I will be running a half-day tutorial on Forensic Transcription on Tuesday 4th December as part of the Tutorial Day preceding the Speech Science and Technology conference hosted by ASSTA and UNSW, and held in Coogee (a beachside suburb of Sydney). It will be possible to register for the tutorial day only – or of course you can stay and enjoy the full conference, which has some great keynote speakers.
Please note: Participation in this tutorial does not require a strong background specifically in speech science. However, it is designed for those with at least undergraduate qualifications in linguistics.
Forensic Transcription: How The Law Gets It Wrong, And How ASSTA Expertise Should Be Involved In Setting Things Right
Abstract: Covert recordings are used as forensic evidence in many Australian criminal trials. Due to poor recording conditions, they are often indistinct, even unintelligible, to those lacking prior knowledge of their content. Following a 1987 High Court ruling, transcripts created by detectives (deemed ‘ad hoc experts’) are admitted as ‘assistance’ to juries in making out what is said in indistinct covert recordings. Because this ruling, and related practices, have been developed without consultation of the linguistic sciences, they incorporate a number of anomalies, only recently uncovered by forensic phonetics. Numerous cases of actual and potential injustice have been identified. he question now is, how to create a fairer and more scientifically valid process for evaluating indistinct forensic recordings. This tutorial presents an overview of the problems, then moves on to consider what is needed for a viable solution. Emphasis is placed on the need for effective collaboration between phonetic science and the law: while phonetics offers much relevant knowledge, the forensic context creates a range of issues that have not yet received sufficient scientific attention. The tutorial ends with discussion regarding what new research projects are needed.
Presenter: Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England, Australia. Helen studied linguistics and phonetics at Macquarie University and the University of Edinburgh, then taught phonetics and related topics for many years at the University of New England. She has been involved in forensic case work since 1993, and, following experience in a troubling case in 2000, has pioneered the research field of forensic transcription, and uncovered many case of actual and potential injustice. More recently she has been focused on bringing about reform of current legal practice, so as to ensure out courts reach reliable interpretation of indistinct covert recordings used as evidence in criminal trials. Please find more background at forensictranscription.net.au.