Eyewitness identification evidence

The following Corporate Crime practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Eyewitness identification evidence
  • Identification procedures
  • Identification of 'known and available' suspects
  • Video identification
  • Identification parade
  • Group identification
  • Identification of 'known' but unavailable suspects
  • Identification of suspects who are not known
  • Conduct of 'street identifications'
  • Showing of photographs
  • More...

Eyewitness identification evidence

Identification procedures

In every criminal case the prosecution must prove the identity of the person who perpetrated or participated in the commission of an offence.

Visual identification is the most common form of identification. It can also be the most problematic because such evidence may be unreliable even where an eyewitness honestly believes that they have made a correct identification.

The identification procedures which govern eyewitnesses are contained in Code of Practice D of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, known as PACE Code D. The procedures generally do not apply to cases involving recognition.

See Practice Note: Challenging visual identification evidence.

The identification procedures are designed to test the reliability of the witness to identify a suspect and to provide safeguards against mistaken identification.

The procedures will vary depending on whether the suspect is:

  1. 'known and available'

  2. 'known' but not 'available'

  3. 'not known'

References to 'known' means if there is sufficient information known to the police to justify the arrest of a particular person.

'Available' means a suspect is immediately available or will be within a reasonably short time and willing to take part in an identification procedure which it is practicable to arrange.

Identification of 'known and available' suspects

Under PACE Code D there are three possible methods of identification that may be used if a suspect is

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