Award for MPS` court evidence system

The Focus Court Presentation System developed by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) won the IT Excellence Award for Innovation at the 2010 conference of Socitm, the association for information and communication technologies (ICT) and related professionals in the public and third sectors.

Oct 21, 2010
By Paul Jacques

The Focus Court Presentation System developed by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) won the IT Excellence Award for Innovation at the 2010 conference of Socitm, the association for information and communication technologies (ICT) and related professionals in the public and third sectors.

It is a highly effective and simple-to-use tool, allowing police officers one-click access to all of the digital exhibits pertaining to a case, helping to speed up and streamline the presentation of evidence in court.

The bespoke software-based digital evidence viewer and organiser was developed in-house by specialists within the Digital and Evidential Forensic Services (DEFS) department of the Directorate of Information (DoI), which has strategic responsibility for the efficient and effective management of information and technology for the MPS. The system came into full use in courtrooms across London during 2009.

Built for Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system and incorporating the software’s touch-screen functionality, it was developed to assist officers when presenting large amounts of evidence in court. 

Previously, evidence was collected from various digital and electronic sources and stored individually on various media. This meant that locating and relaying a range of evidence in court could be time-consuming and disruptive to the officer leading the case – particularly true in bigger cases that involved a lot of evidence. 

The Focus Court Presentation System permits the timely and targeted presentation of many types of digital evidence, such as CCTV or interview footage, still photographs, 360-degree photography, flash animations and more without the need to search through bundles of evidence or reels of tape. With the Focus Court Presentation System, the team work in partnership with the officer to transfer the evidence onto a single hard drive, making each exhibit accessible through a single click on a user-friendly front screen – it is designed specifically for use in the courtroom by non-specialist operators. 

The single hard drive can then be taken from police premises to the courtroom, where it is attached to a screen, viewable by the judge and jury. The team can also highlight details using various techniques, such as adding arrows to CCTV footage, to increase the impact of evidence.
During a live demonstration at last week’s conference in Brighton, Robin How, who project managed the development of Focus, told delegates: “We had a look at the imagery and sounds being created in our laboratories and how they actually end up in front of the eyes and ears of the jury.”

He explained that the quality of the media during court proceedings ended up less than satisfactory. Enhanced visuals or audio with a lot of attention made to increase intelligibility would be played back at court at a quality “worse than before you started” and it was quite discouraging.
“The problem is that the police officer at the back of the courtroom who is trying to drive all this technology and put together a coherent presentation of what has happened may not be the most technically competent person,” said Mr How.

The officer may be confronted with several platforms, including a video recorder, a DVD player, a cassette player, a PC with PowerPoint, and a PC with 3D software.

“A vast majority of normal people would find this a little bit difficult. They were expected to have boxes of shiny discs and tapes all queued up and ready to go,” said Mr How. “This is a very stressful and problematic thing for officers, and also because of the reconversion and copying going on, the quality was often shy of what it could have been.”

With the streamlined Focus system, there is a simple dual-screen set-up with a one screen displaying the ‘broadcast’ imagery and the second for previewing and managing assets. The system can zoom into a still photo, highlight specific areas of CCTV footage and even edit footage down to more manageable time durations.

The MPS is

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