Using linguistics to improve the delivery of justice
Forensic casework requires valid, reliable and rigorous methods the development of which is a key function of CFL research
The use of Centre for Forensic Linguistics research-based linguistic analysis by the Courts has considerable significance for the victims of crime, for the accused, and for those engaged in civil battles.
Evidence of the impact of the analysis carried out by Professor Tim Grant and Professor Malcolm Coulthard, can also be found not only in guilty and not guilty verdicts, but also in summing-up and judgments. In one case involving fraud and extortion the judge commented:
“Dr Grant, the linguist for the prosecution, provided convincing and measured evidence. This evidence contributes considerably to the case.”
In comparative authorship, analysis methods have been developed and evaluated for analysis involving longer texts, texts of a few hundred words and short-form messaging, such as SMS text messages. These methods have been applied to cases of stalking, fraud and murder.
Further, in one murder case, an appeal against conviction was lodged solely on the grounds of the value of the linguistic evidence provided by Professor Coulthard. The Court of Appeal upheld the evidence indicating that Professor Coulthard’s evidence was suitably cautious and as appropriate did not extend beyond the research base. This judgement provides a significant precedent for the continued acceptance of linguistic evidence in the Courts
Individually, members of the CFL have worked on more than 300 cases of stalking, sexual assault, murder and terrorism. This involves analysis, expert report writing and appearances in Court.