Mistaken identification, and false confessions, are the two principal sources of error in our criminal justice system, Professor Graham Davies of Leicester University told the meeting.
He called for a change in the law to bring English rules of evidence into line with those in Scotland.
In the Scottish system, corroborative evidence, independent of eyewitness identification, is always required before a prosecution can be mounted.
'Human beings are not built to store a representation of a person on the basis of a fleeting glimpse,' Professor Davies said.
The use of photofit and its more recent development, efit, should take such limitations of human perception into account. 'All you can expect from a system like this is a type-likeness,' he said. That a suspect resembles a photofit should not be used in evidence in court.
The evidence for the unreliability of eyewitnesses was so strong that no further research needed to be done. The problem was 'that every generation of judges and police officers has to relearn the fallibility of eyewitness identification and the cost is that innocent people spend a long time in prison.'
If anything, the situation had regressed since the introduction of the Crown Prosecution Service. At one time the Director of Public Prosecutions reviewed all cases based on identification evidence alone. But since the switch to the CPS 'that review has been dropped'. Now there was no accurate data on the numbers jailed in error.Reuse content