FACIAL IMAGERYPerverting the course of justice by persuading somebody other than the driver to take penalty points is now an offence well known to the British public including, it is estimated, over a quarter of million who have done exactly that. The continuing fall out from the Huhne and Pryce case with Constance Briscoe QC now formally charged with intending to pervert the course of justice spotlights a ramification of reliance upon visual imagery to secure convictions as opposed to the old fashioned method of police patrol cars stopping suspected errant drivers.

When I began this job nobody had heard of image analysts outside of John le Carre novels or opinions of planetary geologists on the composition of the Moon, Mars, Europa or other bodies in the solar system. Yet it was only about a month ago that I sat on a case management hearing over a matter of theft to the value of about £9 where the outstanding problem was the obtaining by the defence of an image analyst`s expert opinion as to the identity of the alleged thief who was captured by a CCTV camera. The defendant had set down an alibi defence. CPS agreed that the imagery would be the only evidence available. The bench chairman made the point that surely if the CPS were firm in their belief that there was a case to answer and the threshold had been passed then it was a matter for the bench to make that judgement at trial. But no; we were told that in effect the image analyst would decide if the image was that of the defendant with the obvious conclusion that the case would be dropped or there would be a change of plea subsequent to the expert`s “findings”.

I must admit to having difficulty with this. Unlike DNA evidence we are given little or no scientific background to the accuracy of facial analysis and the caveats involved. But of more significance is the cost involved at a time when courts are running without ushers, when low level CPS staff are making many mistakes affecting the efficiency of prosecutors, when legal advisors are at their wits end, when fingers are crossed that interpreters of the required language will turn up, when defendants are self representing because legal aid is unavailable, when courts rarely begin on time owing to delays of prosecution or defence in having made all their preparations by 10.00a.m. etc. etc. etc.

So those considering making false declarations on s.172 forms have been warned.