Continuing along the same technology theme as my last blog on modernising the courts, I noticed today this story over on TechRadar about a chap who whilst wearing a yet-to-be fashionable pair of Google Glasses happened to record a fight and arrest happening right in front of him.
If you’re unfamiliar with Google Glass, Google have basically invented the glasses worn by Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ so that us non-space travellers can use them.
If that still doesn’t clear things up, they’re fancy geek specs with a camera attached.
Whilst his above video doesn’t show anything particularly interesting, that the footage was captured in the first place illustrates the proliferation of personal recording devices and suggests how useful the availability of their footage could be to police.
Every year since some bright spark decided to glue a camera to a mobile phone, more and more people have been able to capture photos and videos of things happening on the spot.
This can be a valuable source of evidence and is an entirely new capability put into the hands of the public who can now capture the aftermath of a tube bombing just as easily as they can grab a snap of JLS walking down the street.
I’ve dealt with several cases now in which video evidence from a mobile phone showing an offence has formed an important part of the case and in my experience, it can be very useful indeed as the evidence can be so strong.
Witness statements are good for an initial account but their details can be challenged – it’s far harder for a suspect to deny an offence if they’re clearly on camera up to no good.
As such it’s likely cases can be progressed more efficiently with fewer ‘not guilty’ pleas and more full and frank admissions.
This means less officer time spent sorting out ID parades, completing court files and the other things that they might have to do should a suspect decide to challenge the case.
Requests for mobile footage often now form a part of our witness appeals and whilst forces have yet to develop a portal allowing the public to submit footage to us online, I’m sure this is something that will be looked at as it’d be very handy.*
There’s no reason that the collection of personally recorded images should be restricted to the public though, indeed forces including my own have already been trialling body-worn cameras.
Hampshire Constabulary have issued them to all of their response officers, the collected footage being presented to court and also helping to reduce complaints against officers.
Again, it’s the quality of the evidence collected that would be hugely beneficial and when used openly and responsibly, I can see very few disadvantages to their use.
It’s likely to be a few years before you see officers walking around looking like cyborgs, for the reasons outlined above though personally collected footage will feature in cases increasingly frequently as a very helpful source of evidence.