Tag Archives: bodycam

Body-Worn Cameras and the Police – What Effect do they Have?

Modern Policing – Lights, Camera, Action

Police forces across England and Wales are preparing for a rollout of ‘Body-worn Cameras’ or Bodycams.  The government has announced that prison officers will shortly be assisted by this new technology as well.

What are Body-worn Cameras?

police body-worn cameras crime solicitorsBody-worn cameras (BWCs) are small recording devices, very similar to a GoPro, which allows for constant audio and video recording in an unobtrusive manner.

The evidence from these cameras can be used to support a prosecution.  Some argue that with officers and others aware that their actions could be caught on camera it should result in a positive effect on the behaviour of both the public and the police.

Is behaviour calmed when a camera is present?

It might be generally accepted that we behave better when being watched.  For example, we are less likely to speed past a roadside camera or get involved in unlawful activity if we know we are being observed by CCTV.

In 2011, researchers at Newcastle University posted pictures of a pair of male eyes and the caption, “Cycle Thieves: We Are Watching You.” Bike thefts decreased by 62 percent in those locations.  They remained the same elsewhere.

A study in Rialto, California (USA) in 2012 appeared to show dramatic changes in police behaviour as well following the use of body-worn cameras. Complaints against police officers were down 90% compared to the previous year. Some critics, however, have been sceptical of this study.  In part this was because only fifty-four officers participated.

That caution did not result in a slowdown of the deployment of body-worn cameras.  By 2015 95% of US large police departments had deployed BWC or had committed to doing so.

Now, police forces in England and Wales are following suit.

Latest research

The Rialto findings seemed to accord with common sense, but a new eighteen month study of more than 2000 police officers in Washington (USA) was published on 20th October.  This disclosed ‘almost no effect’ on police officer behaviour.

Are BWCs a waste of money then?

This is a controversial question, and there may be many reasons for the Washington findings.

Other arguable benefits of BWCs are:

  • Detecting rogue officer behaviour after the event
  • Accurate recording of evidence
  • Building community trust in the police

Another new study will be published in the November 2017 issue of the Policing journal.  In this research 249 people were interviewed.  They had had recent encounters with officers wearing cameras. Those who were aware of the cameras perceived the encounters as more “just” than those who were not.


It would appear that the jury remains out as to the effect of Body-Worn Cameras by the police.  Supporters claim that there are definite benefits for both the police and the public.  Detractors cite privacy concerns, sizeable public expenditure to fund the cameras and a lack of evidence to support their continued deployment.

What is clear to us is that we see the evidential worth of cameras in an increasing number of cases. Such evidence must, however, be analysed carefully.  It would be wrong to believe that ‘the camera never lies’. We often find that video evidence is taken out of context.  It can be distorted.  On occasions when it might be thought to be helpful to the defence it can go missing.

Contact a criminal defence specialist to discuss these issues

We have recent experience of dealing with cases where the footage from Body-worn cameras was decisive in putting forward our clients’ defences.

In this case, a jury was only out considering its verdict for five minutes before deciding that our client was not guilty.

Here, the footage was helpful in persuading the prosecution that the final account given by the complainant should not be relied upon.  The case was dropped.

If you face criminal proceedings you will want to instruct a criminal defence lawyer who will ensure that evidence such as bodycam footage is analysed and deployed effectively in your defence.

police body-worn cameras legal advice

We have offices across the East Midlands in Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, Mansfield, Ilkeston and Newark.  All of our office numbers can be telephoned 24 hours a day 7 days a week to ensure free and independent legal advice is given to those detained in a police station.

Alternatively you can use the form below to make contact.





Police BodyCam Footage Key in Trial

police bodycam
Chesterfield partner and crime solicitor David Gittins

Chesterfield Crime solicitor David Gittins recently defended a client before Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court charged with an allegation of domestic assault.  Police Bodycam footage was of key importance.

David’s client was found not guilty following a full hearing of the evidence at trial.

David first met his in Chesterfield Court cells. He had been refused bail by the Police.  David made a successful bail application.  As we offer continuity of representation, David then continued to deal with the case on behalf of his client.

Client of Good Character

This involved several meetings with him at our Chesterfield office to prepare the case. David’s client had never been in trouble with the police or court before.   The potential effects of a conviction for this offence could be far reaching.

The Allegation

It was said that David’s client and partner had argued following a family meal. His partner demanded that he spend the night on the sofa.  It was said that in response to that he grabbed his partner by the throat and hit her, causing scratches to her neck and a cut to her lip.

A neighbour gave evidence that she had heard the incident through the wall and had spoken to the complainant before calling the police.

Self-Defence Argument

Our client provided a different version of events.  He said that he had been grabbed by his partner and hit to the face.  He had pushed her away and taken hold of her to prevent further attack.  He maintained that his actions were reasonable.  He acted in self-defence.

David’s client entered a not guilty plea and the case was listed for trial.   David asked the prosecution to serve additional evidence before the trial including body warn camera (BodyCam) footage from the police/  This turned out to be crucial to the defence.

Crucial Police BodyCam Footage

On behalf of his client, David had the complainant confirm parts of her evidence again.  Importantly she stated that as she didn’t strike her partner, he had no injuries.

police bodycam footage trial david gittins
Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court

David was then able to show the complainant and the Court the BodyCam footage from the police who attended the incident. Recorded comments and injuries meant that the complainant had to change her account.  Further inconsistencies in her account were then brought out by questioning.

Although the neighbour gave the same account that she had originally given to the police, David was easily able to establish that she could not give evidence as to what had actually happened on the other side of the wall.

Finally, David made sure that the prosecution read into evidence the agreed statement from a police officer confirming that his client has a fresh injury to his eye when first seen by the police.

David’s client then gave evidence on his own behalf.

Closing Speech

David was able to rely on the burden and standard of proof when speaking on behalf of his client.  The BodyCam footage and his client’s injuries undermined the account of the complainant.  In order to find his client guilty the Magistrates had to be sure that he used unlawful force.

The Magistrates returned their verdict after a short while. They could not be sure that the complainant’s account was true and as a result found David’s client not guilty.  He kept his good name.

Contact Us

Defendants in domestic violence cases might feel that it is difficult to put their case across.  This is why there will be a benefit in instructing a diligent and focused specialist criminal solicitor who will review all of the evidence in detail.

In this case, an analysis of what the complainant had said as recorded on the police Bodycam allowed David to demonstrate that the complainant might not be telling the truth.

If you wish David to represent you at either the police station or Magistrates’ Court please telephone 01246 28300 or email him here.