Video Games: Some Pitfalls of Video Evidence

Date01 June 2005
Published date01 June 2005
Video Games:
Some Pitfalls of Video Evidence
Annabelle James* and Chris Taylor**
Abstract CCTV evidence is regularly employed in criminal cases, yet there
has been relatively little consideration of the manner in which such
evidence is collected and subsequently handled. The use of CCTV evidence
raises issues of disclosure, data protection and human rights, all of which
have a far-reaching impact not only on the accused but also on others who
find themselves recorded by surveillance systems. In addition, much of
the video evidence collected during criminal investigations comes from
third parties, such as shops and commercial premises, which are outside
the direct control of the police. This only serves to compound the difficulty
of managing such material within the investigative and trial processes.
Although the courts are increasingly faced with sophisticated forms of
evidence, from computer data to DNA, it is the everyday videotape
which continues to present some of the greatest difficulties for in-
vestigators, prosecutors and defendants. Criminal trials regularly
involve consideration of video evidence, partly due to the growing
popularity of urban surveillance systems1and also the proliferation of
CCTV within private businesses, such as shops and petrol stations. Video
evidence is undeniably persuasive, making it a valuable weapon in
court, but its use raises issues of collection, retention, disclosure and
storage, which can have a critical influence on the conduct of cases.2The
situation is further complicated by legislation, not least the Criminal
Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 (CPIA), which regulates the
disclosure of ‘unused material’ (including videotape) to the defence,
the Data Protection Act 1998 and, of course, the Human Rights Act
* Principal Lecturer in Law, Leeds Metropolitan University; e-mail:
** Senior Lecturer in Law, Leeds Metropolitan University; e-mail:
1 Under the government’s Crime Reduction Programme CCTV Initiative alone,
around £170 million has been spent on 684 CCTV schemes across England and
Wales. House of Commons, Written Answer 16 Septmber 2003, col. 675W.
2 For an examination of the broader issues arising from the use of CCTV see
K. Williams and C. Johnstone, ‘The Politics of the Selective Gaze: Closed Circuit
Television and the Policing of Public Space’ (2000) 34 Crime, Law and Social Change
183–210; M. Constant and P. Ridgeon, The Principles and Practice of CCTV, 2nd edn
(Miller Freeman UK Ltd: 2000); B. Brown, ‘CCTV in Town Centres: Three Case
Studies’, Police Research Group, Crime Detection and Prevention Series Paper No.
68 (HMSO: London, 1995); Scarman Centre National CCTV Evaluation Team,
National Evaluation of CCTV: Early Findings on Scheme Implementation—Effective Practice
Guide, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 5/03, April 2003 (available at, accessed 23 March 2005); House of Lords
Select Committee on Science and Technology (1998) Eighth Report. HL 121;
N. Taylor, ‘You’ve Been Framed: the Regulation of CCTV Surveillance’ (2002) 7(2) J
Civ Lib 83–107.

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