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Jon, Lawyer
Category: UK Law
Satisfied Customers: 41
Experience:  Barrister, solicitor, BSc (Hons), MIOSH, MCIEH, FRIPH, MIOL
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Can a voice recording be used as evidence in court?

Resolved Question:

I'm trying to find out whether a voice recording of a conversation (recorded by someone taking part in the conversation using a digital voice recorder concealed on his/her body) can be used in a UK court as evidence.

Also, is it legal to make such a recording without the knowledge or permission of all those taking part in the conversation?

Similarly, how does this apply to phone conversations? I know it is legal individual to record his/her own phone conversations, and that he/she would need to ask the other person taking part in the conversation to use any of it in court (unless the other party had been made aware at the beginning of the call that it was being recorded and might be made public).

Also, how does this apply to a transcript taken from a recording of a phone call as described above? Can that be used in court as evidence without consent from the other party? Could one produce a CD (containing the recorded conversation) as proof of the veracity.

Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: UK Law
Expert:  Jon replied 8 years ago.

Recordings can be produced, but there are some restrictions on both recordings and therefore transcriptions which come from the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the case law surrounding it. If recordings are being made, then all parties should be made aware that this is happening/could happen, otherwise the recording has to be authorized in advance, which can only be done in limited circumstances by certain bodies. This is why on many company phone systems there is a message at the beginning of the call that advised the call may be recorded.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

So, is it legal taking part in a conversation to make a recording (using a digital voice recorder concealed on his/her body) without the knowledge or permission of other parties taking part in a conversation?

Expert:  Jon replied 8 years ago.

If the recording is own use, then yes it is legal. However, if the recording is then given to another party then the general principle is that it is not, unless permission is obtained first.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Another question occurred to me.

I understand that the police in the UK are not allowed to use recordings of phone conversations in court. The same applies to UK citizens. However, a couple of days ago I came across a speech made by an MP in the Commons in 2005 in which he refers to the fact that although a recording of a phone call transmission is not admissible evidence, a recording of the voice of a police officer making the call is admissible. As he puts it:

"The recording was made at the same time as being transmitted, but the transmission was not recorded. There was just the voice from the sound waves in the car. Accordingly, evidence from the tap could be used in court."

Would that apply to ordinary citizens as well - or just police?

Expert:  Jon replied 8 years ago.

I am not familiar with the speech you mention, but it seems that what is being said is that the part of the conversation by the officer can be admitted - essentially, the police officer here is giving his consent to what he said being admitted, so that is fine. If the other side of the conversation were to be admissible, then either consent, knowledge of the recording in the first place or a 'RIPA authorization would be required. The same would apply to ordinary citizens, although they cannot gain RIPA authorizations

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

If an individual records him/herself talking on the phone using a normal voice recorder situated several feet away (while at the same time NOT recording the transmitted two-way conversation), could this be used as evidence in court?

Expert:  Jon replied 8 years ago.

Yes that is right.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

So an individual can record him/herself whilst talking on the phone (but not the transmission) and make that public. But what if an individual records a two-way phone conversation transmission he/she has taken part in with one other person (without advising that person that the call is being recorded), could he/she share that recording with that other person (ie send a copy on a CD to that person)? Would that be considered unlawful or a breach of the other's rights?