‘The construction of ‘innocence’: Comparing responses to criminal accusations across legal and non-legal settings

Research Institution / Organisation

Loughborough University

Principal Researcher

Louise White

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2015

Research Context

​This research project involves exploring how suspected criminals construct ‘innocence’ in their discourse, particularly in response to an accusation, and will explore how denials, excuses and justifications are formulated in highly consequential settings in order to construct varying levels of ‘innocence’.

This may be done both in the suspects’ descriptions of their actions and their version of ‘what really happened’ but also in their descriptions of their own identity or intentionality. The focus of this research is, not to see language as a medium for lie-detection or to see ‘innocence’ as something which someone either is or isn’t, but rather exploring the various ways ‘innocence’ can be successfully, authentically and credibly created in interaction.

Research Methodology

​The data being used for this qualitative study are pre existing and includes a large data set of police interviews with suspected criminals and publicly accessible television interviews with high profile celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, who have also been accused of some wrongdoing.


The analytical techniques for this study are discursive psychology and conversation analysis, which allow for close and detailed analysis of the actions performed in the discourse of suspected criminals.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

February 2019
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