Did he understand his rights? Assessing the comprehensibility of police cautions in New Zealand
Issue: Vol 25 No. 1 (2018)
Subject Areas: Linguistics
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
Ainsworth, J. (2008) ‘You have the right to remain silent … But only if you ask for it just so’: the role of linguistic ideology in American police interrogation law. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 15(1):1–22.
Ainsworth, J. (2010) Curtailing coercion in police interrogation: the failed promise of Miranda v. Arizona. In M. Coulthard and A. Johnson (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics 111–125. Abingdon: Routledge.
Ainsworth, J. (2012) The meaning of silence in the right to remain silent. In L. Solan and P. Tiersma (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law 287–298. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Austin, J. L. (1962) How to Do Things with Words. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.
Baddeley, A. D. (2003) Working memory and language: an overview. Journal of Communication Disorders 36(3): 189–208.
Berk-Seligson, S. (2009) Coerced Confessions: The Discourse of Bilingual Police Interrogations. Berlin, New York: de Gruyter Mouton.
Berk-Seligson, S. (2016) Totality of circumstances and translating the Miranda warnings. In S. Ehrlich, D. Eades and J. Ainsworth (eds) Discursive Constructions of Consent in the Legal Process 241–263. Oxford Scholarship Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chaulk, S., Eastwood, J. and Snook, B. (2014) Measuring and predicting police caution comprehension in adult offenders. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice 56(3): 323–340.
Communication of Rights Group. (2016) Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA.– Communication Guidelines.
Cotterill, J. (2005) ‘You do not have to say anything …’: instructing the jury on the defendant’s right to silence in the English criminal justice system. Multilingua – Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication 24(1–2): 7–24.
Eades, D. (2010) Sociolinguistics and the Legal Process. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Eastwood J. and Snook, B. (2012) The effect of listenability on the comprehension of police cautions. Law and Human Behavior 36(3): 177–183.
Eastwood, J., Snook, B. and Chaulk, S. (2010) Measuring reading complexity and listening comprehension of Canadian police cautions. Criminal Justice and Behavior 37(4): 453–471.
Flesch, R. (1979) How to Write Plain English: A Book for Lawyers and Consumers. New York: Harper and Row.
Gibbons, J. (2001) Revising the language of New South Wales police procedures: applied linguistics in action. Applied Linguistics 22(4):439–469.
Gibbons, J. (2003) Forensic Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.
Green, A. (2014) Exploring Language Assessment and Testing: Language in Action. Abingdon :Routledge.
Grisso, T. (1981) Juveniles’ Waiver of Rights: Legal and Psychological Competence. New York: Plenum.
Heydon, G. (2005) The Language of Police Interviewing: A Critical Analysis. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ip, M. (2014) A changing Asian mix for New Zealand. Retrieved 16 December 2016 from www.asianz.org.nz/bulletin/changing-asian-mix-new-zealand.
Kurzon, D. (1996) To speak or not to speak: the comprehensibility of the revised police caution (PACE). International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 9(1): 3–16.
Mason, M. (2013) Can I get a lawyer? A suspect’s use of indirect requests in a custodial setting. International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 20(2): 203–228.
Moore, T. and Fitzsimmons, L. (2011) Justice imperilled: false confessions and the Reid technique. Criminal Law Quarterly 57(4): 509–542.
Olsson, J. and Luchjenbroers, J. (2014) Forensic Linguistics. London, New York: Bloomsbury.
Rock, F. (2007) Communicating Rights: The Language of Arrest and Detention. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Rock, F. (2010) Witnesses and suspects in interviews. Collecting oral evidence: the police, the public and the written word. In M. Coulthard and A. Johnson (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Forensic Linguistics 126–138. Abingdon: Routledge.
Rock, F. (2012) The caution in England and Wales. In L. Solan and P. Tiersma (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law 312–325. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rock, F. (2016) Talking the ethical turn: drawing on tick-box consent in policing. In S. Ehrlich, D. Eades and J. Ainsworth (eds) Discursive Constructions of Consent in the Legal Process 93-117. Oxford Scholarship Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rogers, R. and Drogin, E. (2015) Miranda rights and wrongs: matters of justice. Court Review 51: 150–156.
Rogers, R., Harrison, K. S., Shuman, D. W., Sewell, K. W. and Hazelwood, L. L. (2007) An analysis of Miranda warnings and waivers: comprehension and coverage. Law and Human Behaviour 31(2): 177–192.
Rogers, R., Hazelwood, L. L., Sewell, K. W., Shuman, D. W. and Blackwood, H. L. (2008) The comprehensibility and content of juvenile Miranda warnings. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 14(1): 63–87.
Rogers, R., Hazelwood, L. L., Sewell, K. W., Harrison, K. S. and Shuman, D. W. (2008) The language of Miranda warnings in American jurisdictions: a replication and vocabulary analysis. Law and Human Behavior 32(2): 124–136.
Solan, L. and Tiersma, P. (2005) Speaking of Crime: The Language of Criminal Justice. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Tavakol, M and Dennick, R. (2011) Making sense of Cronbach’s alpha. International Journal of Medical Education 2: 53–55.