A few days ago I tweeted a story about some CCTV Evidence and some rather glaring errors…
Well, this story has continued on… with more glaring errors seemingly coming to light..
The allegation made by a number of the UK press agencies is that the footage was slowed down, altering its meaning. In this article from The Independent newspaper, it is also alleged that the CPS served the CCTV footage of Mr Pearson and the alleged victim passing each other “in a way in which had been altered”.
It is clear that the mistakes made could easily have been avoided but, I can understand how and why they were made in the first place.
- After the allegation is made and CCTV evidence is identified, who analyzes it? Is it an independent analyst, not involved in the case, with the knowledge and skills to acquire, process, interpret and present the visual data? Or is it an overworked Detective, who has to utilize whatever he/she can lay their hands on to get the video playing and perhaps screen record it out to another format?
- After the errors in interpretation, it has been processed. According to the article, it is this processed copy that was initially submitted “in a way in which had been altered”. Who made the decision on how the evidence should be submitted? Was it the independent analyst, using his skills and knowledge to prepare the evidence, ensuring that no further errors in understanding or misinterpretation could occur? Or was it the CPS, dictating that it should be prepared in format that they, and the courts could deal with? mmm…I have mentioned this before here.
There are a number of other issues all wrapped up in the process…. Was the ‘slowing down’ caused by incorrect forensic processing of the original? Was the ‘slowing down’ requested by the CPS as they have no software for viewing the video effectively? At what point was the original served on all parties? Did anyone peer review the submitted evidence prior to submission?
What I can say though, is that the chances that any editing was completed with malicious intent are pretty slim.
Video surveillance material is the most common form of physical evidence to be submitted but, the resourcing and training is woefully lacking. The majority of cases I analyze for Defence, start with requesting the original evidence and NOT a hastily prepared Video DVD. And, when errors have been identified, it is usually down to a lack of knowledge and equipment.
Eventually with the standards introduced under ISO 17025, I hope that cases like his will reduce. In the development of the Competency Framework for Forensic Video Analysis, safeguards will finally be in place to ensure that facts are submitted rather than fiction.
Remember, its more than ‘just a video’ – It’s Evidence!