Witness Statements: The foundation of a thorough harassment investigation
One of the most important factors to a complete and thorough harassment investigation is the statement. We refer to the statements as the foundation of the report because that is the first place (besides your notes) that you have recorded and presented the evidence of the case.
A properly written statement can do many things for an investigation. They provide a framework for the case in that statements are the raw material of the case. Statements give you a structure on which to base your questions for witnesses and they can also point out questions or gaps of information that the investigator needs to fill before the end of the interview or investigation. Statements are what are left at the end of the interview process that you have the witness sign and take a copy of. They are what you base your conclusions on.
You would have a difficult time indeed bringing in a conclusion to a case of harassment without the evidence presented in the statements and the final report. There have been countless times that we have seen reports that attempt to make a conclusion based on a lack of evidence in the statements and the report. These conclusions are unfortunately the ones that are vulnerable to challenge.
In conducting training across the Country, we have learned that statement writing is an area where most harassment investigations need support. People often struggle with taking information they have gathered and presenting it (in the statement and the report) in a clear and complete manner. Unfortunately, incomplete statements lead to incomplete reports. If the evidence is presented in an incomplete way in the final report that can lead to being unable to reach a conclusion based on evidence even though the investigator asked all the ‘right’ questions, and maybe even took ‘perfect notes’. The evidence is just simply not there unless it is presented in a clear manner.
Are you able to read the final report and have all your questions answered and your conclusions make sense to your boss? Have you been asked to re-do witness interviews and/or entire investigations? Does the witness ask for excessive changes? These are all signs that can help you asses your statement taking process.
At Hill Advisory we follow the same pattern to format statements. We do this because we believe that it keeps our process safe.