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Rob Rinder on Interrogation Secrets: 'This is the critical moment in an investigation'

Rob Rinder

Returning for season 2, Judge Rinder’s Interrogation Secrets takes a unique look at the battle of wits between police and suspects in some of the most disturbing US and UK criminal cases of recent years. Across the new series, experts analyse police interviews and the skilled work of detectives that was key to cracking the cases and securing a conviction. Rob Rinder’s legal background as a criminal barrister makes him the perfect guide through the art of interrogation.

Crime + Investigation spoke to Rob about the series, his admiration for the work of investigators, and the sure-fire way to tell if someone is lying.

Crime + Investigation: Can you tell us what audiences can expect to see when they watch Judge Rinder’s Interrogation Secrets?

Rob Rinder: It's really exciting to say the very least. One of the things that people don't usually see, that they’re genuinely fascinated by, is how a criminal case gets to court. Often what happens is that on television you see the person get arrested, but not the critical moment of investigation and what happens in those dramatic scenes. That’s the police interview.

In Interrogation Secrets, you’ll see how investigators, the police, sometimes the FBI, and other agencies, interview somebody, and how they determine and unpick whether the person's lying. It’s a chance to see what that process involves. In the US they call it interrogation, in this country we call it interviewing, but the skill and the art of that is absolutely fascinating.

You're going to follow the stories of what happens in high-profile murder cases, in some of the most notorious murders across the United States - and one case in the United Kingdom - from the very initial suspicion. This is where you really follow the action and, of course, get to appreciate the extraordinary skill of the police officers involved. Sometimes they get advised by lawyers, body language experts, and psychologists, but you watch the police officers, in real-time, as they unpick what happens in the interrogation room.

You follow in a contemporaneous way, wondering exactly how it is that the police make a determination from initial suspicion to a confession. What are the tools they use in order to sometimes break a witness down? How do they psychologically unpick the person? Why do some people confess? What different strategies do they use? And at the end of it, there's sometimes a dramatic break in the case.

It has all the drama of you being able to work out whether or not you think somebody's guilty, and then you get to see what happens at the end in this critical moment of a police investigation. Usually, certainly in the cases that I've done, the most important bit of evidence in the course of any proceedings is what may or may not have been said in a police interview. So the show is a bit of insight and a bit of seeing behind the curtain at the most important part of a murder trial.

Was it this opportunity to peak behind the curtain that interested you and attracted you to the project?

Yeah, absolutely, but also to demonstrate and show the skill of the police. We often hear, perfectly understandably, ways the police can improve things that have gone wrong. But I think we fail adequately to talk about the extraordinary skills they have. The critical piece in the puzzle that brought people to justice ultimately, was the sensitivity, the complexity, and the strategy that the police applied to interviewing the suspects involved and how they managed the process from the initial suspicion, right the way through to, in some cases, a confession.

The difficulty is it's not just dramatic as you follow it, but it has to be done with enormous caution and care. Because if they fail in those interviews and they don't follow the law, that entire interview becomes poisoned, and it can't be used. If the police use tactics which are flawed or too aggressive, again, that entire interview is no longer usable in the criminal process. So, this is the critical moment in an investigation.

What we're going to see is not just the law, but this dramatic process where the people who are doing the questioning are doing it with enormous skill and with psychological sensitivity. What's so fascinating as well is that, although these men and women have been trained to an extraordinary level, oftentimes as you watch it at home, you will be able to see how the process works, how people get broken down, why they might start to change their stories and at what point this starts to happen. You effectively get to solve and unpick the case in real-time as well.

Was there anything that you learnt about the various interrogation techniques that particularly shocked you?

It’s hard to shock me. I suspect a lot of people watching will be true crime fans, which a lot of people are, and this series has been put together with such deftness and such brilliance.

The difficulty is I'm not an amateur. So, having done many high-profile murder trials, nothing really surprised me, except I've been away from it for a while doing different kinds of law. You very quickly lose the muscle memory to remember just how skilled some of the investigators are. In at least two of the cases, the gentle way in which they'll quietly coax somebody into a confession by kindness, or by slowly unpicking what they've said with gentleness. People think the word interrogation implies a degree of aggression. We often see that in certain cases of miscarriages of justice, but what you see here actually, is a real sort of intelligence.

It's much more ‘Agatha Christie’ than it is Line of Duty. It’s that degree of intelligence and sophistication that ultimately results in the criminal being brought to justice. Slowly and thoughtfully unpicking and managing the whole situation. It’s been a privilege to watch.

What are some of the biggest tell-tale signs that someone’s lying in the interrogation room?

That’s the really interesting thing you’re going to be watching during the series. You’re going to be hearing from a whole buffet of experts, including body language experts.

Now, as a barrister, I don't do that necessarily. I have a series of instincts, but I'm really looking at the inconsistencies on the face of the statement. Often in my case, because I'm happily cursed by a photographic memory, I'll remember precisely everything somebody said. Even the thinnest inconsistency, I'll pick up. But also, I'll have a case theory about what I think's going on and that's my job to persuade the jury that that version of events is true. We all have different approaches when it comes to demonstrating the inconsistencies in a witness or a defendant’s case.

In the interrogation room, there's a whole series of different ways in which we might be able to detect that somebody's lying. It might be body language, or instincts that the police have, but most especially it's on the evidence. We only know somebody's lying at the beginning when it looks like the story that they've put forward is slowly beginning to unravel as other evidence emerges. What does their phone record say? What does the CCTV show?

Critically, this is really important in the course of an interrogation, rather than being in court when the evidence has already arrived. At this moment in the investigation, when do you deploy that? When do you tell the suspect that you've got this material and you know they're lying? How long do you allow them to carry on lying?

I have to say that's how you detect people are lying. There are instincts and there’s body language and we'll explore that during the series. But it's really based on the evidence when it emerges and that critical moment that you put it in front of the defendant. It's really quite a thing to see.

Season two of Judge Rinder's Interrogation Secrets starts Monday, 3rd April at 9pm on Crime + Investigation.