When Tracy Ryan spotted a suspected burglar emerging from the dog sanctuary where she works, she thought she would have little problem pointing him out to police.Wait, what..?
After all, he had a large port-wine stain on his face.
But when police set up an identity parade, they refused to take the man's distinctive birthmark into account - in case it infringed his human rights.
Incredible as it sounds, if a suspect is too identifiable, that’s bad news…
An officer from the Nottinghamshire force explained that the mark was too rare to be included in a profile of the burglar when it was entered into a computer database.So, whereas 40 years ago, Dixon of Dock Green would be round sharpish, rubbing his hands at the prospect of an easy collar, today’s modern crim has nothing to fear from the PC PCs…
It would leave only a small pool of potential suspects in the electronic ID parade, he said, breaking police rules.
No wonder most of the good ones are leaving these shores, and the rest of us are thinking about joining them:
Under laws designed to take into account 'the rights and freedoms of the public', witnesses must be shown a minimum of 12 photographs before they are allowed to identify a suspect.So, if you have a really, really horrible, disfiguring disease or accident, welcome to your new life of crime!
You won’t need a mask…
It was on August 25 that £300 in charity donations was stolen from the Crossing Cottage Greyhound Sanctuary in Sutton on Trent, Nottinghamshire.So, his most distinguishing feature, the one that will enable him to be identified, is to be removed…
Mrs Ryan noted that, apart from his birthmark, the suspected culprit was tall and wore a white tracksuit. She also took his car registration number.
Police have subsequently made an arrest and Mrs Ryan is due to attend a second identification parade which will include the suspect, who is on bail.
He will be pictured alongside 11 people of a similar appearance. But if he has a birthmark, it will still be kept secret.
The suspected thief and the other participants will be made to cover one side of their face.
In order to be ‘fair and impartial’.
Unsurprisingly, the witness and the victim aren’t impressed:
Mrs Ryan said: 'Surely an unusual characteristic like a big birthmark should help a police investigation?Too true.
'If there were just four or five people on the database with such marks, all the better.
'I understand police have to follow procedures, but to me the
rules are flawed and amount to a pretty lame excuse.'
Her boss John Morton, who manages the home for 30 former racing dogs as part of the Retired Greyhound Trust, said: 'The police are saying they can't infringe human rights. But what about our human rights?So, where does this law come from?
'We are law-abiding people who have been victims of crime, and the police have a responsibility to maximise their chances of solving that crime. If this is the law, it has to be changed.'
Joanne Hall, of Nottinghamshire Police, said the force had to abide by the rules of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.Note the date of that act.
She said: 'The witness had to be shown not less than 12 photographs at a time. PACE sets out to strike the right balance between the powers of the police and the rights and freedoms of the public.'
Can’t blame NuLab for this one, can we..?
Update: Thanks to Moriarty, captainff and TDK in the comments, it appears we can...