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Expert Witness : Technology

Animated evidence can confuse juries, research finds

Animation of car crash for Your Expert Witness storyThe use of animated evidence in court can confuse and bias a jury, according to new research carried out at Aberystwyth University.

Computer-generated evidence (CGE) is frequently used in courts as a technique with which to demonstrate complex sequences of events, or collate different pieces of evidence into a more coherent picture. Famously used in the trials of Amanda Knox and in presenting evidence against Oscar Pistorious, one of the advantages of CGE is that it allows a number of different viewpoints to be examined in a way which is often not possible with still images. However, research suggests that using CGE may confuse and bias juries, leading to dangerous errors in judgement.

The research by Professor Gareth Norris, a professor of criminology in the university’s Department of Law and Criminology, will be presented at an event as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) annual Festival of Social Science in November.

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 17:28

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Control centre technology will improve police response times and accountability

Picture of police control room for Your Expert Witness storyNew technology for police control rooms has been developed by the communications and control arm of business services provider Capita. ControlWorks is a single solution for all police contact centre and control room operations that, it is claimed, can cut response times by combining relevant information from multiple sources.

It also enables police forces to manage all of their operations cost effectively from a central viewpoint – from resource planning and geographical mapping through to accessing and sharing information about case histories.

It will improve the experience of callers and ensure that officers with the right skills and capability are safely, quickly, and efficiently despatched to incidents with the information they need delivered to their secure mobile devices.

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 September 2013 11:39

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East Midlands polices forces are first to digitise fingerprints

Witness thumbprintThree police forces in the East Midlands – Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire – will be the first in England and Wales to have all their paper fingerprint records entirely digitised.

The three forces formed the East Midlands Special Operations Unit-Forensic Services in 2012. They will hand 500,000 records dating back to 1999 over to Northgate Public Services, a specialist provider of software and services to the police.

The prints will be scanned by Northgate, catalogued instantly using unique reference numbers and stored in encrypted files on a secure EMSOU-FS server. The fingerprint images will be saved as Jpeg 2000 files at 300dpi, an acceptable quality resolution for submission as evidence in court.  The paper copies will then be destroyed.

Prior to 1999, all fingerprint records were sent to Scotland Yard for storage. Since then forces have held their own records. However, the amalgamation of the three forces’ files last year has put pressures upon available storage space at the Regional Identification Bureau at Nottinghamshire Police’s Sherwood Lodge HQ, not to mention generating a significant annual cost to store them.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 08:56

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Congress puts neuroimaging under the spotlight

Image of an FMRI scan of the brain for your Expert Witness storyJuly saw the Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences taking place in the UK. Organised by the Physiological Society one of the recurrent themes was the growing importance of neuroimaging, both in medicine and other areas, including crime detection. In particular, there was an emphasis on the ethical issues involved and the need for society at large to understand the issues.

One paper, The promises and perils of brain imaging technology: an ethical perspective, presented by Dr Laura Cabrera of the University of Basel, brought the issue to the fore directly, while other papers discussed the medical applications and even commercial aspects.

One speaker was Prof Hank Greely of Stanford Law School. His emphasis was on the dangers of neuroimaging being exploited in ways that society at large is unaware of.

Prof Greely addressed areas where the techniques would have applications in the assessment and allocation of responsibility, particularly in relation to criminal behaviour. The process is already being used in lie detection and could be used, the professor warned, to ‘treat’ what he described as non-disease behaviours, such as criminal activity.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 August 2013 17:18

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Funding allows charity to take the online fight to child pornographers

help keyFor the first time, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) – the charity set up to protect children from online exploitation and combat internet child pornography – will begin to identify child abuse images on the internet. The new proactive stance has been made possible after internet service providers (ISPs) collectively provided £1m to tackle the problem. The move was announced by Culture Secretary Maria and reported in the online e-Government Newsletter.

The money came from Virgin Media, BSkyB, BT and TalkTalk, which all signed up to a zero tolerance pledge on child sexual abuse imagery.

Ms Miller said that action had only been taken by the IWF in the past when an image had been reported.

“Now, for the first time, the IWF has been asked to work alongside the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (Ceop) to search for illegal and abusive images and block them,” she said. “This will mean more images of child sexual abuse will be tracked down and acted against. The abuse of children is absolutely abhorrent – and that child is further violated every single time an image is circulated and viewed.

“The IWF and Ceop already do important and valuable work. This agreement will mean these organisations will no longer be limited to reacting to reports received. They will now have the remit and the resources to take the fight to the criminals perpetrating these vile acts.”

However, resources were not adequate to actually protect children, the former chief executive of Ceop warned. Jim Gamble told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that images were only the symptom and that it was wrong to suggest a child was safeguarded once an image had been removed.

Gamble said a child was not safeguarded until a police officer showed up at the door, arrested the predator in question and rescued the child from the “horror of this abuse”.

Both reports came as a summit between ISPs and the Government led to the companies being held to task for not doing enough to protect children.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 16:48