Some fabulous IAFL keynotes coming up!

IAFL keynote speakersThe IAFL 2019 Conference will include a thought-provoking and engaging programme of keynote presentations representing academic scholarship, professional legal and language practice, law enforcement and the judiciary on the International Association of Forensic Linguists conference theme of Access to Justice through Language. I’m proud to say I’ll be one of them!

Find all the speakers and titles below

As for me, I’ll be recounting the story of Australian linguists’ Call to Action, asking the judiciary to review and reform the legal handling of indistinct covert recordings used as evidence in criminal trials.

And don’t forget all the workshops that will be running at IAFL, for lawyers, teachers and linguists. Here’s a poster, if you have space to put it up somewhere.

And all that does not even mention the conference program itself! Hope to see you there.

Keynote Speakers and their titles

Michael Walsh: ‘English makes me tired’: linguistic disadvantage for Australian Indigenous people before the law

Janny HC Leung: Official Multilingualism as a Global Phenomenon

Chris Heffer: Right Talk? Language, Ethics and Access to Justice in the Legal Process

Georgina Heydon: IAFL Presidential Address

Janet Ainsworth: The Future of Forensic Linguistics:Three Challenges and Three Opportunities

Helen Fraser: Forensic Transcription and Translation – Why and how Australian linguists are calling for reform of legal procedures

Covert recordings, obtained via telephone intercept or hidden listening device, play a crucial role in modern criminal investigations. Many of these recordings go on to be used as evidence in trials. It is the latter that have created concerns among Australian linguists.

Due to the way they are obtained, covert recordings are often of extremely poor quality, to the point they are unintelligible without the assistance of a transcript. The problem is that current law allows the transcripts used to assist the court to be provided by police investigating the case. Transcription of poor quality audio is a highly specialised task, in which police have no expertise. As a result, their transcripts are often inaccurate or misleading. The law includes measures intended to ensure juries are not adversely affected by unreliable transcripts; however, a good deal of research has demonstrated that these measures are insufficient. Similarly, when covert recordings include material in foreign languages, current legal procedures are insufficient to ensure the court is not misled by unreliable translations. Numerous cases are known of actual or potential injustice arising from reliance on indistinct covert recordings as evidence in court.

Dr Fraser’s presentation will provide a brief overview of the problems, then discuss the solution being recommended by Australian linguists, and the avenues by which we are seeking to bring about its implementation. For further background, please visit

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