The government has recently announced that West Yorkshire Police has signed up to a new identity checking service. This represents a further roll out of police fingerprint checking by portable scanner and phone app.
The new service is already being used in a select number of force areas. A further twenty areas will be going live before the end of this year. This form of police fingerprint checking will remove the need for suspects to be taken to a police station to check identity.
It is anticipated that this will reap benefits for front line officers and suspects alike. Previous research found that the average time for an identity check was sixty seven minutes. As a result the police will be freed up the to continue with other duties. From a citizens point of view, the number needless detentions should be drastically reduced.
Support for Police fingerprint checking in the street
Police leaders have commented:
“Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details. He was issued with a summons for three offences and his vehicle seized. The armed response unit returned to patrol within ten minutes, and without the mobile fingerprint scanner this could have resulted in the unit being out of action for four hours taking the individual to a custody suite.”
How does the service work?
The new service works by connecting a small fingerprint scanner to a mobile phone App. Within seconds of taking a print the suspect’s identity can be checked across the two main police databases, allowing police after that to deal more appropriately with the suspect.
While this technology has been available for a few years, reduced pricing has now made it affordable enough for a national rollout. Scanners that previously cost around £3,000 can now be purchased for under £300.
Concerns about consultation and implementation
Liberty, the leading human rights organisation has been less enthusiastic, commenting that:
“This scheme is part of a pattern of the police using radical privacy-invading technology without proper public consultation or meaningful parliamentary oversight. Much like the facial recognition technology that is increasingly being deployed by police forces, it is being presented to us after the event and with little fanfare and is being made available to more and more officers across the country. In this case, we learned about it via a sneaky gov.uk post early on a Saturday morning.”
There are important protections for suspects that are to be found in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. If you have any concerns about the use of these powers, please contact us to discuss further.
Where fingerprint identification is being used to provide evidence in support of a prosecution, we will always take particular care to ensure that the law has been complied with.
How We Can Help
If you are a person facing a criminal investigation or proceedings, contact us immediately. Our solicitors are well versed in this and all other aspects of the criminal law and will work to ensure your best defence.
Nottingham crime solicitor Lauren Fisher represented her client at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court who was charged with assault. After she properly identified that the issue in the case was identification evidence, the prosecution did not manage to secure the evidence that her client was responsible in time for trial. Not guilty verdicts followed.
A member of the public had seen two males being assaulted so went to their aid. Both males are drunk and in company with a female. One of the males then becomes aggressive and pushes the female before attempting to hit the person who had been helping them.
Although the male walks away with the female he is followed by the member of the public. He is then seen to kick the female and swing her around by her bag. He calls the police because of his concerns.
When the police arrive, no complaint is made by the female. Lauren’s client is in a group of three males by this time. He is spoken to by the police and taken home, but then received a notification that he had to attend court.
No identification evidence…
Lauren advises him on the statements received. There is not a statement from anybody identifying him as the person who either swung for the member of the public or kicked the female. He enters not guilty pleas. Lauren makes it clear on the case management form that identification will be the issue in the case.
…and still no identification evidence
Despite this, the prosecution serve no additional evidence until the morning of trial. This is in an additional statement from the eye witness stating that he had pointed out the male to the police. There was, however, no corresponding statement from the police officer confirming that if was Lauren’s client who was identified.
The prosecutor had to therefore make an application to adjourn the trial to try and put right this evidential problem. The was opposed by Lauren, bearing in mind the time the Crown had had to secure any evidence. The Magistrates’ decided that it was not in the interests of justice to grant the prosecution the adjournment. As a result the prosecution had no alternative but to offer no evidence. The charges were dismissed and Lauren’s client was found not guilty.
Contact a Nottingham Criminal Law Solicitor
Whether you face a police investigation or Magistrates’ or Crown Court proceedings you will wish to instruct a specialist criminal defence lawyer with an eye for detail who will fight your case. This can be particularly important in cases involving identification evidence. The identification might be by eye witnesses, from CCTV or from forensic evidence so the legal approach will be different in each case.
Nottingham crime solicitor Alex Chapman secured an acquittal for a client facing a charge of driving with excess alcohol. The trial was heard before Nottingham Magistrates’ Court.
The issue at trial was the correctness of the identification. A police officer out on patrol saw a vehicle driving with a faulty brake light so the officer drove alongside the vehicle and spoke to the driver.
In response, the driver then drove away around a corner at speed. This aroused the police officer’s suspicions so he followed the vehicle. By the time he caught up with the vehicle a few seconds later, the vehicle was stationary. There was now nobody in the driver’s seat.
Defending a charge of excess alcohol
One male was stood outside the vehicle. Two males were sat on the backseat. The police officer believed that he immediately recognised our client, one of the back seat passengers, as the driver of the vehicle. Because of this he asked him to provide a roadside breath test, which he failed. As a result he was arrested for driving with excess alcohol.
Alex’s client, a Polish national, insisted throughout that the officer had made a mistake. He claimed that one of the other males had been the driver.
The only issue in the case was the correctness of the identification. In order to convict the Magistrates would have to be sure that the officer had not made a mistake. If there was a reasonable doubt as to that, then Alex’s client would be found not guilty.
