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Public views sought on changing Police Code of Practice 23 February 2007

MEMBERS of the public are being invited to comment on a proposed change to the Police Powers and Procedures Codes which would enable video identification to be the primary form of identification used by police officers.

The Department of Home Affairs wants to gauge public opinion on the change to Code D prior to seeking Tynwald approval for it to be implemented.

Copies of the draft revised Code can be obtained from the Department of Home Affairs or viewed on the public consultation page of the DHA website. Any public comments on the change should be received by midday on April 10.

Home Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle explained:

‘The Code has been revised to recognise the developments in the value and use of video identification since it was first introduced. In particular the draft change aims to reduce delays in arranging identification of the suspect without compromising the safeguards against mistaken identity. Video identification has been used as evidence in court on the Island in the past.’

The amendments will permit a video identification to be used as the primary method of identification. The suspect (who could be a detained person) will be recorded at the VIPER (Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording) suite at Police Headquarters. The image is immediately sent by secure computer link to the VIPER database at Wakefield. The office at Wakefield operates 24 hours a day. The VIPER video library consists of many thousands of ‘look-alikes’ covering all ethnic backgrounds, ages and sex. The image of the suspect is matched on the database with those of a similar appearance. Images are then selected by the identification officer with the suspect and their advocate and they must be given a reasonable opportunity to see the complete set of images before it is shown to any witness. The resulting images can then be shown to victims and witnesses either at Police Headquarters or can be downloaded on to a lap top computer to be shown at any location. All images and documentation can be retained as evidence in any further proceedings.

Video identification, under the amended Code D, would retain all safeguards for suspects to have advocates present at all stages of the process. There is no change as to the procedures governing refusal to appear in a video identification or any identification method compared to the current Code.

The new type of ‘video identification’ has the following advantages:-

  • The speed at which the process can be arranged is one of the most significant advantages. Video parades have been held within one hour of an arrest being made.
  • A video identification parade can be shown to witnesses before the suspect leaves custody, following arrest.
  • Suspects who are not identified will be able to be released earlier.
  • Identifications can be carried out within a short time of the event in question. This will assist everybody concerned.
  • Identifications can be made from a portable lap top computer giving more flexibility on the places that identifications can be carried out (e.g. at home or a hospital bed).
  • The cost of running identifications is dramatically reduced compared with parades using volunteers.
  • Video identification is much less traumatic for victims in particular

Video identification using VIPER was introduced in 2002. There are currently 24 out of the 37 English Police Forces using the VIPER system, and the system is also being used by Scottish Forces. In the past 10 months there have been 30,846 video identification parades held by these Forces.

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