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CHESS Seminar Series 2016/17

(18 April 2017)

The next CHESS seminar entitled 'The Sounds of Silence in the Law' will take place on Thursday, 25 May in the Senate Room, University College. The seminar will commence at 10am and all are welcome and refreshments provided. To confirm your attendance please contact the Centre Administrator at

Abstract: We will examine certain situational and evidentiary factors of criminal police interviews and trial testimony with their pressures to speak. In the US, the spatial and linguistic environment of interrogation is designed to elicit a confession, even if it is false. In England & Wales, the goal of interrogation is to determine the most veridical version of a criminal incident. The situational pressures to speak that are exerted on suspects belie claims that suspects and defendants have a right to silence. Even when silent, suspects and defendants may be unintentionally eloquent. Silence can be a speech act from the point of view of a jury. Even when suspects are silent during interrogations, that silence can be used in England, Wales, and the US to undermine the credibility of the suspect's defense, should she become the defendant in a criminal trial. Thus there is pressure on defendants to be silent at trial, which jurors then often take to be an admission of guilt. Silence as speech act is not restricted to legal contexts. Silence as speech act is also evident in the collection and use of polling data, the collection and use of survey-sourced data, and other forms of evidence in social science, analysis of which our approach to interrogation-derived evidence in the law is intended to be a contribution.

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