Developing a categorisation system for rapists' speech

Jessica Woodhams, Tim D. Grant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Case linkage, the linking of crimes into series, is used in policing in the UK and other countries. Previous researchers have proposed using rapists' speech in this practice; however, researching this application requires the development of a reliable coding system for rapists' speech. A system was developed based on linguistic theories of pragmatics which allowed for the categorization of an utterance into a speech act type (e.g. directive). Following this classification, the qualitative properties of the utterances (e.g. the degree of threat it carried) could be captured through the use of rating scales. This system was tested against a previously developed system using 188 rapists' utterances taken from victims' descriptions of rape. The pragmatics-based system demonstrated higher inter-rater reliability whilst enabling the classification of a greater number of rapists' utterances. Inter-rater reliability for the subscales was also tested using a sub-sample of 50 rapists' utterances and inter-item correlations were calculated. Seventy-six per cent of the subscales had satisfactory to high inter-rater reliability. Based on these findings and the inter-item correlations, the classification system was revised. The potential use of this system for the practices of case linkage and offender profiling is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-260
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006

Bibliographical note

This is an electronic version of an article published in Woodhams, Jessica and Grant, Tim (2006) Developing a categorisation system for rapists' speech. Psychology, Crime and Law, 12 (3). pp. 245-260. ISSN 1068-316X. Psychology, Crime and Law is available online at:


  • case linkage
  • crime analysis
  • speech acts
  • language
  • rape
  • profiling


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