Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Use of Visual Aids to Improve Young People’s Understanding of their Legal Rights in New Zealand

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posted on 2023-04-07, 03:22 authored by Fawzy, Christine

As young people often engage in antisocial behaviour during the period of adolescence, it is not uncommon for young people to have interactions with the police. If a young person is being arrested, detained or questioned by a police officer, they must be read the Child and Young Person’s version of the New Zealand Rights Caution (Youth Caution). Research to date shows young people do not understand their rights, which suggests the way they are currently being delivered may not adequately assist understanding. The objective of the current study was to address part of this issue by creating and assessing a visual presentation of the Youth Caution, with the goal of making it easier for young people to understand their legal rights. Four research questions were examined: 1) What was young people’s current level of legal rights understanding? 2) Would a visual presentation of the Youth Caution, improve understanding? 3) Would a visual presentation of the Youth Caution improve understanding, after controlling for the effects of verbal intelligence and age? 4) Would legal rights understanding increase with age and verbal intelligence? To answer these questions, young people (10 to 18 years) were recruited from schools and community groups (N = 96). Participants were assigned to two groups; one group received their legal rights in the visual manner, along with additional legal rights information, and the other group received the standard Youth Caution, as currently delivered in practice. The level of legal rights understanding was then assessed, using the New Zealand Rights Caution Competency Questionnaire (Fortune et al., n.d). The results showed young people had very low levels of legal rights understanding before being exposed to their rights. Regression analyses revealed the visual presentation of legal rights significantly improved young people’s understanding overall, but also their ability to recall legal rights concepts and their application of legal rights to hypothetical scenarios. Regression analyses further revealed legal rights understanding improved as a young person aged and as their verbal abilities increased. As young people still demonstrated incomplete understanding after receiving the intervention, the findings suggest there are likely numerous factors contributing to young people’s difficulties with understanding, beyond the delivery of legal rights alone (e.g., young people’s developmental stage). Despite this, the findings did positively show that the combination of components explored (visual aids, verbal explanation, chunking, simplified language) in the current study meaningfully improved young people’s understanding. Integrating more learning principles into practice, such as visual aids, is a significant implication of these findings. However, legislation could offer further support to youth, such as the default presence of a lawyer during police questioning.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130205 Visual communication

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Fortune, Clare-Ann