Questions, propositions and assessing different levels of evidence: Forensic voice comparison in practice

Vincent Hughes, Richard William Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion about the distinction between observations and propositions in forensic inference, with a specific focus on forensic voice comparison casework conducted in the UK. We outline both linguistic and legal issues which make the evaluation of voice evidence and the refinement of propositions problematic in practice, and illustrate these using case examples. We will argue that group-level observations from the offender sample will always be evidential and that the value of this evidence must be determined by the expert. As such, a proposal is made that experts should, at least conceptually, think of voice evidence as having two levels, both with evidential value: group-level and individual-level. The two rely on different underlying assumptions, and the group-level observations can be used to inform the individual-level propositions. However, for the sake of interpretability, it is probably preferable to present only one combined conclusion to the end user. We also wish to reiterate points made in previous work: in providing conclusions, the forensic expert must acknowledge that the value of the evidence is dependent on a number of assumptions (propositions and background information) and these assumptions must be made clear and explicit to the user.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-257
Number of pages8
JournalScience & justice : journal of the Forensic Science Society
Issue number4
Early online date31 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

© Elsevier, 2018. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Expert's role
  • Forensic inference
  • Forensic voice comparison evidence
  • Likelihood ratio
  • Propositions

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