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SIO Corner: Action ‘Write-Ups’

This week we focus on the use of Action ‘Write-Ups’ within a major investigation

In this series we look at various aspects of life as an SIO. This includes the necessary skill sets for the successful SIO, the management of serious crime investigation and specific elements of investigative practice from initial response through crime scene examination and investigative strategies to dealing with suspects and the media. The articles are excerpts from the 2nd edition of Blackstone's, the 'Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook', written by two highly experienced SIOs (see 'About the Authors' at the end of the article).

Action ‘Write-Ups’

Actions are the principal source used to evaluate the outcome of an enquiry made and also the effectiveness and efficiency of the completing officer(s). A well-presented response to a task, accompanied by an accurate and readable report, reflects professionalism and underlies success.

Attached to each front sheet outlining the nature of an action and who it is allocated to should be an official report on the result from those who have carried out the instruction or enquiry. Good reports indicate a well-managed approach to the investigation and are important because they constitute disclosable material for the purposes of the prosecutor, defence teams, and any subsequent reviews or public enquiries.

Different SIOs may have their own preferences and styles for the way they prefer action write-ups to be completed. There are, however, some important rules to follow and the SIO must ensure that all their staff are aware of what is/what is not required and acceptable. This is particularly important if staff and teams have been assembled and brought in from different units or other force areas. Below is a useful list of rules for completing Actions.

Checklist—Action ‘Write-Ups’


In a large-scale major investigation, investigators are generally too busy in the early stages to complete action write-ups. In which case the SIO should ensure that they are still kept updated with useful and interesting developments and the progress of actions through oral briefings and at team briefings.

Case Study—Terminology Issue

A male was ambushed by seven masked offenders in a house where he had attended in order to settle a drugs debt. Each offender was armed with a weapon, amongst which were four firearms. The victim received numerous fatal gunshot wounds and died later. After the attack all offenders fled from the rear of the house along a canal bank, witnessed by a neighbour who became a main prosecution witness. However, all the offenders were white males and the witness described one as being dark skinned after noticing the colour of his hands.

The witness made a statement and during her evidence in court retracted the aforementioned detail, stating she was now unsure about the colour of one of the offender’s hands. The defence team argued that she had changed her evidence to suit the prosecution case. To support their contention they produced an Action writeup which contained the words ‘the witness is sticking to her story about the colour of the offender’s hands’. This unfortunate choice of words was used by the defence to accuse the police of trying to get the witness to change her account, and although it was vehemently denied, some damage had been done to the integrity of the witness-handling procedure.

About the Authors:

Detective Superintendent Tony Cook was a CID officer with Greater Manchester Police for over 31 years until his retirement in 2009. During his time as an SIO, he led a number of high profile investigations including operations into gangland violence at Moss Side, the Bolton murder of a teenage girl in 2002, and the Denton strangling case. He was a trained assessor for promotion and a qualified Authorising Officer under RIPA. Tony received 14 commendations and a first-class BSc Honours degree in social sciences and a Diploma in Social Policy & Criminology from the Open University.

Andy Tattersall, formerly Detective Superintendent in Greater Manchester Police on the Force Major Incident Team, retired in 2007 after 33 years service and became the first ever Support Staff SIO in charge of a new Homicide Support Unit. With over 29 years in CID at all ranks Andy received the Homicide Working Group National Award for his Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Homicide in November 2006.

To see more details about the Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook, or to purchase a copy, click here

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