International Journal of Speech Language and the Law, Vol 18, No 1 (2011)

R v David Bain – a Unique Case in New Zealand Legal and Linguistic History

Bronwen Innes
Issued Date: 13 Sep 2011


In 2009 in New Zealand, an extraordinary case occupied the attention of the New Zealand public: the retrial of David Bain, who had been convicted on the charge of murdering his family in 1994. This article outlines the circumstances which led to the retrial, and the part which linguistics played in that. When Bain discovered his family had been killed, he telephoned the emergency services. Linguistics became involved when a dispute arose as to the content of a small part of that emergency call. Both the prosecution and the defence called expert linguistic evidence on this. The matter was resolved in a pre-trial application, the occurrence and outcome of which were suppressed until after Bain’s acquittal. The case illustrates the well-known dangers of transcripts and interpretations prepared by people who are not trained in linguistics.

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DOI: 10.1558/ijsll.v18i1.145


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