For the record: Using linguistics to improve evidential consistency in the production of English police investigative interview records

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This paper presents the findings of a project conducted collaboratively with an English police force, which applies linguistic research to the production of written transcripts of police interviews with suspects. This process is of real importance since these are evidential documents, routinely presented in court as part of the prosecution case, yet the original spoken data are (necessarily) substantially altered through the process of being converted into written format (Bucholtz 2009; Fraser 2003; Haworth 2018). There are issues of inequality of representation in the official version, with interviewees having little power over the representation of their own words (including accent, dialect, etc). Our aim is to develop methods of reducing this routine, subjective interference with interview evidence.
The project involves 3 strands, to encapsulate the process from multiple methodological angles: (1) qualitative linguistic analysis of our new corpus of 30 interview audio recordings and their official transcripts; (2) psycholinguistic experiments to test our hypothesis that different formats (spoken/written) and transcription choices have an effect on interpretation of the interview evidence; (3) focus groups with transcribers and interviewers to ensure that the findings are firmly grounded in the practical realities of the professional context.
We will present the full project findings, including our work to bring our research into practice through producing recommendations, guidelines and training for our police partners.

Bucholtz, M. (2009) Captured on tape: Professional hearing and competing entextualizations in the
criminal justice system. Text & Talk 29(5): 503–523
Fraser, H. (2003) Issues in transcription: Factors affecting the reliability of transcripts as evidence in legal cases. Forensic Linguistics 10(2): 203–226
Haworth, K. (2018) Tapes, transcripts and trials: The routine contamination of police interview evidence. Intl J of Evidence & Proof 22(4), 428—450
Period15 Jul 2022
Event title7th Global Meeting on Law and Society : Rage, Reckoning and Remedy
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational