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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 01:15 GMT
Project 'to boost CCTV evidence'
CCTV screens
CCTV cameras often produce grainy footage
The problem of poor quality CCTV footage of crimes is to be tackled by an FBI-led project involving 3,000 visitors to a British science museum.

Researchers hope to develop a system which can tell whether a face caught on camera matches that of a suspect.

Visitors to Rotherham's Magna Science Adventure Centre will have three dimensional scans of their heads taken.

The two year project will be used to build a database of facial variations among the general public.

Facial characteristics

Volunteers will be invited to sit before a special camera which will photograph their face from eight different angles.

When an offender is captured on camera, it is notoriously difficult to determine their identity
Martin Evison

The pictures produced will be used to develop mathematical techniques to calculate the frequency of any set of facial characteristics in the wider population.

Developers believe it is the first time such a system has been devised anywhere in the world.

It is hoped the results will help the police and a jury determine the likelihood of a match between a grainy CCTV picture and the suspect before them.

The Sheffield University scientists carrying out the research say it could revolutionise the use of such footage, in both the UK and the US.

'Primitive' tools

Team member Martin Evison said: "When an offender is captured on camera, it is notoriously difficult to determine their identity, as the quality of the film is often poor and the available tools are primitive.

"Mis-identification has been known to occur.

"This may mean that a suspect is detained unfairly or that an offender-guilty of a serious crime-could escape conviction".

He believes the system will produce results that can be used in court in a similar way to DNA.

Dr Martin Evison, human identification expert
"Our research is directed at a new generation of CCTV cameras"

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