These writing tasks may be unfamiliar even to

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transcribing a jointly authored account or recording speech, are neglected. These writing tasks may be unfamiliar even to experienced officers and must be undertaken during the, already complex, interview situation, making statement-taking not only a complex task but a complex literacy event (Barton, 1994:26). The speaking-writing imbalance is being
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addressed in training for senior investigative officers. Here, the importance of the witness’s contribution is stressed, “verbatim accounts” and use of witness’ “own words where possible” are encouraged. Such training might mark a transition from viewing statement-taking sessions as simply a means to an end to viewing them as important in their own right. Analysis of the relationship between statement-taking sessions and statements and also of the role of writing could interact with such training initiatives. Later in the criminal justice system, the decision to see witness statements as a certain type of text, a complete, true record of sensory input to a particular individual, (the witness), at a specific time or times (during an event defined as a crime or other related events), dictates the way statements are taken-up and used within that process. This stipulates what the texts which emerge from statement-taking sessions are, and how exactly they will be taken to construct a representation of lived reality, how they will, in turn, constitute the institutional order. Consider how witness statements are used within the criminal justice system. The written statement is seen to ‘stand in’ for the witness, to speak when they are not present throughout investigations (Milne and Shaw, 1999:128) and even at trial (Heaton-Armstrong and Wolchover, 1992:162). By affording the statement such primacy the criminal justice system comments on the witness, the statement and the relationship between both and the legal world. As Smith observes, “the appearance of meaning as a text, that is, in permanent material form, detaches meaning from the lived processes of its transitory construction, made and remade at each moment of people’s talk”. (1990:210–211). Statements must, in detaching meaning, do so wisely, so that when they are used they represent the witness by accurately speaking on their behalf. The true power of the written text becomes fully apparent when we consider the way the criminal justice system comes to prefer the information contained in the statement over the information provided by the witness, when at trial a statement furnishes “a narrative from which, months later, witnesses can refresh their memories… [and] affords a text against which their consistency can be checked” (Heaton-Armstrong and Wolchover. 1992:162). Leaving aside the circularity of this manner of checking witnesses’ consistency, this gives us a sense of the sway that the written text comes to hold. The statement is not used simply to support, confirm or even explore the witness’ presentation of events, rather it becomes an authoritative text against which even the witness, the original source of the information contained in the statement, is assessed.
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