WORKSHOP: Forensic transcription and translation – How the law gets it wrong, and how linguistics can help set things right

Are you a scholar of linguistics? Please consider joining us for the following workshop, which is part of the Australian Linguistics Society 2017 Conference at University of Sydney, 4-7 December 2017

Forensic transcription and translation: How the law gets it wrong, and how linguistics can help set things right Monday 4 December 11am-3pm

Convened by Helen Fraser and Diana Eades

This workshop is put on by the Australian Linguistic Society. To attend, you need to register here. If you are interested in the topic, but not a member of ALS, please make contact.

Forensic transcription and translation

How the law gets it wrong, and how linguistics can help set things straight

Our successful workshop at ALS 2016 introduced linguists to general problems regarding use of language and speech as evidence in criminal trials.

This year’s workshop looks in more detail at two particular areas, both related to covert recordings (conversations captured without the knowledge of participants) used as evidence in court.

For covert recordings to provide reliable evidence, it is essential to be sure who is speaking and what they are saying – both surprisingly difficult even with clear audio, and far more so when, as is often the case, the audio is of poor quality and/or contains speech in languages other than English (please do follow the links for useful background).

Over the past thirty years, the law has developed processes and practices for handling transcription and translation of covert recordings. Unfortunately this has been done with no consultation of linguists, resulting in some serious anomalies and substantial injustice.

This workshop aims to bring the issues to the attention of linguists, outline current developments, discuss how better collaboration between linguists and lawyers can help improve the system, and consider what linguistics itself can learn from the process.


11:00 Helen Fraser Welcome, aim, overview
11:15 Nick Enfield Linguistics and forensic linguistics 
11:30 Alex Bowen How the law handles covert recordings
11:45 Helen Fraser Background on covert recordings used as evidence in trials
12:00 General discussion
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Review, preview, Q and A
1:45 Michael Cooke Background on translating and interpreting in legal contexts
2:00 Georgina Heydon (with Dave Gilbert) Background on forensic translation
2:15 Rod Gardner Background on transcription in linguistics
2:30 General discussion
2:50 Helen Fraser Wrap up, thanks and where to next
3:00 Close

As we want to move from problems to solutions, please try to familiarise yourself a little with the topic by browsing this website.

Questions, comments, thoughts, ideas? Always welcome!

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