchhacker (Eds.), Doing Justice to Court Interpreting (pp. 192-222). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Komter, M. (2002) The Suspect‘s Own Words: The Treatment of Written Statements in Dutch Courtrooms‘. Forensic Linguistics 9(2): 168-92.
Mason, M., & Rock, F. (2019). The discourse of police interviews. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Nakane, I. (2019). Narrative construction in interpreted police interviews. In M. Mason & F. Rock (Eds.), The discourse of police interviews (pp.179-199). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.