Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report


  5.1     We were pleased to find that Digital Images, which we initially thought might create difficulties for the courts, do not.

  5.2     But many people think there will be difficulty in obtaining legal acceptance of digital images. And many who understand there is no legal problem fail to appreciate fully the potential for tampering that the technology creates. The perceived difficulties mean that opportunities are missed-a reluctance to use digital imaging technology or to dispose of paper records, for example-and the failure to understand fully the process means that too great a reliance can be placed on photographic or video evidence. The doubts and scepticism normally associated with unsubstantiated pieces of paper may be suspended when confronted with a very believable picture.

  5.3     To counter the common misconception about the need for original documents, we recommend that the Government encourage the appropriate legal bodies to draw greater attention to the change to digital document processing and to widen public awareness that paper originals are rarely necessary. (Paragraph 3.11)

  5.4     We do not support moves to establish specific requirements before digital images can be used as evidence and we recommend that evidence should not necessarily be inadmissible because it does not conform with some specific technological requirement. (Paragraph 3.18)

  5.5     But we are in favour of technical measures that assist with authentication of images and we recommend that the Government encourage the use of authentication techniques. Members of the legal profession should be made aware of the benefits of these techniques, their value in adding weight to evidence and the possible significance of their omission. (Paragraph 3.20). Further, we recommend that the Government encourages the adoption of technological measures for the authentication of images as evidence by giving type approval to them. The Forensic Science Service should provide ongoing advice for manufacturers and users of imaging equipment on authentication technologies. (Paragraph 3.33)

  5.6     We were impressed by the work that has already been undertaken in setting standards for handling digital documents. We recommend the Government produces guidance on the benefits of conformance with procedural measures necessary to establish the reliability of evidence, with particular reference to existing standards. When this guidance is available, we recommend that the trade associations of those organisations likely to be concerned with it produce training material on its use. (Paragraph 3.21)

  5.7     We were shown examples of processed images and the capability of programmes designed to manipulate photographs. They provide believable images that are still very convincing even when the changes are explained and well understood. We think this technology raises the possibility that people who are not familiar with it can be too easily misled. We recommend that consideration be given to the Turnbull Warning being appropriately adapted so that the uncertainties inherent in images as evidence are made clear to the jury, particularly the implications of any measures to substantiate authenticity and breaks in the audit trail, and any processing which the image has undergone. This is a matter the Judicial Studies Board may care to take up. (Paragraph 3.27)

  5.8     The normal development of case law is too slow a process to generate the required degree of legal confidence in time to keep pace with developments in digital imaging technology. We recommend that consideration be given to measures to reduce the uncertainty over the use of digital images in court and Government ensures that there is a satisfactory resolution of the uncertainty. (Paragraph 3.28)

  5.9     To help improve the awareness of the potential difficulties with digital evidence and to encourage the adoption of good practice in the preparation of material for the courts we recommend that Government devise incentives or put in place measures such as the endorsement of relevant codes to increase the adoption of good practice. (Paragraph 3.36)

  5.10     Overall we see a need for awareness by all those who are concerned with the potential difficulties with digital evidence. We recommend that the Judicial Studies Board consider establishing a programme of education on the implications of digital technologies for the judicial system. (Paragraph 3.34)

  5.11     Although not a major feature of our enquiry our examination of the use of CCTV left us with concerns that what seems to be a very valuable technology for crime prevention and the maintenance of law and order could be in danger of losing public confidence through the perception of improper use. But although we were convinced that it was a valuable tool of law enforcement we were not convinced that sufficient data exist to support the overall level of expenditure. We recommend that the Government commission a substantial, rigorous and independent study of the cost and effectiveness of publicly funded surveillance systems. (Paragraph 4.6) We further recommend that an interim report be available within 12 months to provide a broad indication of the scale of any increase in convictions, any reductions in crime and the fear of crime, and separately, disorder, that has been achieved by public space surveillance systems. (Paragraph 4.7)

  5.12     One particular practice that we felt was very likely to endanger public acceptance of surveillance schemes was the use of material so obtained for entertainment purposes, however apparently well justified it might be as training or educational material. We recommend that the Government establish a uniform policy on the control and release of CCTV derived images from publicly owned surveillance systems. (Paragraph 4.11)

  5.13     We concluded that to maintain public confidence in the use of CCTV surveillance technology for the prevention of crime and disorder greater control of its use was needed. We recommend that the Government give urgent consideration to introducing tighter control over any system, either publicly or privately owned, covering sites to which the public has free access. To meet the requirement for continued public support, we would expect this to cover, but not exclusively, the need for some form of licensing; for statutory or other enforceable codes of practice; and for powers to inspect and audit the use and handling of surveillance systems, including the images, their storage and disposal. (Paragraph 4.14)

  5.14     Data matching technology is advancing rapidly and although we felt some concerns could be overstated we can see difficulties if insufficient attention is paid to potential problems. We recommend that the Government produces guidance for both the public and private sectors on the use of data matching, and in particular the linking of surveillance systems with other databases. (Paragraph 4.20)

  5.15     We have not made a specific legislative proposal for improved control over public space CCTV systems but the similarity of our objectives with the current Data Protection Act suggest this, or its successor, might be an appropriate vehicle. We would like to see the new law encompass CCTV and the DPR be given responsibility to issue or oversee enforceable codes of practice for such systems. The maintenance of public support for CCTV would be further strengthened if the DPR were to be given powers to check, that is to audit, the operation of these systems, and not to have to wait for a complaint to be lodged before taking action. (Paragraph 4.17). The DPR should also be given powers to audit the operation of datamatching systems. (Paragraph 4.21)

  5.16     Our recommendations for a degree of greater control over the installation, use and release of images from public space surveillance systems seek to chart a way to achieve that balance. We want to see public acceptance of surveillance, introduced to deter and assist in the capture and prosecution of criminals, blossom and flourish. This is more likely to be the case if there is wide public debate of the issues involved, and we recommend that the Government should promote such debate. (Paragraph 4.22)

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