Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Young People's Comprehension of the Rights Caution in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-22, 11:58 authored by Gaston, Frances

In New Zealand we have a child/youth, and an adult version of the Rights Caution, which are the rights read to an individual when they are arrested, detained, or questioned by police. The child/youth version was created with the developmental needs of young people in mind, however, it remains unclear whether it is assisting young people to better understand their rights. No research has been completed in New Zealand looking at young people’s comprehension of the Rights Caution, however, international research has shown that 1) the majority of individuals under 15 years old have limited rights comprehension, and 2) adapted versions of rights do not increase young people’s understanding. In consideration of these findings, the current research aimed to answer three key questions: 1) Do young people in New Zealand understand the Rights Caution, 2) what level of understanding do they have, and does this change with age, and 3) is the child/youth version of the Rights Caution helping to increase young people’s level of understanding of their rights, compared to the adult version? Participants were recruited from two Wellington region schools (N=101). They were interviewed using The New Zealand Rights Caution Competency Questionnaire, which was designed for this study, to assess young people’s understanding of the New Zealand Rights Caution. Participants were divided into either a 10-to-13-year-old age group (n=58), or a 14-to-16-year-old age group (n=43), and were randomly selected to be interviewed using either the child/youth, or adult version of the Rights Caution. It was found that participants had limited understanding of the Rights Caution, exhibiting more basic understanding, compare to in depth knowledge around the application of the rights. Level of understanding was not affected by participant’s age; the older participants knew as little as the younger ones did. Furthermore, it was found that the child/youth version of the Rights Caution did not assist participants in their understanding, and actually contained language that participants found more difficult to understand. These findings suggest that the New Zealand Rights Caution may not be effective in providing young people with the legal protection that it is intended to, and the processes around its use with New Zealand youth may need to be revised.


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 Type Of Activity code

970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and the Cognitive sciences

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Fortune, Clare-Ann; Brown, Deirdre