The Caution in England and Wales

Frances Rock

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 The Caution in England and Wales

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Sociolinguistics


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‘You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defense if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’ This is the police caution, presented by police officers in England and Wales when individuals are arrested, and immediately before they are interviewed. A similar wording is recited if they are charged. On entering custody, suspects will also be offered access to a written version of the wording, along with information on other rights, most importantly the right to legal advice. This article examines three aspects of cautioning – its official wording, its explanation in context, and its upshots during the extended legal process – and also discusses the issues surrounding non-native speakers when encountering cautions and warnings. It then outlines the standard wording of the police caution, including its comprehensibility and comprehension. The article concludes by considering the caution's administration, as well as its influence on speech, silence, and their interpretation.

Keywords: police caution; England; Wales; suspects; non-native speakers; comprehensibility; comprehension; speech; silence; interpretation

Article.  6381 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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