Law Text Culture


Audio recorded by hidden listening devices can provide powerful evidence in criminal trials. Unfortunately these covert recordings are often indistinct, to the extent the court needs a transcript to understand the content. Australian law allows police to provide transcripts as ‘ad hoc experts’. Legal procedures incorporate safeguards intended to ensure the transcripts are not misleading. The problem is that these safeguards have been shown to be ineffective, with multiple examples of inaccurate transcripts being provided to ‘assist’ the jury in determining what is said and who is saying it. The present paper explains the problem, provides an accessible overview of the nature of speech and how speech perception works, and outlines the solution proposed by the Research Hub for Language in Forensic Evidence to the ‘acoustic injustice’ embodied in current legal procedures.