The debate relating to the quality of voice identification evidence in the United Kingdom continues against the backdrop of advances being made in the use of biometric voice identification evidence (BIVE) and the technology (BVIT). Anecdotal evidence shows that BVIE is being adduced in criminal prosecutions across the United Kingdom (UK) predominantly in cases involving terror crimes. This also suggests that the courts are willing to accept BVIE as being reliable even though experts in the fields of phonetics and law disagree as to its veracity. The argument against admission rests on the lack of sophistication in the traditional ear-witness voice identification methods of acoustic and auditory analysis (AAA), and now biometrics because of its infancy. Experts therefore argue that scientific reliability that should be demanded from such evidence if it is to be used for criminal prosecutions and this not currently achieved.
Therefore a number of issues arise as a result of this. For example the potential erosion of civil rights, the legal implications that relate to obtaining and using mixed biometric voice identification evidence (MBVIE) – this is the evidence of an ear-witness verified using BVIT. Related to this is the notion that the jury and lawyers need to be educated on how such evidence should be received and used. Presently, there insufficient guidance on where the UKs courts should draw the line in admitting potentially hazardous evidence such as this. Exactly when BVIE becomes unreliable in a legal and scientific sense remains unclear. This significantly contributes to the debate surrounding the codification of evidence law and the introduction of a reliability test, along the lines of that used in other jurisdictions including the United States of America, to mitigate the risks that lie in admitting unreliable evidence.
The purpose of this paper is to contrast ear-witness and BVIE by exploring the contemporary debates that surround their admission and the notional extent to which BVIT is being used to police the UK. Furthermore, to review whether the advances made in BVIT can contribute to the reliability of the evidence by reducing error rates and false-positive identification.