Valentine Moore Associates Ltd
                                       challenging assumptions
home | recent casesresearch contact | links

Examples of recent cases include:

1. The Lockerbie Bomb

Abdulbaset al Megrahi was convicted of murdering 270 people in the bombing on an American Airliner en route from London to New York in December 1988. The conviction was upheld at his first appeal. Subsequently Mr al Megrahi applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) to investigate the safety of his conviction. Professor Valentine was instructed by the SCCRC to provide an expert report on the eyewitness testimony which forned a key part of the evidence. The report discussed a number of factors on eyewitness testimony including the effect on eyewitness memory of long delays, repeated questioning, leading information, media reports and photographs, repeated identification, and the fairness of identification procedures used including a 'dock' identification. Professor Valentine was also commissioned by the SCCRC to conduct an empirical study on the ability of the Maltese to identify the nationality of Arabic men. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission concluded that a second appeal against conviction should be heard. Professor Valentine was instructed by Mr al Megrahi's defence solicitor to provide a report for the second appeal. The appeal was withdrawn shortly before Mr al Megrahi was released from prison on compassionate grounds in August 2009.

2. Transference of familiarity in an eyewitness identification

S was a juvenile charged with murder. The victim had died from a single stab wound. The defendant admitted presence at the scene but denied involvement. He incriminated a juvenile who had been with him that night. S and the incriminee were of a similar general appearance, with the exception that S wore glasses. CCTV images taken approximately 30 minutes before the murder clearly showed the defendant wearing his glasses. S was arrested and a photograph of him without his glasses was shown to a witness in a witness album. The witness had been waiting at a bus stop and saw the murder. She identified S. S was placed on a live identity parade, again without his glasses. The same witness identified him again. Other witnesses did not identify S. One, a friend of the victim, said "Not the one with glasses". Professor Valentine's report discussed scientific evidence of the possibility of transference of familiarity between people present at a scene, and the effects of comitment to an identification and misattribution of familiarity that can arise when repeated identification procedures are undertaken. At trial S was acquitted.

3.Non-identification by a rape victim

Peter Jarvis was charged with a violent rape of an elderly woman in her home. The attack lasted for a sustained period, which allowed the victim to see the face of her attacker. She gave a detailed description of his appearance that was consistent with the appearance of the accused. Other evidence included partial DNA, but the victim failed to identify the accused from a video identification procedure. Professor Valentine was called by the prosecution to give evidence in court on the reliability of eyewitness identification. Scientific evidence on the accuracy of identification, including an analysis of a large number of police lineups conducted in real cases, was presented. Relevant factors included the age of the witness, her opportunity to view the attacker, the effect of the stress of the attack and a long delay prior to the identification procedure. Taking into account all the circumstances of the case it would be unsurprising that a victim might be unable to identify the culprit. The defendant was convicted.

4. Gangland killing

William Gage has been convicted of murder. A gunman was lying in wait for the victim when he returned home. Hearing the shots outside her home, the wife of the victim saw the gunman, wearing a hood and a scarf over his lower face, fleeing the scene at night from a distance of about 11m. The witness said in her statement that she would not be able to recognise the man again. Several witnesses gave consistent descriptions of the jacket worn by the killer. Subsequently the police unexpectedly showed the victim's widow a manikin dressed in clothing linked to the accused, but which differed from the clothing described in some significant aspects. The prosecution relied on a dock identification by the victim's widow during the trial. Valentine Moore Associates examined the identification evidence in the case at the request of the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation. Subsequently Professor Valentine was interviewed on camera for a BBC Scotland documentary on William Gage's unsuccessful appeal ("Beyond Reasonable Doubt?").

5. Mistaken identification of a detainee in Guantanamo Bay

Omar Deghayes is a UK resident who was detained at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence against him consisted of an image from an Al Quaida training video which was identified by the Spanish Police as Omar Deghayes. Valentine Moore Associates was approached by Reprieve (www.reprieve.org), a charity that campaigns on behalf of prisoners who face the death penalty. We compared the image from the tape with four passport photographs of Omar supplied by his family. Statistical analysis of anthropometric landmarks showed that the four passport photographs, which were taken over a period of at least twenty years, were more similar to each other than the image from the Al Quaida video. We concluded that this was a case of mistaken identification. Omar Deghayes was released in December 2008 and returned to the UK. He has not faced any charges in the UK.

6. Eyewitness identification from CCTV

Mr S. was identified by 3 police officers from CCTV of the Oldham Riots and charged with riot. Friends and colleagues who viewed the CCTV footage stated that the person in the video was not Mr S. One witness identified the person as somebody else known to him. A relative of the other person identified confirmed the identification.

We were originally contacted by the defence solicitor to comment on cross-race identification. However, in our report we cited scientific evidence that identification from even good quality images is error-prone when the person in the video is unfamiliar to the witness. In contrast, identification even from poor quality images can be very reliable when the person depicted is highly familiar. Identification by relatives and colleagues would be more reliable than by witnesses unfamiliar with the defendant - in this case three police officers. When the case came to court the prosecution offered no evidence

7. Construction of fair video lineups for a suspect of distinctive appearance

West Yorkshire Police sought advice on the best practice for construction of a lineup for a suspect who had distinctive marks on his face. Marks could be pixelated out on the suspect and all of the other faces in the lineup. The problem was that a large part of the faces would be excluded. Our advice was to show the suspect's face unoccluded and to reproduce similar marks on the distracter faces. The marks should not all be identical but should be consistent with any shape or position mentioned in the witness description. Two video lineups were produced - one for witnesses who gave a detailed description of the marks, and another for witnesses who gave less detailed information. Six witnesses identified the suspect, who pleaded guilty to seven charges of robbery.

8. Who shot Jill Dando?

Professor Valentine was interviewed on camera as an expert on eyewitnesses identification in the Carlton TV documentary "Did Barry George kill Jill Dando?" (First broadcast in 2002. An updated edition was broadcast in 2008.). The case raised a number of issues about the reliability and use of eyewitness identification in court. Particular concern was expressed about 'partial identifications' by eyewitnesses who made a statement identifying Barry George after attending a video identification procedure, despite the fact that hey had not made an identification during the identification procedure. It was a matter of record that the witnesses had learnt that the suspect was at position 2 in the lineup and that another witness had identified him prior to making their statements. The established phenomenon of confidence inflation following feedback was likely to have influenced the witness' statements and their willingness to testify. In 2008 Barry George's conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal.