Statement of suspects' rights wins award for its use of clear language
A project that ensures people understand their rights when they are arrested has won the annual Wablieft award for its use of plain language. After a trial in four police zones, the text will be used throughout Belgium from 2024 and will be translated into 52 languages.
People taken into custody have rights including a private conversation with a lawyer, the right to remain silent, the right to an interpreter and the right to medical assistance. A written explanation of these rights is given to the suspect, alongside a verbal explanation. However, research has shown that not everyone understands the wording used.
"Write your rights in plain language, then people understand them much better"
To address this, criminologist Ariane Deladrière developed the Clear Statement of Rights, a text in French and Dutch being tested in the Brussels-North, Namur Capitale, Eupen and Limburg Region Capital police zones.
“This is great news for our entire working group,” Deladrière said of the prize. “For justice, and really for everyone. Write your rights in plain language, then people understand them much better.”
“This shows that clear writing is also possible in the judiciary and police,” Wablieft said.
Through a weekly newspaper, language advice and books, Wablieft promotes the use of plain language in public discourse. Its clear language award was launched in 1997, when it was won by TV meteorologist Frank Deboosere. Other previous winners include virologist Steven Van Gucht, who rose to prominence in the daily briefings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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