The guilty silence: the discursive implications of non-response in a police interview
journal contributionposted on 02.06.2017 by Heydon, Georgina
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Police evidentiary interviews with suspects provide a source of institutional language data in which the contributions of participants may be critical to their future, in the context of a subsequent court case. An analysis of the interactional strategies of police interview participants demonstrates that the contributions of the suspect are highly constrained in a number of ways, including allowable turn types and the management of topic initiations. If assumptions about 'preferred responses' based on ordinary conversation are used to interpret non-response in this particular institutional setting, then these interactionally restricted contributions, which will be presented as evidence, may be susceptible to adverse inference in a way that is unlikely to be addressed by the judicial system. This paper concludes that discourse analysis can present a case against the erosion of the defendant's rights, in particular the right to silence.