As a result, Alex directed all of his cross examination to showing that the necessary doubt was present. The officer admitted that he had spoken to the driver for less than three seconds. He accepted that it was dark at the time. Although there was street lighting, the driver was sat inside car. The interior light was not on so the inside of the car was in darkness.
Can you be ‘1 million per cent’ sure?
Alex showed the officer a photograph of his client’s friend. He had been the other male sat in the backseat at the time of the arrest. The photograph was taken on the night in question. The officer conceded that they looked very similar. He could not be moved, however, on the correctness of the identification. He continued to maintain that he was “one million percent sure” that Alex’s client had been the driver.
Our client gave evidence along with his friend. His friend’s evidence was that he had been the driver. He stated that he had been taking the car for a test drive and panicked when he saw the police because he did not have insurance. He acknowledged that he knew he was admitting an offence himself but told the court he could not let his friend be wrongly convicted.
The third male who had been outside the car was the owner of the vehicle. He also attended to give evidence and support our client’s case.
Turnbull Guidelines and Identification
The quality of identification as well as the weight to be placed upon it is governed by the case of R -v- Turnbull. Alex directed his closing speech to the Magistrates to dealing with these issues. Although the officer himself was sure of the correctness of his identification, a convincing witness can still be mistaken. Alex argued that in all of the circumstances the officer could have made a mistake.
This argument was supported by his client’s full cooperation and consistent denials of responsibility. His account was also corroborated by two other witnesses.
The Magistrates found that despite the police officer’s confidence, they could not be sure of the correctness of the identification. Alex’s client was found not guilty of excess alcohol. Because of this he was not subject to the driving disqualification that would have followed a conviction.
Legal aid available
Despite being in work, Alex’s client was able to receive legal aid to ensure his free representation before the Magistrates’ Court. This was particularly important in his case as he required the assistance of an interpreter. Had there not been legal aid, he would have had to fund not only the case but interpreter’s fees himself when he gave instructions.
We will always investigate your entitlement to legal aid so that you receive affordable advice.
Contact a Nottingham criminal defence solicitor
If you are under investigation by the police or face court proceedings you will want to instruct an expert. Call our Nottingham office on 0115 9599550 or contact us using the form below.
Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins recently defended a juvenile before Chesterfield Youth Court. His client was charged with the serious offence of robbery based on a Facebook identification.
Notwithstanding a positive identification of his client by the victim, David’s meticulous preparation of the case led to successful representations to the prosecution. These resulted in the Crown discontinued the case several weeks before the trial was due to start.
Continuity of Representation
David’s client had the advantage of having continuity of representation. David provided advice and assistance to the client at Chesterfield Police station. He then continued with this representation at court.
In brief the complainant told police that the client and another male had got out of a car, pushed and kicked him to the floor, and stole a packet of cigarettes. The complainant provided a description of those involved to the police. He then searched Facebook to see if he could recognise those involved. During this process he thought he recognised David’s client as one of the males involved.
Full Alibi Provided to Police
David attended the Police station and advised the client who denied the offence. He stated that he was not there. He went on to provide a full alibi. This account was provided to the Police in the form of a written statement including the names of several witnesses who could support the client’s account. One of the witnesses was a social worker. This was an attempt to ensure that the police conducted a proper investigation.
To David’s surprise, Instead of speaking to these witnesses the police focused time and money on conducting a Video Identification Procedure (VIPER). Perhaps unsurprisingly, his client was identified again by the same witness as having been involved in the offence.
As a result, he was charged with the offence of robbery on the basis of the Facebook Identification without the other witnesses being spoken to by the police. This was despite David’s representations to the contrary.
David kept conduct of the matter when the case reached Chesterfield Youth Court. He immediately set about to obtain the evidence to support the client’s alibi and undermine the identification evidence. David took statements from defence witnesses including social workers and family members, as well as contacting other agencies to prove where the his client was at specific times.
David also correctly identified that there were obvious differences between the description of the robber given by the complainant and David’s client.
Having gathered this alibi evidence and considered the quality of the prosecution evidence, David drafted a list of admissions for the trial. His intention was that the prosecution agree these prior to trial.
These included maps, distances between specific locations and photographs of the Identification procedures. These were agreed by the prosecution.
Weakness in the Facebook Identification
Once they had been agreed, David wrote a detailed letter to the Prosecution outlining all of the difficulties they had with their case , particularly in the light of the agreed admissions and the alibi witnesses. Upon further consideration of the case following those representations the Prosecution accepted David’s points, including the weaknesses in the Facebook identification. The cases was discontinued without the need for a trial.
This case demonstrates how a diligent and focused criminal law specialist can make a real difference to the direction of a case. Early preparation put pressure on the prosecution to review the case in our client’s favour. Although we must have been confident of winning the case at trial, David’s approach removed all risk from any court hearing.
Contact David Gittins
Should you wish to contact Chesterfield crime solicitor David Gittins to discuss a new or ongoing case please telephone him at our Chesterfield office 01246 283000 or email him here.