Video Footage is Not Evidence

With more and more road users using video equipment to record their journeys in case of an accident, it is important to have a little bit of understanding of what is involved when using it to prove what happened.

A section of video footage only shows what happened during that section of time. I’ve had many people mention that a driver would only do ‘that’ if they were provoked. I don’t leave anything out of my videos on youtube and I never sensor sound. I’m open and honest about all interactions I have.

I have had various interactions with the police over the years of recording, all are fairly good. Most of my dealings have been with Roadsafe London and I can honestly say I’m happy with the results from that. It’s simple for me as I just need to fill out a short online form and include a link to the video. The police will most often send a letter to the owner of the vehicle explaining the situation and sometimes include a link to the video. Someone has been educated and that at the end of the day is my goal.

The problem any road user will face when submitting footage to the police in a more serious case is it’s still fairly uncommon for people to record and the digital formats we use are often hard to play on the police systems. This results in a lot of time wasted time in them even being able to view it.

It doesn’t end there, if the footage is of use then it has be made into something which can be used as evidence, this is going to mean at least putting the footage on to several discs to supply to each party involved in a court case and in some cases analysing the footage to see if it has been tampered with. This is quite a lengthy process and requires specific equipment which is used to process all CCTV and video evidence for a specific area (quite a large one) and only trained people can use this. So it’s a costly and lengthy task and one which will only be taken if the Police feel that the incident is worth pursuing in the case of public interest and if they believe the CPS will push for a prosecution.

I often see many people stating that they got a camera in case of an accident, this is not only the wrong message that we are sending out (it’s not dangerous to cycle in the UK, it has its ups and downs) but it also doesn’t make the process any easier and in most cases people’s expectations of what can happen to a driver after they cut you up, left hooked you etc.. is normally out of proportion.

As a side note. I said above ‘it’s not dangerous to cycle in the UK it has its ups and downs’. Obviously my videos sometimes show that there are some real idiots on the roads. You need to take into consideration how many miles per year I do and how many vehicles I have interactions with. In reality it’s probably less than 1% of vehicle drivers that I have a problem with.

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5 thoughts on “Video Footage is Not Evidence

  1. In Scotland there is one further problem. In Scots Law you need corroboration, i.e. you need an independent witness to any incident if it is to go to court. Video footage is not seen as independent. However, after having a lengthy discussion with the Procurator Fiscal (our equivalent of the CPS) this can be circumvented, by having an expert witness talk about your footage in court, i.e. a traffic officer. He becomes your independent witness.
    This is another thing I need to add to my blog!

  2. If you get your video off the camera sharpish and generate a sha1 checksum (on mac or linux type sha1sum myfile.avi ) then you have a digital signature of the file that shows from then on that it hasn’t been tampered with. On windows you can search for versions of this program or download FCIV from Microsoft: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/841290 . Only well funded governments are suspected of being able to generate content that matches existing SHA1 checksums, and even then it’s a suspicion: if you aren’t a thread to the US or chinese governments, don’t worry about it.

    It then becomes up to the defence to show that you could have tampered with it in the short period between the filming and the timestamping. I’d also read out the date and time of any event on the video too, to show that the camera’s clock is working, as that’s one thing that’s easy to dispute: when a video got taken. Dispute that and you can dispute who was driving at the time.

    The newest contour HDs with integrated GPS probably produce better defensible evidence as it’s hard to dispute the time data coming from 31 atomic clocks in near-earth orbits; there’s actually a bit in the EXIF image header to include the full data on where all visible satellites are, a feature the US military wanted, so that you can corroborate the information more reliably.

    • I have the Contour GPS and I never thought about the fact that it has GPS time stamp information included from an evidential point of view. Good point!

  3. I feel that people are turning to cameras because they’re scared or don’t know what else to do. I think this can basically come from the fact that when there is evidence the Police and CPS don’t take a strong enough line. we’ve all read the stories of killer drivers getting measly sentances. With myself I took this into account and felt that I wanted to maximise any outcome, to feel that I was doing something proactive myself in the event of that very rare event.

    I later found the cameras to be beneficial for other situations, most notably campaigning and education.

    I do think that the more we cyclists talk (and indeed all road users) the more we can find out about how to target MPs, legislation etc.

  4. Interesting post. From the UK perspective this post at Road.cc shows the value of the camera recording …

    From my perspective here in Western Australia I actually had a discussion with a Senior Constable about this very topic last week. He suggested not posting reported offences online (referred to it as double dipping); not getting abusive (does not look good in court) and ideally keep a copy of the full recording from which the section was taken. Also the section used for the initial report should give a good indication of what occurred before the incident. My recordings are too short in this regard.

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