Determining the age of person in pictures, esp. underage?
Normally, I'd advocate going Federal as well. However, the Feds won't take every case, at least in my jurisdiction. We've had several turned down, and then have to take them through State court. That generally means, at least in my county, that the suspect, if convicted, gets less (sometimes much less) time to serve than had a similar judgment come from Federal court. But what other options are there? If the Feds decline, then we either take it to State court, or let the perp go. I, for one, prefer to go with the former.
As to what is underage and what is not. I will note what appear to be underage images/movies to the case agent, labeling them "suspected". I would not, however, feel comfortable saying 100% that the images or movie files are underage children. I'll instead note that the case agent should talk to a forensic pediatrician or other qualified individual, as that lies completely outside of the realm of Digital Forensics.
Thanks everyone for the contributions. Some examiners suggest that a pediatrician might determine the age from a computer screeen.
I think the problem lies here. In my opinion, even a pediatrician can not be %100 sure about that, as visual depictions do not reflect the physical reality as is, and it is a scientific fact that physical development of humans depends on some factors like race, population, nutrition, exercising, geography, height, and genetics.
So, in my opinion, age estimation from a computer screen is intrinsically a problem for pediatricians, too. Anyone from any job and any pediatrician would have to use their eyes when they have to make age estimation from a computer screen, and having eyes won't make pediatricians different from us.
In physical life, where pediatricians could come together with the person in the picture and make some tests and measurements for age estimation, they might provide much more solid evidence about what they do. However, they can't make use any of measurements when it comes to persons depicted on screen. So, a pediatrician and an examiner would only have to use their eyes when age estimation has to be made on the screen. And human eyes err.
To put it shortly, how can we ensure that the age estimation made by a pediatrician from a screen is really correct? You will never know unless you physically have the person in the picture with you.
What do you think?
A pediatrician may not be 100% sure about whether a given image may (or may not) be an underage child. That much is true.
However, I'll wager, they are much more suited to make the decision of what and what not is an underage child, given the years of training, experience, and medical certifications they have, rather than a forensic examiner who might have minimal training, or who knows "that's a kid" when they see one. It all comes down to courtroom credibility. I'll make the statement that I believe, based on my experience, that a given image is a child, but I also indicate that a forensic pediatrician be contacted to potentially confirm that. Most the time, there are never any questions. If I have a doubt about the age of a child, I usually seek guidance from the case agent. Most of the time, there are substantial images or movies that I don't have any doubt on, so I'll likely not even bookmark the image.
What's the approach if the photographs are of female genitals or breasts only with no other context?
Jmundy - I probably haven't done this sort of case for nearly a decade now thankfully (for either side). However I'd be surprised if those sort of images weren't discounted in the majority of cases. Obviously, this would depend on circumstance though. They might not be discounted if they appeared to be being taken by the individual in question, rather than downloaded, or there was some other information to "support" the case as a whole (or warrant more scrutiny/resources). I'm pretty certain that if your case was just limited to a few images of questionable age, with only genitalia exposed, such that it was far from certain what the age was, that the case would never make it past the CPS over here, and get to court.
There are obviously going to be exceptions to this, as in the distant past I've also been instructed for the defence in the past, on a relatively weak case, with a few pictures of questionable age, and which swiftly was dropped once examined, as there was no realistic chance of prosecution.
I know former colleagues have described in some cases paediatricians (or some kind of expert in the field) being asked to try to age people in photos (vaguely remember being to do with proportions/ratios of bones or suchlike) but I don't know how concrete that is/was and I suspect the expense would rarely be deployed unless in a particular case of significance (rather than just someone with a few pictures). If it was just genitalia I imagine this would be pretty difficult to say with certainly from an image (but maybe science has moved on).
It sounds a bit cold, but I think, like most things in this field, it'll come down to resources. I.e. the significance/strength of the case, whether an expert is likely to be able to give a definitive on the age range or not, and therefore whether it's likely to strengthen a case beyond the point of doubt or not.
About 5 years ago I did research in this area to see if we could, indeed, determine the age of an individual based upon pupil measurements in selfie photographs. Long story short, based on our data, pupils (or any other facial measurement at that) are not a good determinant of determining age beyond adolescence. In children the measurements the numbers are consistent and COULD be a factor, but again, this is shaky ground because you have to factor for values such as lighting (lux), etc. etc.
Below is a link to request the paper (for free) and read deeper into our work. FYI- there might be more work in this space since we did this research in 2015:
Feel free to contact me off-list if you I could be of any assistance to you.