Criminal photofits add extra dimension

THE fight against domestic crime and global terrorism could be revolutionised by Scottish research to create the world’s most extensive database of human faces using pioneering 3D technology.

Professor Peter Hancock, a psychologist at Stirling University, has spent the past four months collecting photographs and video footage of volunteers as part of a £67,000 project.

Using sophisticated camera equipment – similar to that used by 3D television – he wants to find out how reliable people are at recognising unfamiliar faces and whether using high quality 3D images produces more accurate results.

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Current research suggests humans are poor at identifying people they barely know, particularly in police mug shots and line-ups.

Once the project is complete it could lead to the creation of new 3D photo-fit software to make police more efficient at tracking down suspects. Hancock said: “Humans are poor at matching up unfamiliar faces. Some people claim they don’t forget a face, but in the main we are not good at it and often can’t even match up two photos of the same individual.

“But I have evidence that seems to show that, if you have a 3D image of someone, you are more likely to then go on to pick them out on CCTV. In other words, if you have a suspect and you are trying to place them at the scene of a crime, then 3D will work better.”

Officials at the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation gave a cautious welcome yesterday. Paul McLaughlin, co-project manager, said: “There are issues with misidentification in many cases and we welcome anything that could reduce wrongful convictions.”