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article imageOp-Ed: Mistaken identity — Manchester Police get it right second time

By Alexander Baron     Aug 22, 2011 in Crime
Manchester - CCTV can be a formidable weapon in the fight against crime, but like fingerprints and DNA profiling, it is most definitely not infallible.
The British police are renowned neither for their honesty nor for their objectivity when dealing with alleged criminals, but occasionally they get it right. In May 1999, 18-year-old Matthew Hilliard stood trial at Nottingham Crown Court. He was accused of dragging a 16-year-old girl out of a night club, raping her in a toilet, and then for good measure raping her again in a dark alley. The trial was halted only after a video came to light on the second day, of the so-called victim leaving the club with him looking “as happy as Larry”.
The judge was not amused, as clearly the police had been prepared to frame an innocent man by omission. Last week, Greater Manchester Police did just the opposite after taking a second look at a CCTV tape which had led to another 18 year old, Dane Williamson, spending nine days behind bars after being charged in relation to an arson attack during the recent riots.
On Thursday, he was cleared of all charges; according to his solicitor Kerry Morgan: “The decision was made to charge him and investigate afterwards and that has resulted in him being in custody for an offence he had not committed,” adding “In normal circumstances he would have been bailed for facial mapping on an identity parade.”
That may well be true, but it should not be forgotten that these were not normal circumstances; a spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said “The evidence against Mr Williamson was based on recognition from visual recordings” but following this, the police discovered further footage that significantly undermined the case – in other words, they had identified the wrong person.
Doubtless, the real culprit will soon be identified along with many others as the police nationwide continue their investigations with assistance from ordinary members of the public who, unlike the Socialist Workers Party, take a dim view of “the mob”. In the meantime, instead of slagging off our wonderful boys in blue, his solicitor should be grateful her client didn’t suffer the same fate as was intended for the hapless Matthew Hilliard 12 years ago.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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