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Professor Tim Grant

Associate Dean Partnerships and Community Engagement / Director, Centre for Forensic Linguistics / Professor in Forensic Linguistics


My main research interests are within the area of forensic linguistics. I have particular interest and expertise in forensic authorship analysis focusing on short form messages such as SMS text messages, Twitter posts and Internet Relay Chat.  Recent publications in this area include publication in the Journal of Law and Policy and the Journal of Speech Language and the Law.

In addition to this interest in authorship analysis I also am interested in the linguistics of the police interview and how linguists can advise and train police officers to be better interviewers. Recent publications in this area include publication in the Journal of Speech Language and the Law and the Journal of Policing.

My consultancy has largely involved the analysis of abusive and threatening communications in many different contexts including investigations into sexual assault, stalking, murder and terrorism. I’ve extensive experience of providing expert investigative assistance, including a media appeal through the BBC Crimewatch program, and in providing evidence for both prosecution and defence. For more information see the Centre for Forensic Linguistics website.

I have significant experience of working with press, TV and radio and my work has appeared in newspaper feature articles, on the BBC 1 OneShow and on the BBC Radio 4 Programme Word of Mouth.  I regularly speak to wider adult and schools audiences at events such as Café Scientifique and the British Festival of Science. I also curate the Language Society and Law blog.

  • BA Philosophy 
  • MSc Cognitive Science 
  • PhD Linguistics - Authorship attribution in a forensic context

Undergraduate  

  • LE1086 Language in Society
  • LE2030 Psychology of Language & Communication


Postgraduate  

  • LEM032 Linguistic Investigation and Evidence
  • LEM043 Research Methods
  • LEM059 Language as Evidence
  • LEM060 Practical Applications in Forensic Linguistics
  • International Association of Forensic Linguists (since 1992)
    • Ethics and Professional Practice Committee (2009-present)
    • Treasurer (2009 - 2011)
  • International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG)
    • Treasurer (2009 – 2012)
    • Member of Scientific Committee (2008-present)
  • 2013 - R v Jamie Starbuck [Nottinghamshire Police]

Jamie Starbuck was suspected of having murdered his wife, Debbie Starbuck, and then, on a round the world trip, sending emails home in her name.

I provided an evidential report identifying the date on which emails from Debbie Starbuck’s account shifted to be consistent with his written style.  The report was initially intended to be used to apply for an international arrest warrant but Jamie Starbuck was arrested on arrival home and pleaded guilty.

  • 2012 - Child sexual assault case [West Mercia Police]

In an interview with a child in a sexual assault case the child used sexual slang unfamiliar to her parents.  The defence tried to have the interview not admitted on the grounds that the terms were unclear.  I provided evidence that the slang terms were well established within a particular social community and had clear and specific meanings.  The defence accepted my evidence and allowed the interview to be admitted.

  •  2010 - Race Hate Letter campaign  [Hampshire Police Enquiry with involvement from National Domestic Extremism Team]

I provided a profile of a writer of around 60 racially and sexually abusive letters.  I also gave advice on and appeared as part of a media appeal through the BBC Crimewatch programme.  The media appeal led to a successful detection and the offender matched my profile.

  • 2009 - R v Christopher Birks [Staffordshire police: Murder enquiry]

Christopher Birks was suspected of having murdered his wife Amanda Birks, who’s body was recovered from a house fire on late in the evening of 17 January 2009.  My evidence showed that SMS text messages sent from Amanda’s phone during the day of the 17th were written in a style consistent with that of Christopher Birks and inconsistent with Amanda Birks’ previous texting style. Christopher Birks pleaded guilty on morning of trial and received 19 years imprisonment.

  • 2009 -  R v Ogundele [Metropolitan Police: Conspiracy to murder]

Ogundele and his co-conspirator Jolie planned to attack and kill Jolie’s previous girlfriend. The conspiracy was carried out on internet relay chat and used a high degree of East London street slang combined with internet abbreviations and slang.  I provided a ‘translation’ into standard English for use in the Court case held at the Old Bailey. Ogundlee and Jolie were both convicted and received 18 and 14 years respectively.

Click here to read an article featured in the Independent about the case and the evidence assembled by Dr Tim Grant. 

  • 16th April 2013 – appearance on BBC 1 the One Show about text messaging forensics 
  • 11 th April 2013 –  Invited talk to Lichfield Science Society – Investigative linguistics as forensic Science 
  • 1 st Feb 2013 – Invited University of Lund, Sweden -  Forensic linguistic analysis and synthesis 
  • 3 rd July 2012 – Talk to SOCA’s Specialist Operations Centre  - Forensic linguistics as an investigative tool 
  • 11 th  October 2012 – Invited talk to Brooklyn Law School’s Symposium on Forensic Authorship Attribution 
  • 6 th March 2012 – Talk to eMagzine 6 th form conference – Forensic applications of language analysis 
  • 25 th October 2010 – Talk to CEPOL (European Union College of policing) – Using forensic linguistics in investigations 
  • 15 th April 2010 – Interview on Election manifesto language on BBC1 The Heckler 
  • 27th January 2010 – Article on slang case in Independent newspaper  
  • 15 th December 2009 – Interview on BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth on Forensic linguistics and cases 
  • 2nd February  2009 – Article on forensic linguistics Haaretz newspaper Israel  
  • 8 th September 2008 – British Science Association Joseph Lister Prize Lecture – Txt crimes, sex crimes and murder. 
Room: MB740a
Phone: 0121 204 3799
Email: t.d.grant@aston.ac.uk 
Fax: 0121 204 3766

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research