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Ethical Issues


LAW-TRAIN has recently passed the Ethical Review in H2020 by the European Commission with the best possible result!

“Good to excellent compliance with the H2020 ethical guidelines”

The Ethics Review Procedure has been applied to LAW-TRAIN on the 26th of October 2016. As a result, the project has obtained conditional ethics clearance subject to compliance with both Pre and Post Grant Agreement requirements. Following an in-depth analysis of the ethical issues of the projects, the panel concluded that the ethics issues have been correctly identified and addressed by the project participants. The experts have also concluded that the analysis of the document submitted initially and in response to the ethics requirements showed that the ethics issues have been addressed in a professional and comprehensive manner and that a very high level of attention to Ethics issues throughout the project, and embedded within the project life, has been demonstrated by the Consortium. Furthermore, ethics aspects are constantly monitored during the implementation of the projects through the revision of relevant deliverables and also carefully analyzed in cooperation with external independent experts during the technical review meetings linked to the end of the reporting periods.

Please find further information about the Ethics Review Procedure in detail as well as an extended version of the stated results within the PDF below.

There are two prime ethical aspects to consider in LAW-TRAIN: Ethics of research and ethics of the content.

Ethics of Research: Activities in LAW-TRAIN require the conductance of research with human participants (mostly, end-users), who take part in tests, interviews, experiments and workshops. The participants take different roles in these research activities, such as suspects or trainees. Ethical standards were established in deliverable D2.3, to provide the partners of the project with guidelines on how to handle personal data and treat participants properly. D2.3 was developed in accordance with the European Commission guidelines and legislation for ethical principles. 

In LAW-TRAIN we follow the golden rules for ethical research provided by the 7th Framework Program (European Commission, 2013, p. 24). Specifically, we strictly stick to:

  • respecting the integrity and dignity of persons
  • following the “do no harm” principle. In order to do so, all possible risks are clearly communicated to the involved subjects.
  • recognizing the rights of individuals for personal privacy, personal data protection and freedom of movement.
  • honouring the informed consents and the continuous dialogue with the involved research subjects.
  • respecting the principle of proportionality – not to impose more than necessary on the participants, as well as not going beyond stated objectives.
  • taking social concerns seriously by listening and engaging in constructive dialogues with the public with transparency, honesty and integrity.
  • preventing being openly available for misuse or malignant dual use by terrorists or military organizations.
  • considering the concerns research raises and build understanding that all benefits of this research are for the good of society (by accepting that eventually certain research practices have to be abandoned).

Participation is on a voluntary basis in order to avoid ethical reprehensible situations between the management of an institution and their staff (officer) when it comes to rejecting invitations for LAW-TRAIN. The consortium will only let people participate who do so voluntarily and after a full briefing. Also, researchers need to make the participators aware that if they don’t want to participate (from the beginning or during the session), they can stop their participation immediately. In such case, the researcher has to restate that none of the collected data from this participator will be used for LAW-TRAIN. The data of this participant will be deleted and will not remain on the records, in order to not distort the overall data.

LAW-TRAIN partners meet the public and law expectations regarding the treatment of the data. The research data obtained from participators are ‘unlinked anonymized data’, containing no information that could reasonably be used by anyone to identify people. The link to individuals is irreversibly broken and thus, will not contain any of the following, or codes traceable for the following:

  • Name, address, phone/fax number, email address, full postcode
  • NHS number, any other identifying reference number
  • Date of birth (but the year can be mentioned)
  • Photograph, names of relatives

Ethics of Content:  A special emphasis is placed on the management of ethical issues related to suspect interviewing, including questioning methods and the design of the virtual investigation room. Both the Virtual Suspect and the Virtual Lawyer have no ethnical characteristics.

In LAW-TRAIN we apply procedures and interviewing methods that meet the higher European standards. For example, as suggested several times by the EU Council, we apply the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) for international cooperation in criminal investigation. A JIT is a team of representatives of law enforcement and judicial authorities from several member states and sometimes from other organizations such as Europol and Eurojust, who investigate cases of transnational crime.

Aiming to avoid false confessions or wrong convictions, we apply only interviewing methods that were found to be valid in the scientific literature. For example, the literature clearly shows that body language and facial expressions are faint and unreliable indicators for deception and may bias the interviewers’ judgment regarding the honesty of the suspect (Nahari, 2016; Vrij, Granhag, & Porter, 2010). Consequently, non-verbal behavior in LAW-TRAIN is used only for recognizing emotions and not for interpretations regarding deception. A key principal in LAW-TRAIN is to apply information-gathering methods, in order to reduce the likelihood of false confessions and wrong convictions. Characteristics of the information-gathering method are

  • the explicit attention to the establishment of rapport between the investigator and the suspect and less focus on establishing control
  • the greater use of open-ended, explanatory questions compared to closed-ended, confirmatory questions
  • the focus on eliciting information rather than on obtaining a confession
  • the direct and positive style of confrontation rather than using psychological manipulation
  • the focus on cognitive cues for deception rather than a focus on anxiety cues.

Concerning the interviewing model that will be trained in LAW-TRAIN we’ve chosen the investigative interviewing model and, more specific, the PEACE model. The PEACE model is the most commonly studied method of investigative interviewing, that has proven its effectiveness in collecting valid information. This model is seen by the UN as the best strategy to prevent torture and to guarantee the best possible way to human rights and all the necessary European laws and regulations. Please find further information about the different steps interviewers must go through, here.

All partners are obliged to insure that the ethical gold standards are upheld. The ethical considerations are an integral part of our work and are kept in mind in all decisions. Deliverable D2.3 (see link above), which was developed based on the higher ethical standards and the European regulations, serves as a practical tool to provide guidance for the LAW-TRAIN project regarding ethics. Our in-house ethics director reviews all the deliverables, helps to identify ethical issues and addresses them appropriately. We have an external independent ethical advisor with whom we share ethical dilemmas. LAW-TRAIN is further a subject of regular evaluations by the European Commission ethical reviewers. These multiple reviews ensure that LAW-TRAIN keeps high quality ethical standards.

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Block, L. (2008). Combating organized crime in Europe: practicalities of police cooperation. Policing, 2(1), 74-81.

Cibea, A., Hollomey, C., Jones, A., Bobeth, J., & Paletta, L. (2012). MASELTOV – Deliverable Report D1.4 “Ethics Manual”.

Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados. (2015). Welcome. Retrieved from CNPD: http://www.cnpd.pt/english/index_en.htm

Comissão Nacional de Protecção de Dados. (n.d.). Act67/98. Retrieved from CNPD: http://www.cnpd.pt/english/bin/legislation/Law6798EN.HTM


EEAS. (2015, July 05). European Union external action. Retrieved from Data Protectoin: http://eeas.europa.eu/data_protection/index_en.htm

European Commission. (2013). Ethics for researchers – Facilitating Research Excellence in FP7. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

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Fuglerud, K. S., Solheim, I., Ellensohn, L., Pürzel, F., & Schulz, T. (2011). UTRUSTIT – D.7.4 Ethics manual.

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Kapplinghaus, J. (n.d.). Joint Investigation Teams: basic ideas, relevant legal instruments and first experiences in Europe. Visiting Experts’ Paper from the 134th International Training Course. Retrieved: http://www.unafei.or.jp/english/pdf/RS_No73/No73_07VE_Kapplinghaus2.pdf

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allegations of abuse. In R. Burnett (Ed.), Wrongful Allegations of Sexual and Child Abuse. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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and Verbal Lie Detection’, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 11, 89–121.

[1] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:142:0001:0010:en:PDF