MADRID - What does the voice of a person reveal about his or her identity? Is it like DNA or fingerprint? How does the brain interpret voices? Are computers better than humans at doing it? Dozens of controversial judicial cases ring the alarm on the misuse of voices in courts.

Forensic speech science is an unregulated sector, suffering from the effects of privatisation and budget cuts. DJs or CD shop owners are acting as experts in courts, side by side with university professors with years of experience. Attempts by the EU to enforce quality standards are in a dead end. And there is division even within the expert community. Linguists and engineers disagree on methods, and the use of voice databases and consistent statistics is still limited.

The project's database of court cases where voice recordings were used can be found here.

Journalist Michele Catanzaro won the 2016 European Science Writer of the Year award for this project.

Photo: Snapshots from a forensic speech laboratory © Gianluca Battista

Michele Catanzaro

Michele Catanzaro (Rome, 1979) is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona (Spain). He has a PhD in physics and writes for Nature, El Periódico, Chemistry World and others.

Michele Catanzaro

Philipp Hummel

Philipp Hummel is a Berlin-based freelance journalist with a special interest in science politics and investigative research.

Astrid Viciano

Astrid Viciano is a German journalist and MD who works as a staff reporter at the weekend science section of Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich.

Elisabetta Tola

Elisabetta Tola is a journalist and science communicator. She lectures data journalism, science communication and multimedia at the Masters in Science Communication at Sissa, Trieste, and other journalism schools.

Grant of €7.200, allocated on 03/03/2015
European Cross-border Grants
  • Justice
  • Science



  • Voice Analysis Should Be Used with Caution in Court (January 25th, 2017 - Scientific American)
  • 'Verdächtige Stimmen' (DE) (November 19th, 2015 - DER SPIEGEL)
  • '¿Què hi ha en una veu? (CAT) (November 8th, 2015 - El Periódico, Dominical)
  • '¿Qué hay en una voz?' (ES) (November 8th, 2015 - El Perioódico, Dominical)