The Justice Gap: Former regulator warns of miscarriages of justice as a result of poor quality CCTV facial comparisons

The former forensic regulator has questioned the quality of supposedly expert evidence about CCTV facial comparisons relied upon in court and warned there was a risk of miscarriages of justice. ‘When it comes to the Interpretation of CCTV images it is difficult for us to have the assurance that it is done properly across the board because as far as I am aware none of the organisations or carrying out the interpretation of the images has achieved the quality standards set by the forensics science regulator,’ Professor Gillian Tully told Channel Four News.

In Prof Tully’s final report as regulator last year, she described her six years’ tenure as ‘fraught with financial, reputational and capacity problems’. The report by Symeon Brown highlighted concerns over the misinterpretation of facial comparison evidence by experts. Tully said that she did not have confidence in the science around  comparisons from CCTV footage which she said always had an element of subjectivity.

Brown highlighted the risk of racial bias. The program featured an interview with the parents of a Somalian man, Liban Yarare, identified by a facial comparison expert as ‘person A’ on CCTV in the case of a man who was left for dead following a fight in a Leicester car park. Some 23 people were convicted in the aftermath of a fight between two groups of young men. The court was not unanimous and Yarare, 19 years old at the time, was found guilty by a majority verdict and sentenced to 18 years for attempted murder.

Members of the Somali community in Leicester claim that the police had the wrong man and identified another Somali man as ‘person A’. The report featured an interview with a former forensic examiner from the Metropolitan police who said he was unable to make a confident identification the images shown to him. ‘When people are comparing people of different ethnicities to themselves they find the task harder harder,’ he told Brown.