Archive for January, 2011

Expertise vs. common sense

Posted on January 23, 2011. Filed under: forensic | Tags: , , , , , |

My attention has been drawn to http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/01/morphed-child-porn/ in which it is reported that a professional expert witness deliberately produced manipulated images as part of a defence case.

What he chose to do was to buy pictures of children from a stock photo library and then alter them to show the children engaging in sexual activity. In one case, it seems, it would have been fairly obvious that the image was fake as the child’s head had been placed onto an adult body.

However – I am left with one fundamental question – “what on earth was he thinking ? ”

There is absolutely no need to produce the sort of pseudo-image that is described in the article in order to show how easily digital images can be manipulated. Why could he not have carried out the same sort of manipulation using innocent imagery, or at least images of adults ? Does this expert really think the jury are so unintelligent that they cannot see the connection between his examples and what might happen in reality ?

More worryingly – why are so few of the comments associated with this article concerned with the fact that he produced offensive and obscene images (illegal in several countries) and more concerned with breach of licensing agreements ?

Maybe we need to start carrying out more certification of expert witnesses – beyond concepts of competence and into the realms of professionalism and ethics ?

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    This is the weblog of Angus M. Marshall, forensic scientist, author of Digital Forensics : digital evidence in criminal investigations and MD at n-gate ltd.

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