Eyewitness Identification Evidence
Submitting InstitutionGoldsmiths' College
Unit of AssessmentPsychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Summary Impact TypeLegal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Criminology
Psychology and Cognitive Sciences: Psychology
Summary of the impact
Professor Tim Valentine is an expert in facial identification by
eyewitnesses. His research has proved that video lineups provide more
reliable evidence than live lineups. It has contributed to changes in the
legal code of practice for eyewitness identification. He has trained
hundreds of police officers and lawyers in the problems of witness
identification, and acted as an expert witness in criminal cases.
High-profile cases include Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (the Lockerbie bomber),
Barry George (wrongly convicted of Jill Dando's murder) and Omar Deghayes,
a British resident detained in Guantanamo Bay.
Tim Valentine has worked at Goldsmiths full-time since his appointment as
Professor in 1997. A cognitive psychologist whose research has long
focused on face processing, he has carried out extensive work on
eyewitness identification procedures. Co-authors include Goldsmith staff:
Stephen Darling, post-doctoral RA from 2000-2006; Alan Pickering, academic
staff since 2001; and Pamela Heaton, a post-doctoral RA in 1999 and
academic staff since 2001. Harris, Colom Piera and Mesout were Goldsmiths
Until 2003, a police suspect who disputed identification had the right to
stand on a live identity parade. Live lineups were difficult and costly to
organise. Recruiting eight volunteers who resemble the suspect could be a
challenge, especially if a suspect had any unusual characteristics. Live
lineups were subject to long delays and were often cancelled because a
bailed suspect or the witness did not keep the appointment. In these
circumstances volunteers still needed to be paid.
A further problem with identity parades is that despite elaborate codes
of practice, witnesses often make mistaken identifications. Research by
Valentine, Pickering and Darling (2003)  showed that
20% of all witnesses who attended a Metropolitan Police identity parade
identified a volunteer, a definite mistaken identification.
For these reasons, there was strong interest from the police in a
cheaper, more effective alternative to live lineups. Research by Valentine
and Heaton (1999)  found that a sample of video
lineups produced by West Yorkshire Police were fairer to the suspect than
a sample of live identity parades. Further research by Valentine, Harris,
Colom Piera and Darling (2003)  showed that video
lineups were equally fair to African-Caribbean and white European
suspects. These studies were important to Home Office decisions to change
the code of practice for eyewitness identification. In 2003 the code was
changed to permit use of video for identification. In 2008 it was changed
again, this time to require identification evidence to be collected using
Further research has tested whether approaches to identification
developed in the US could be applied in the UK. In the US, an array of six
photographs selected by the investigating officer is often used for
eyewitness identification. This means that the operational context is very
different from that in the UK. Valentine, Darling and Memon (2007) 
found that permitting witnesses to view images sequentially and once only,
with a decision being made on each image as it was viewed, reduced the
likelihood of the perpetrator being identified. Darling, Valentine and
Memon (2008)  found that selecting foils to match
the description of the culprit, rather than the appearance of the suspect,
made no difference to the outcome of police video lineups. These methods
were therefore not recommended for use in the UK.
Other research has shown that the stress experienced when an actor was
encountered in a threatening environment (at the London Dungeon) impaired
witnesses' ability to identify the actor from a lineup (Valentine &
Mesout, 2009) . Research in such an environment can
help to make research findings more relevant to the experience of real
References to the research
International quality of the research: This is evidenced
through the publication of key findings in high-quality peer-reviewed
journals from a major publisher (Wiley). Citation data from Web of
Knowledge (Thomson Reuters) is given below.
1. Valentine, T., Pickering, A. & Darling, S. (2003). Characteristics
of eyewitness identification that predict the outcome of real lineups. Applied
Cognitive Psychology, 17, 969-993. DOI: 10.1002/acp.939 (39
2. Valentine, T. & Heaton, P. (1999). An evaluation of police
line-ups and video identifications. Applied Cognitive Psychology,
13, S59-S72. DOI:
3. Valentine, T., Harris, N., Colom Piera, A. & Darling, S. (2003).
Are police video identifications fair to African-Caribbean suspects? Applied
Cognitive Psychology, 17, 459-476. DOI: 10.1002/acp.880 (7
4. Valentine, T., Darling, S. & Memon, A. (2007). Do strict rules and
moving images increase the reliability of sequential identification
procedures? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 933-949. DOI:
10.1002/acp.1306 (15 citations).
5. Darling, S., Valentine, T. & Memon, A. (2008). Selection of lineup
foils in operational contexts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 22,
159-169. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1366 (8 citations).
6. Valentine, T. & Mesout, J. (2009). Eyewitness identification under
stress in the London Dungeon. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23,
151-161. DOI: 10.1002/acp.1463 (13 citations) (Output in REF2).
