Identification Procedures used by the Police

When can identification procedures be used? 

The circumstances in which identification procedures must be held are set out in Code D Para 3.12 of PACE 1984. These include where a witness who is available expresses the ability to identify the suspect and the suspect disputes being the person the witness claims to have seen.

Types of identification procedure

There are four types of identification procedure available:

  1. Video identification;

  2. Identification parade;

  3. Group identification and

  4. Confrontation

The suspect should first be offered video identification (Code D Para 3.14) unless a video identification is not practicable or an identification parade is both practicable and more suitable than video identification. It is advisable for a suspect to agree to such identification methods otherwise their refusal may lead to adverse inferences being drawn in court and the police can use less favourable methods of identification such as confrontation.

Video Identification 

Video identification involves the witness being shown moving images of the suspect together with moving images of eight other people who resemble the suspect. The resemblance should be in terms of age, general appearance and position in life. If the suspect has an unusual physical feature such as a scar or tattoo which does not appear on the other people used in the images, steps should be taken to either conceal the location of the feature on the image of the suspect or replicate the feature on the other people.

Identification parade

An identification parade is where the witness sees the suspect in a line of other people who resemble the suspect. The investigating officer in the case is not entitled to be present at the identification parade. The identification parade itself should consist of at least 8 people who resemble the suspect in age, height, general appearance and position in life. Where the suspect has an unusual physical feature which cannot be replicated on other members of the parade, steps can be taken to conceal the location of the feature on the suspect and the other members if the suspect and his solicitor agree.

When the suspect is brought to the place where the identification parade is held they are asked if they have any objections to the arrangements or the participants in the parade. The suspect is also able to choose their own position in the line. Before the witnesses attend the identification parade arrangements should be made so that they are unable to: 

  • Communicate with each other about the case;

  • See any member of the identification parade;

  • See or be reminded of any photograph or description of the suspect and

  • See the suspect before or after the identification parade 

A video recording or colour photograph must be taken of the identification parade.

Group identification

Group identification is where the witness sees the suspect in an informal group of people but outside of a controlled environment of police station identification. This may be at a railway station shopping arcade or other such locations.  Group identification can take place with or without the suspects consent. The place where the group identification is held should be one where other people are passing by or waiting informally, in groups so that the suspect is able to join them and be seen by the witness at the same time as others in the group.


Confrontation is where the witness is taken to the suspect and asked whether the suspect is the person in question.

Excluding identification evidence 

The identification evidence can be excluded under s78 of PACE if breaches of PACE were committed during the identification procedure. Under section 78 the court has discretion to exclude evidence the prosecution relies on if the admission of evidence would have an adverse effect on the fairness of proceedings. Usually the court will only exercise this discretion if there have been serious and substantial breaches of PACE which renders the evidence unreliable.