Once there has been a complaint that an offence has or may have been committed, the process of gathering information, referred to as an investigation, will typically begin. At its simplest, this will be a matter of speaking with the alleged offender or the person pleading guilty to the offence. Such a case may occur if an individual is caught shoplifting and that person’s details are passed on to the police. Where there is a lack of certainty about the nature of the offence (or indeed whether an offence took place at all), about the identity of the offender (especially if, when located, a suspect denies the offence), and where there may be a need to gather information from other sources (typically suspects, victims, or witnesses), a variety of considerations and issues may arise. These are partly issues of how to elicit information accurately, and partly issues of evidence and how the legal system allows evidence to be gathered. Shepherd (2007) writes: ‘Investigation in the criminal context involves the lawful search for detail enabling reconstruction of an actual or intended illegal act, and of the mental state accompanying it’ (p. 3).
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