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How did you become interested in this specific topic?

I have a background in behavioral science with an orientation towards psychology and pedagogy, and have experience in investigating crimes against children in the police at Barnahus Stockholm. The interest in research is something I have carried with me from my undergraduate studies in psychology, and from my work experience as a research assistant in a forensic psychiatry project. After a few years of working in the police, I sought out child and youth studies because I have a genuine interest in children’s rights, vulnerable children’s and young people’s life conditions, and forensic practices. As a doctoral student at the Department of Child and Youth Studies, my supervisor and I identified a research area with a large need for new knowledge and development. There was a knowledge gap to fill specifically regarding interrogations with children and young people suspected of crimes. Subsequently, the interest became more about interrogation practices against the backdrop of the double responsibility.

Can you briefly summarize what your research is about?

My research is about how the police interrogate both children, who are not criminally responsible, and criminally responsible youth suspected of having committed deadly violence. I have had the privilege of working with incredibly exciting material where I have studied authentic interrogations with children and young people suspected of having committed deadly violence. I have identified what the police’s interrogation officers do in the interrogations, how they ask questions, and in what way they get children and young people to talk. What I identify as question themes, question types, and question strategies in my empiricism is what I call interrogation practices. I relate these three interrogation practices to the double responsibility that comes with having two missions: 

  1. Solving crime and guilt (a criminal law mission);
  2. As a law enforcement agency, defending children and young people’s right to support, help, care, and the dignified treatment that contributes to a favorable development for the young person (a social law mission). 

The double mission rests on legal requirements and recommendations for how interrogations with children and young people should be executed.

Which are the most important results or teachings, or which is the most important progress, in the study?

The dissertation identifies five findings. The first one is that interrogation practice consists of three themes; the question theme (what the interrogating officer asks about), question types (how the interrogation officer asks his/her questions), and question strategies (how the interrogation officers try to make the child or young person talk about the question themes). The second one is that these three interrogation practices orient exclusively towards solving the crime and who might be guilty. 
The third finding shows that there is no noticeable difference between how non criminally responsible children versus criminally responsible young people are interrogated, despite the fact that regulations state different goals and meaning of preliminary investigation as well as interrogation depending on age of responsibility. 
The fourth finding shows that only the criminal law mission is fulfilled, which entails a one-sided focus on solving crimes and guilt. 
The fifth finding in the dissertation shows that despite the fulfillment of the criminal law mission, there are deficiencies in how the interrogation officers use question types and question strategies that aim to make the suspect talk. The deficiencies go against previous research on recommended interrogation methods for children and young people; leading and suggestive questions are asked and strategies are used that risk making children and young people admit to crimes they have not committed.

Is there anything that has amazed or surprised you while you have been working with your questions?

The dissertation is a contribution to how law enforcement agencies think about the interrogation practice’s legal making and awakens questions of how a complex and difficult task can be executed in accordance with the wellbeing of children and young people. I would say that my research pinpoints how law enforcement agencies think in relation to their mission regarding children and young people that commit very serious crimes.
It also points out the direction for how children and young people that risk suffering because of criminality can, should, and will get an opportunity for changed life conditions if the double responsibility is fully extracted in connection to law enforcement agencies’ exercise of public authority.
The dissertation is also a contribution to child and youth studies regarding how social institutions relate to children and the youth. That is, how adult actors in exercise of public authority relate to children and young people’s different actions.