Item Details

Did he understand his rights? Assessing the comprehensibility of police cautions in New Zealand

Issue: Vol 25 No. 1 (2018)

Journal: International Journal of Speech Language and the Law

Subject Areas: Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.32748


The authors' experience in conducting English language proficiency tests for second language speakers of English facing police charges has shown that some have limited understanding of their legal rights. The research study reported here comments on the complexity of the rights information presented by police to a range of participants. It investigates comprehension of that information by performing listening and reading comprehension tests with the participants. The results indicate a number of difficulties and a significant difference in the scores of first and second language speakers of English. This article outlines the tests performed and the results for both first and second language speakers, as well as discussing the complexity of the questions found difficult by participants. The results reinforce the need to ask whether people are being given their rights if they cannot understand them.

Author: Bronwen Innes, Rosemary Erlam

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