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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 16:35 GMT
Fears over video ID parade plan
Home Secretary David Blunkett walks the beat with PC Malcolm Young in Bedale, North Yorkshire
David Blunkett goes on patrol with an officer
The scrapping of traditional identity parades will lead to miscarriages of justice, an ex-offenders' charity has claimed.

I fear this will simply lead to more miscarriages of justice as a result

Ex-offenders' charity Unlock

Mark Leech, chief executive of Unlock, said a new video based system - announced by Home Secretary David Blunkett on Thursday - should be shelved immediately.

"There can be no substitute for the person making what can be serious allegations facing the person they are accusing, looking them in the eye and saying, `This is the man'," said Mr Leech.

But police officers welcomed the new Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording (Viper) system, which holds a database of thousands of images that can be prepared and turned into an id parade within half an hour.


They say it will make it easier for vulnerable victims to pick out possible attackers.

The measure is currently being piloted by West Yorkshire Police which developed it four years ago.

It will mean victims will no longer need to feel worried by the physical presence of their possible attacker.

Instead the victim or witness will be able to view the line-up at home or in hospital, rather than at a police station.

Suspects and their solicitors also have a say about which video clips are suitable, according to age, hair types, ethnic background and build.

But Mr Leech said: "Video identity parades do not have the ability to speak a particular sentence, walk up and down the room or even turn around.

"There are occasions where witnesses will be intimidated by facing the person they accuse, but that can be dealt with by one-way glass screens.


"Identification evidence as it stands is notoriously unreliable and I fear this will simply lead to more miscarriages of justice as a result."

Inspector Dick Foucher, a Viper identifications officer for West Yorkshire Police, said the old system was not working and many traditional identity parades had to be abandoned for want of appropriate participants.

Witnesses are more relaxed and feel less vulnerable because they are not walking up and down near the suspect

West Yorkshire Police
Viper already has more than 6,000 images.

"If you are going to hold an identity parade you have to assemble the volunteers, the suspect, the witnesses and legal teams - all at the same time. It can cause some logistical problems," Inspector Foucher told BBC News Online.

"You can come up against difficulties if the suspect comes from an ethnic minority group, has ginger hair or a bushy beard.

"With Viper, your volunteers are on tap. You don't have to go out to look for them.

"If you are investigating a serious offence, where identification is urgently required, it is possible to complete the identification procedure with Viper during the initial detention of the suspect.

More relaxed

"Witnesses are more relaxed and feel less vulnerable because they are not walking up and down near the suspect.

"If they are elderly or housebound, it is possible to show them the video in their homes. If the victim is hospitalised, the video can be taken to them."

West Yorkshire Police provides a Viper service to more than 25 other forces that have difficulty locating willing participants for identity parades.

It is hoped that Viper will save a significant part of the 14m spent on parades each year.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Videos to replace police ID parades
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
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