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Crown Court Murder Trial Uses 360 Degree Crime Scene Photographs For First Time

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Sunday, 29 June 2014 16:39 Written by DFM News

It has been revealed that the jury at a Birmingham murder trial has become the first one in a Crown Court to use panoramic 360 degree crime scene photographs¹ provided by an innovatory camera that permits a virtual ‘walk through’ of the scene of an incident. The iSTAR® camera is designed and manufactured by Edinburgh company NCTech.

Warwickshire Police used the revolutionary iSTAR camera – which produces a ‘street view’ style navigation - to help secure a 26 year conviction of Scott Melville (38) who murdered partially sighted pensioner Sydney Pavier (91) in his Leamington Spa home during a burglary. The members of the jury convicted Melville of murder at Birmingham Crown Court on June 2nd and details of how the camera allowed them to be part of a virtual ‘walk through’ of the crime scene have now emerged.

Peter Grieves-Smith, Principal Crown Advocate of the Crown Prosecution Service, who led the prosecution team at the Melville trial, states: “It was invaluable footage that greatly assisted the jury in understanding the layout of the property. It will surely become the norm to use this in the future in the prosecution of complex and grave crime.”

The iSTAR camera is used by Forensic Collision Investigators at Warwickshire Police at the scene of serious road accidents. It simply and quickly takes 360° panoramic, very high definition photographs, which are of immeasurable help in capturing very detailed images of the location in any sort of light conditions. The investigators also attend murder scenes to help CID by producing a two-dimensional plan of the location on paper using a laser scanner, but at the murder scene in Leamington Spa the iSTAR camera was also used to take photographs in every room in the house, as well as the street outside.

When the case came to trial at Birmingham Crown Court the judge, together with the defence and prosecution barristers, chose to use iSTAR’s photographs rather than the laser scanner information. By viewing the iSTAR images on screens in the courtroom they believed it was much easier for the members of the jury to understand the house's layout and contents by ‘walking’, in a virtual fashion, through the house as if they were there in person.

Judge Burbidge QC commended Warwickshire Police for their professional pursuit of justice in this case.

Neil Tocher, Co-founder and CTO for NCTech, comments: “iSTAR effectively puts you at the heart of an incident. You can view the location using 360° images as if you are standing in the room and look around in any direction. As a visual aid it is very helpful indeed as it immerses viewers in the scene and it can help refresh witnesses’ memories.

“iSTAR has proven itself in this important case and paved the way for this type of technology to be used for serious and critical situations. We hope this landmark case and use of the technology demonstrates the ability of iSTAR and high resolution 360 degree imaging to assist the emergency services in challenging situations.”

Cameron Ure, Co-founder and CEO for NCTech, adds: “I see a huge growth in the use of 360 degree technology for many markets from mobile mapping to mine surveys. We are proud to have designed, developed and manufactured iSTAR in the UK as our exceptionally high specifications were not possible to meet overseas. iSTAR is designed to provide images 10 times higher resolution than HD, fast, and at the push of a button. It’s ruggedized to military specifications to withstand harsh environments but is small, lightweight and can be used hand held or vehicle mounted. ”

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