Home > Breach of Expert Duties, Case Law Studies, Credibility of Expert Witness, Expert Evidence, Expert Witness > Criminal evidence – Expert evidence – Voice identification – Technique used by expert disputed – Whether evidence admissible – Recognition of appellants voice by police officers – Whether public policy exception relating to identification should be extended to evidence of recognition – Whether such evidence admissible: R v Robb (United Kingdom)

Criminal evidence – Expert evidence – Voice identification – Technique used by expert disputed – Whether evidence admissible – Recognition of appellants voice by police officers – Whether public policy exception relating to identification should be extended to evidence of recognition – Whether such evidence admissible: R v Robb (United Kingdom)

Lexis UK CD 180, 93 Cr App Rep 161

R v Robb
COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION)
Lexis UK CD 180, 93 Cr App Rep 161
HEARING-DATES: 21 JANUARY, 1 FEBRUARY 1991
1 FEBRUARY 1991

CATCHWORDS:
Criminal evidence – Expert evidence – Voice identification – Technique used by expert disputed – Whether evidence admissible – Recognition of appellants voice by police officers – Whether public policy exception relating to identification should be extended to evidence of recognition – Whether such evidence admissible.

HEADNOTE:
This judgment has been summarised by LexisNexis UK editors.

The appellant was involved in the abduction of a wealthy Arab businessman. It was alleged that he had made telephone calls to the victim’s wife demanding a ransom and to a cab company to arrange for its collection. All but one of these telephone calls were tape-recorded and the Crown sought to adduce expert evidence, to establish that the appellant was the man who had made the telephone calls, and evidence of police officers who had accompanied the appellant to London, that they recognised the voice on the tapes as being that of the appellant. At the trial, the defence submitted that this evidence ought to be excluded. In the case of the expert, because he relied upon auditory techniques alone and this was not accepted by orthodox professional opinion as being sufficient so as to be reliable, and in the case of the police officers, because a public policy exception applying to purported identification which disallowed evidence based on familiarity gained in the course of a police investigation, should equally apply to purported recognition. The judge rejected these submissions and the appellant was convicted. He appealed, repeating the submissions made at trial.

Held: (1) The expert was entitled to be regarded as a phonetician well qualified by academic training and practical experience to express an opinion on voice identification. Although his reliance on the auditory technique had to be regarded as representing a minority view in his profession, he had reasons for his preference and on the facts of the case he was not shown to be wrong.

(2) The authorities cited in support for the use of the public policy exception, related to cases of purported identification as opposed to purported recognition. In the instant case, the police officers were not providing expert evidence of identification but were instead testifying as witnesses of fact, that they recognised the voice on the tapes as being that of the man whom they had accompanied, this was crucially different. The public policy exception could not found an unqualified rule of law. What it properly could do, in any case where police officers’ evidence of recognition appeared suspect or procured for ulterior motives, or in any case where unfair advantage had been taken of the Defendant to strengthen the case against him, was provide powerful grounds for excluding the evidence under s 78(1) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It had therefore been open to the judge to admit the evidence and on the facts none of the grounds, mentioned as justifying exclusion under s 78(1) existed. The judge’s admission of the evidence was not contrary to law and good practice. The appeal would be dismissed.

COUNSEL:
M Hill QC and J Kelsey-Fry for the Appellant; J Korner and A Brierly for the Crown

PANEL: BINGHAM LJ, HUTCHISON, BUCKLEY JJ

SOLICITORS:
Registrar of Criminal Appeals; Crown Prosecution Service

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