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Lauren Devine - Aston University. Birmingham, , GB

Lauren Devine

Deputy Director, Aston Institute for Forensic Linguistics | Aston University


Professor Devine's research derives from an interest in the legal & social tensions between state powers & private rights.



Lauren Devine Publication







Professor Devine's research derives from an interest in the legal & social tensions between state powers & private rights, & how citizens and families are regulated. She is interested in the issues & tensions surrounding consensual & non-consensual state interventions with a particular interest in child protection & safeguarding referrals & assessments; state responses to allegations & issues of expert evidence.

Areas of Expertise (5)

K Law (General)

Safeguarding (Child and Adult)

(Critical) Discourse Analysis

Corpus Linguistics

Family Justice Studies

Education (5)

University of Birmingham: PhD, Law

University of Birmingham: MA, Research Methods

University of the West of England: PG Cert HE

University of Bristol: LLM

University of the West of England: LLB (Hons)

Affiliations (2)

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Barrister of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple

Articles (3)

Commercialising disadvantage: the neoliberal discourses of commercial bail bond websites

Language and Law

2022 The commercial bail bond industry is one of the most profitable aspects of America’s highly marketized criminal justice system that is increasingly shaped by neoliberal structures and ideologies. Drawing on a specialised corpus of “Home” and “About Us” pages from bail bond websites, this paper is the first empirical linguistic examination of commercial bail bonds discourse grounded in its legal context. Using corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, we examine how bail bond companies 1) discursively present and promote their services, 2) represent the legal system and its processes, and 3) construe arrest and detention to prospective service users. The findings show that bail bond companies position their services as an unobjectionably common part of legal and financial self-management by normalising, legitimising, and idealising their use whilst seeking to minimise the power-imbalance between themselves and their often financially and socially disempowered ‘clients’. By grounding our linguistic analysis in a legal context, we demonstrate that these discourses simultaneously serve whilst oppress those they purport to help, offering an example of a local form of structural violence that subtly perpetuates neoliberal agendas and a two-tier justice system.

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'Psy’ expert evidence in the family courts: The potential for corpus-assisted analysis

Language and Law

2022 This article introduces corpus-assisted linguistic methods as an exploratory means of analysing expert psychologists’ reports used in public family law (child protection) cases. Analysis of this dataset is a new application for corpus linguistics (CL) and the primary purpose of this article is to explore viability and potential for its future research using CL as a core method. For this study we have created and analysed a 25 single-text-type specialised written corpus consisting of 25 expert psychologists’ reports (the Psychology Report Corpus “PRC-25”). The reports are a random sample selected from a population of all psychologists’ reports held in Cafcass files over a 10-year period, representing the first corpus of its kind in a currently under-researched area. Our study uses both an inductive (data-driven) approach to identify significant themes and topics in the reports, and a deductive (legal-intuitive) approach to explore psychologists’ use of legally significant terms, especially risk of and significant harm. We also explore the possibility for using this new methodological protocol to triangulate analysis of a larger and representative corpus of expert psychologists’ reports, and the possibilities for corpus-driven analysis of the genre of written expert evidence text types more generally.

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State powers and private rights in child protection and safeguarding assessments: the question of balance

Child and Family Law Quarterly

2022 When families are referred to local authorities, the State has power to intervene into private family life to assess whether a child meets section 17 and/or 47 Children Act 1989 thresholds. In 2019/2020 (the latest available data) nine percent of families in England and Wales were referred. Thirty-seven percent did not reach the section 17 threshold, and 88 percent did not meet the Section 47 threshold. This is concerning given the available prevalence estimates, suggesting that 25.3 percent of children in the UK may have been abused. A legitimate debate is merited to consider whether State processes of referral and assessment have struck the right balance. We argue that given the apparently high number of false positives and false negatives under the existing policy framework, it is possible that the State may be failing in its primary aim of protecting sufficient abused children and risks potential harm to non-abusive families who are caught in the ‘glare’ of referral and assessment. We conclude by considering whether the balance between State power and private rights should be re-balanced to more clearly separate section 17 support from section 47 protection, as originally intended in the Children Act 1989.

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