Computer Forensic company CY4OR has increased its capacity to analyse audio and visual footage in response to a weighty demand for the service. The analysis suite has been developed and expanded to include the most comprehensive technology available on the market, and the audio & visual investigations team have also recruited a further member â€“ Jae McCreary who joins CY4OR from BBC Radio. Audio & Visual images captured on CCTV cameras, personal video recorders, mobile phones or dictaphones can often hold compelling evidence for the prosecution or defence, however in the majority of cases the footage is not of a quality to be admissible in court…A number of high profile legal cases have relied heavily on recorded information; such as the Delbo King trial in 2004 of alleged racism against the Greater Manchester Police, and the Stephen Lawrence enquiry, during which over 200 hours of tape were recovered. Britain has the densest CCTV coverage of public places anywhere in the world and so the probability of an offence being preserved as footage, is more likely than ever before.
Footage captured by CCTV or amateur recording devices however is often of poor quality, making it difficult to review and inadmissible in court. An additional problem to factor in when reviewing CCTV is that multiple cameras will often cover one specific
area. Many closed circuit TV systems record the inputs from multiple cameras onto one tape but when replayed on normal video players all one sees is a blur of different images making it impossible to view. The solution is to de-multiplex the footage in order for it to be viewed camera by camera easily and quickly.
Keith Cottenden who manages the CY4OR investigations team comments; â€œThis kind of service is being used increasingly for cases involving assault, murder, road traffic crimes or to simply place a suspect at a scene of a crime. In the majority of cases however, the clarity of the footage is not to a standard whereby it would be taken at face value as evidence – that is where our team comes in.â€
In order to maximise the impact of footage containing legal evidence, solicitors often ask that aspects of a frame be highlighted, slowed down or obscured, so that a juryâ€™s attention may be drawn only to images that are of relevance. This can be a relatively simple task for a trained analyst to undertake, however the legal community are only just beginning to realise how easy this is to do.
One of the most accessible recording devices nationwide is the average mobile phone handset, the majority of which have a camera or video recording facility which are able to capture both audio and visual footage. Poor pixilation and the shaky skills of those behind the camera often mean recordings are of a low quality, but what has been captured is often vitally important.
Keith Cottenden continues: â€œIt is more important than ever for law enforcement agencies and the legal community to factor in the capacity that newer models of mobile phones have for storing and creating media files. We were recently presented with a media file from mobile phone â€“ it was in fact the answering machine capability that had been used to preserve a conversation. We were able to remove a substantial amount of background noise which in fact revealed a confession on the part of the defendant. We have also investigated an incident involving the making and distribution of Indecent Images on a mobile phone; although this has not previously been an obvious line of enquiry for this type of offence it is presenting itself more and more oftenâ€.
Audio & Video evidence is however highly volatile and can be manipulated as easily as a standard digital image. Most CCTV systems for example are now record directly onto hard drives, and in many cases footage is examined in the live system, easily allowing for potential corruption or destruction of images.
There are however, no de facto guidelines relating to how video footage should be handled to ensure admissibility in court; judges determine this on a case by case basis. All recordings therefore should be treated in the same way as any other item of evidence â€“ secured, preserved and investigated by regulated professionals.
All CY4OR investigators are security cleared by New Scotland Yard and adhere to Association of Chief Police Officer guidelines throughout all investigations.