Man carrying rose caught on CCTV carrying a knife

CCTV standing It is fair to say we are not the greatest fans of closed circuit television here at Big Brother Watch, but this latest surveillance error is one of the worst we have seen yet.

Stephen McAleer was walking home with his fiancee when his local police force saw him on CCTV carrying a knife. Stephen had previous convictions for assault, prompting the cops to swoop down and throw him in prison for three months.

Justice done? Well no, because it wasn't actually a knife…as the Daily Record explains:

Cops viewing CCTV thought the single rose Stephen McAleer had in his hand as he walked home was a knife.

He was arrested and sent to Barlinnie Jail on remand. And 28-year-old Stephen's three month prison ordeal only ended when he was cleared at a two-day trial this week.

A CCTV expert enhanced the images and testified that the item he was carrying was a rose in a plastic sleeve, which tapers to a knife-like point at the end of the stem.

Stephen's lawyer, Andy Phillips, of Liam O'Donnell and Co, said: "It is extremely unfortunate that Stephen was remanded when, if the police or Crown had had the evidence analysed by someone with the requisite expertise, this could have been avoided."

Clearly Stephen had past convictions which would have heavily influenced the perceptions of the policemen watching the footage. But if it is so easy for preconcieved notions and prejudice to change what people think they are seeing, how reliable can surveillance footage ever really be?

Stephen McAleer lost three months to prison; for some people the simple trauma of being thrown in jail would have a profound effect on their lives.

It is not a stretch to say that the next person whose actions are mistaken because of grainy CCTV footage or viewer prejudice could be you.

By Dylan Sharpe

Posted by on Aug 31, 2010 in CCTV | 27 Comments