Developing a procedure for eliciting accurate, detailed, and consistent forensic voice descriptions from lay witnesses

Research Institution / Organisation

Nottingham Trent University

In Collaboration With

De Montfort University

Principal Researcher

Dr Harriet Smith

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

January 2018

Research Context

This project is being run by Dr Harriet Smith, Dr Natalie Braber, Dr David Wright, and Mr Jeremy Robson. They are an interdisciplinary team drawn from Psychology, Linguistics and Law at Nottingham Trent University and De Montfort University.

Earwitnesses to crimes are required by the police to provide a description of the perpetrator’s voice. Previous research indicates that memory for voices is poor; describing the sound of voices and placing accents can be difficult. However, little is currently known about lay listeners’ perception of voice quality. The Home Office (2003) acknowledge the importance of gathering voice descriptions, but no existing guidelines explain how they should be obtained.

This project involves running a series of studies to thoroughly test methods of improving the accuracy, detail, and consistency of the information provided by lay earwitnesses. Based on the results, an easy-to-administer procedure will be devised which the police can use when gathering voice identification evidence.

Research Methodology

​Lay listeners recruited from Nottingham Trent University will listen to voice recordings, and be asked to describe the sound of the voice they hear. The description instructions will vary across studies. The accuracy and consistency of the descriptions will then be measured.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

July 2020
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