Professor Tim Grant

Director,  Centre for Forensic Linguistics / Professor in Forensic Linguistics

 
My main research interests are within the area of forensic linguistics. I have particular interest and expertise in forensic authorship analysis focusing on short form messages such as SMS text messages, Twitter posts and messaging apps.  Publications in this area include publication in the  Journal of Law and Policy and the  Journal of Speech Language and the Law.  I am also interested in the linguistics of the police interview and how linguists can advise and train police officers to be better interviewers and have recently contributed to an edited volume in this area: Communication in Investigative and Legal Contexts. My most recent work has focussed on assisting investigations into the abuse and exploitation of children and adults that occurs on the darkweb and open internet. Publications in this area include the linguistics of online undercover policing, linguistic strategies of offenders who engage with children and developing a theoretical approach to authorship and identity as facilitated by internet anonymity.

My consultancy has largely involved the analysis of abusive and threatening communications in many different contexts including investigations into sexual assault, stalking, murder and terrorism. I’ve extensive experience of providing expert investigative assistance UK police, NCA and other agencies, and in providing evidence for both prosecution and defence and in civil cases. For more information see the Centre for Forensic Linguistics website.

I have significant experience of working with press, TV and radio and I have appeared on BBC CrimeWatch, on the BBC 1 OneShow and on the BBC Radio 4 Programme Word of Mouth and I’ve been interviewed for numerous for UK Press and international publications such as The Atlantic.  I regularly speak to wider adult and schools audiences at events such as Café Scientifique and the British Festival of Science.  In 2008 I was given the BA Joseph Lister Award and delivered an award lecture entitled Txt Crimes, Sex Crimes and Murder.  

  • BA Philosophy 
  • MSc Cognitive Science 
  • PhD Linguistics - Authorship attribution in a forensic context
  • Fellow of the HEA

Undergraduate    

  • LE2030  Psychology of Language & Communication

 

Postgraduate    

  • LEM012 Linguistics in Legal Contexts
  • LEM059 Language as Evidence
  • LEM060 Practical Applications in Forensic Linguistics
International Association of Forensic Linguists (since 1992)
  • President (2015-2017)
  • Ethics and Professional Practice Committee (2009-present)
  • Treasurer (2009 - 2011)

International Investigative Interviewing Research Group (iIIRG)
  • Treasurer (2009 – 2012)
  • Member of Scientific Committee (2008-present)

Schneevogt, D, Chiang, E & Grant, TD 2018, 'Do Perverted Justice chat logs contain examples of Overt Persuasion and Sexual Extortion?: A research note responding to Chiang and Grant 2017 and 2018.Language and Law/Linguagem e Direito, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 89-94.

  • 2013 - R v Jamie Starbuck [Nottinghamshire Police]

Jamie Starbuck was suspected of having murdered his wife, Debbie Starbuck, and then, on a round the world trip, sending emails home in her name.

With Jack Grieve performing the primary linguistic analysis we provided an evidential report identifying the date on which emails from Debbie Starbuck’s account shifted to be consistent with his written style.  The report was initially intended to be used to apply for an international arrest warrant but Jamie Starbuck was arrested on arrival home and pleaded guilty.

  • 2012 - Child sexual assault case [West Mercia Police]

In an interview with a child in a sexual assault case the child used sexual slang unfamiliar to her parents.  The defence tried to have the interview not admitted on the grounds that the terms were unclear.  I provided evidence that the slang terms were well established within a particular social community and had clear and specific meanings.  The defence accepted my evidence and allowed the interview to be admitted.

  •  2010 - Race Hate Letter campaign  [Hampshire Police Enquiry with involvement from National Domestic Extremism Team]

I provided a profile of a writer of around 60 racially and sexually abusive letters.  I also gave advice on and appeared as part of a media appeal through the BBC Crimewatch programme.  The media appeal led to a successful detection and the offender matched my profile.

  • 2009 - R v Christopher Birks [Staffordshire police: Murder enquiry]

Christopher Birks was suspected of having murdered his wife Amanda Birks, who’s body was recovered from a house fire on late in the evening of 17 January 2009.  My evidence showed that SMS text messages sent from Amanda’s phone during the day of the 17th were written in a style consistent with that of Christopher Birks and inconsistent with Amanda Birks’ previous texting style. Christopher Birks pleaded guilty on morning of trial and received 19 years imprisonment.

  • 2009 -  R v Ogundele [Metropolitan Police: Conspiracy to murder]

Ogundele and his co-conspirator Jolie planned to attack and kill Jolie’s previous girlfriend. The conspiracy was carried out on internet relay chat and used a high degree of East London street slang combined with internet abbreviations and slang.  I provided a ‘translation’ into standard English for use in the Court case held at the Old Bailey. Ogundlee and Jolie were both convicted and received 18 and 14 years respectively.

Click here to read an article featured in the Independent about the case and the evidence assembled by Dr Tim Grant. 

  • Profile in The Atlantic July 10 2018 https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/07/tim-grant-forensic-linguistics-child-predators/564671/
  • 16th April 2013 – appearance on BBC 1 the One Show about text messaging forensics
  • 11thApril 2013 –  Invited talk to Lichfield Science Society – Investigative linguistics as forensic Science
  • 1stFeb 2013 – Invited University of Lund, Sweden -  Forensic linguistic analysis and synthesis
  • 3rdJuly 2012 – Talk to SOCA’s Specialist Operations Centre  - Forensic linguistics as an investigative tool
  • 11th October 2012 – Invited talk to Brooklyn Law School’s Symposium on Forensic Authorship Attribution
  • 6thMarch 2012 – Talk to eMagzine 6thform conference – Forensic applications of language analysis
  • 25thOctober 2010 – Talk to CEPOL (European Union College of policing) – Using forensic linguistics in investigations
  • 15thApril 2010 – Interview on Election manifesto language on BBC1 The Heckler
  • 27th January 2010 – Article on slang case in Independent newspaper
  • 15thDecember 2009 – Interview on BBC Radio 4 Word of Mouth on Forensic linguistics and cases
  • 2nd February  2009 – Article on forensic linguisticsHaaretz newspaperIsrael
  • 8thSeptember 2008 – British Science Association Joseph Lister Prize Lecture – Txt crimes, sex crimes and murder.

Potential PhD students:

I am willing to supervise or co-supervise well qualified and prepared PhD students who wish to conduct research in any area of forensic linguistics. My current research areas tend to focus on online crime and specifically online sexual crime and I am particularly interested to supervise students in this area. I prefer to supervise full-time on-campus PhD students but will consider distance students where I have space to take them.

Note that PhD programmes at Aston (and the UK in general) are focused on conducting research and have few formal coursework requirements. 

If you are seriously considering applying to work with me, please contact for more information.

Current PhD students:

  • Hülya Kocagül
  • Emily Chiang
  • Fiona Kelcher
  • Andy Reczek (PT DL)
  • Marlon Hurt (PT DL)
  • Juliane Ford (PT DL)

 

Past PhD students:

 

Room: MB740a
Phone:  0121 204 3799
Email:  t.d.grant@aston.ac.uk 
Fax: 0121 204 3766