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Forensic voice specialist to aid study nuances of Yorkshire accent

A scientific study will examine how accents affect the evidential strength of audio recordings.

Policing commentator Mike Pannett hails from Yorkshire

Policing commentator Mike Pannett hails from Yorkshire

Date - 7th March 2016
By - Gary Mason - Police Product Insight

A £360,000 project focusing on accents in West Yorkshire hopes to assist the interpretation of voice evidence in criminal cases.

Forensic speech scientist Dr Erica Gold, is about to embark on the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) project exploring the extent to which accents can be generalised for forensic evidence purposes.

Forensic speech science – an applied sub-discipline of phonetics – has come to play a critical role in criminal cases involving voice evidence.  

Forensic speaker comparison is the most common task carried out by experts and involves the comparison of a criminal recording, such as a threatening phone call, and a police interview.

An expert forensic speech scientist advises the judge or jury on the probability of the evidence given competing hypotheses from the prosecution and defence.

Dr Gold’s ESRC grant is supported by the 2014-2015 Future Research Leaders Programme, which aims to ensure that outstanding social scientists at the start of their careers will develop skills that will equip them to become world leaders in their field.  

Her project will address an important issue in forensic speaker comparisons – the scarcity of population (voice) data that is forensically relevant.  

Dr Gold’s project will involve the collection of a large database of 180 speakers from different regions within West Yorkshire.  

She and her team seek to examine a number of different speech parameters and evaluating how that affects the strength of the evidence in forensic speaker comparison cases. 

As a result, it is hoped that solutions or recommendations might be available for actual forensic speaker comparison cases and what population data an expert might be able to consult in their analysis.

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