Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

News Shorts And Other Busyness

New Police Caution Is Not Understood

Squall 11, Autumn 1995, pg. 5.

A research paper published in the forensic magazine, Expert Evidence, has suggested that people perceive the new police caution that replaced the right to silence, to be a threat.

The new police caution, brought in following the removal of the right to silence in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, reads: “You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

In the survey, forming the basis of the report, more than half those tested could not understand what the caution meant. Only one in eight of those questioned understood the second sentence.

The researchers responsible for the report include Eric Shepherd and Anna Mortimer, both consultant forensic scientists asked by the police service to conduct continuing research into cautioning.

The research paper concludes: “Delivering the 37-word, three-element caution as a whole is an inherently meaningless process. Its length, number of clauses, and syntactic and semantic complexity ensures that it is beyond the ability of the majority of people in the street to absorb, let alone comprehend.” The research was welcomed by civil rights groups although some questioned whether it was any easier to comprehend the report than the new police caution!