Many democratic nations have responded to hate crime with a variety of policy and practice initiatives. Yet few have wrestled with, or solved the challenges raised by verbal-textual hostility, whether as stand-alone acts of violence, or where these acts are part of more conventional forms of hate crime such as assault, vandalism or harassment.
In this chapter, approaches employed in forensic linguistics – such as Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) – will be used to assess the illocutionary force and perlocutionary effects of hate speech-text recorded by the Metropolitan Police Service in their hate crime files. Over the last ten years, the field of forensic linguistics has developed beyond the ad hoc use of linguists in court proceedings – often to analyse the author of verbal or written evidence – into a sophisticated field of study.
Contemporary forensic linguistics aims to provide a coherent theoretical and methodological framework with which to understand the force and effects of speech in crime and criminal proceedings (Coulthard and Johnson 2007). While many hate crime scholars acknowledge that verbal-textual hostility plays a significant role in victims’ subjective perceptions of hatred and police officers’ assessment of a hate crime, to date, the role of hate speech-text in hate crime has been largely uninterrogated by criminologists or linguists. This chapter aims to assess and evaluate the forensic possibilities contained in a closer reading of the words used in hate crimes.
Through a Critical Discourse Analysis of incident characteristics and officers’ narratives of incidents, this chapter maps out how key hate speech-text indicators may assist to better evaluate the force and effects of hate crimes, and as a consequence, assist in the development of risk-assessment instruments for use by front-line officers in the evaluation of hate crimes and the harms caused by verbal-textual hostility.
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