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Evaluation of the Fairness of Police Line-Ups and Video Identifications

NCJ Number
Tim Valentine; Pamela Heaton
Date Published
14 pages
This document compares the use of police line-ups and video identification to evaluate for fairness.
The fallibility of eyewitness identification has been recognized in England for some time. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) allows four means of identification to be used: a live line-up or identity parade; group identification; video identification; or confrontation. The majority of eyewitness identifications are obtained by asking a witness to view a live line-up. The rising number of line-ups has led to an interest in developing video as the identification procedure of choice. This research aims to evaluate the fairness of archive records of live line-ups using a mock-witness procedure and the effectiveness of the present PACE code of practice in producing fair and unbiased line-ups. Also, it seeks to compare the fairness of video identification with the traditional live line-up, and provide data to establish whether the practical benefits of video can also improve the quality of the identification evidence obtained. The records of line-ups and video identifications of actual criminal cases were used. In a perfectly fair line-up the suspect would be chosen, by chance, by 11 percent of the mock witnesses. Twenty-five percent of mock witnesses selected the suspect from 25 photographs of live line-ups, compared to 15 percent of mock witnesses that selected the suspect from video identification. An analysis of covariance was conducted taking the number of visual features mentioned in the original witness’s first description as the covariate. These results showed that the proportion choosing the suspect was significantly smaller from video identification. It was concluded that the video line-ups were fairer than the live line-ups. Wider use of video identifications has the potential to improve the reliability of eyewitness identification evidence. 1 footnote, 2 tables, 19 references, 2 appendices