Details of the impact
This research has led to improved eyewitness identification. In addition,
these simpler and cheaper procedures have allowed it to become an
accessible and cost-effective tool to investigate volume crime, not just
more serious crime. Prior to 2003, the police were required to set up a
live identity parade for every suspect who requested one. These identity
parades were difficult to organise. A minimum of eight volunteers
resembling the suspect had to be found and paid, procedures were subject
to long delays, and half of the parades were cancelled because a bailed
suspect or the witness did not keep the appointment . In
the 1990s a sharp increase in the number of identity parades, partly due
to changes in the law, led to a sharp increase in costs. It is estimated
that the total cost of lineups held in the UK in 1994 was £14 million to
hold approximately 14,000 parades .
Valentine's research strongly influenced the Home Office to make
incremental changes to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of
practice for eyewitness identification (Code D) between 2003 and 2008. The
code of practice that came into force in January 2008 made video the
default method of identification for the first time . As a
result of the move to video, the number of identification procedures held
has increased by 6-7 times, to over 110,000 per year .
In further research, Valentine tested whether any advantage could be
gained by applying recommended procedures from US research to the video
identification procedure used in the UK. This research found that the
recommended changes did not improve the reliability of identification
evidence in the UK operational context. This research was featured in a
news article in Nature in 2008 , and disseminated
through two workshops held in London, funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
These workshops were attended by representatives of the Police, Home
Office and Crown Prosecution Service as well as barristers, solicitors and
the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation . Valentine
was an invited guest on a Guardian Science Weekly Podcast `Memory
on Trial' in 2010 . Research on the
effect of stress on eyewitness identification was featured on BBC Radio 4
in 2008 .
Valentine's research feeds directly into consultancy and expert witness
services for criminal cases. Valentine has contributed to four training
events since 2008 run by ID Law (a private company). These events
are typically attended by around 100 delegates from the police and the
Crown Prosecution Service. In addition he has contributed keynote
addresses or training for:
- European Network of Forensic Science Institutes Digital Imaging
Working Group, New Scotland Yard (2009).
- The FBI Facial Imagery Scientific Working Group (2010).
- The National Policing Improvement Agency (2010).
- The Criminal Bar Association (2008).
- Devon and Cornwall Police (2009, 2011).
- 23 Essex Street Chambers (Barrister's chambers, 2011).
- McKay Law Solicitors (2008).
- IEEE Biometrics: Theory Applications and Systems (BTAS), Washington
DC, September 2010.
Valentine was instructed by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
(SCCRC) to provide an expert report on eyewitness testimony in the case of
the Lockerbie bomber, Abdul Baset al- Megrahi. The SCCRC concluded that a
second appeal against conviction should be heard. In 2008 Valentine was
instructed by al-Megrahi's defence solicitor to provide a report for the
second appeal, which was served on the Crown prior to the appeal being
abandoned due to al-Megrahi's release from prison on compassionate grounds
in 2009 .
Valentine provided advice to both the defence and subsequently the
Criminal Cases Review Commission in the case of Barry George's conviction
for the murder of Jill Dando. In 2008, George's conviction was overturned
by the Court of Appeal. Valentine provided analysis of the video imagery
used in evidence against Omar Deghayes, a UK resident detained at
Guantánamo Bay, and concluded it was a case of mistaken identity. Deghayes
was released in 2008 and has not faced any charges since.
As part of the Campaign for Social Science, the Academy for Social
Sciences has produced a series of publications called `Making the Case
for the Social Sciences" , which describe a selection of social
science research projects that have had an impact on public policy or
social behaviour. Valentine's research on video identification parades is
featured in the fourth publication, on `Crime' .
Sources to corroborate the impact
All material listed below is additionally available in hard copy on
request from Goldsmiths Research Office.
- Pike, G., Brace, N. & Kyman, S. (2002). The
visual identification of suspects: procedures and practice.
Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, Home Office Research, Development and
Statistics Directorate. (Data that 50% of identity parades were
- Slater, A. (1994). Identification parades: A scientific
evaluation. Police Research Awards Scheme. London: Police Research
Group, Home Office. (Estimated costs of identity parades in 1994 at
and Criminal Evidence Act Codes of Practice for Identification of
Persons by Police Officers. Code D 2008. See paragraph 3.14 on page 152.
- There were estimated to be fewer than 14,000 live identity parades
held in 1993. (Slater, A., 1994, ibid.)There are two software
systems that are used to produce police video lineups. Over 50,000 are
produced by VIPER and 60,000
453, 442-444 (22 May 2008). (See page 444).
- Example: Workshop
on Eyewitness Identification Evidence.
- Guardian Science Weekly Podcast `Memory
on trial', 29/11/2010.
- BBC Radio 4 science programme `Leading
edge' Broadcast 24th July 2008 (The Scare
- See pages 26 - 27, Making