Universiteit Leiden

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The word and the deed

On Wednesday 24 January 2018 Margaret Kuiper, a forensic psychologist, will defend her doctoral thesis ‘Het woord en de daad’ (The word and the deed). The defence will start at 16.15 hrs, at the Academy Building of Leiden University. Her supervisors are Professor E.R. Muller and Professor T.A.H. Doreleijers. Co-supervisor is Dr J.A. van Wilsem.

Margaret Kuiper.
Margaret Kuiper

Kuiper’s research deals with written threats and emails which are made to persons in the public domain, or at central government level as described in the Stelsel van Bewaken en Beveiligen (Surveillance and Protection System) of the Ministry of Security and Justice, 2013. At the central government level this concerns persons for whom, including related objects or services, the security and unhindered functioning of which is of national interest, such as: the members of the Royal Family, government members, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, the leaders of political parties, or members of the Board of Procurators General.

Threats can lead to those being threatened, and those in their environment, experiencing feelings of fear or unrest. Manifestations of threats aimed at public persons can also influence public debate and they can even form a risk to the democratic legal order when as a result of the fear of threats and their recurrence it is no longer possible to hold an open discussion.  

The added value of the research is twofold: providing guidance regarding hate mail, and using this to develop a measuring tool with which future criminal behaviour of the writers of hate mail can be predicted. In this way a contribution can be made to taking adequate measures to protect public persons as far as possible

Professor E.R. Muller on Margaret Kuiper

'Margaret has empirically demonstrated which characteristics in hate mail towards public persons can predict a recurrence of the hate mail. She has also examined which characteristics in hate mail indicate a higher risk of the suspect later being arrested for a criminal offence. A theory to enable the assessment of threatening texts in a structured manner was lacking up till now.

Margaret has shown that it is possible using quantitative research to develop a measuring tool with which hate mail can be better interpreted.  In doing so she has not only made a contribution to science,  but she has also brought attention to the social relevance of threats and their impact on those at the receiving end. Besides new insights into what characterises hate mail, she has made a contribution to the daily implementation practice of the police force, the judiciary and other organisations who are involved in prioritisation, prevention, detection and adjudication.'