Home > Ask Our Experts > Arrested for Assault: Does Witness Description Count?

Arrested for Assault: Does Witness Description Count?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 4 Jan 2017 |
 
Identification Evidence Police Arrest

Q.

I was arrested for assault but the witness described me to look totally different and so did the person that I was to have attacked. I had a video identity parade (Viper) taken and was picked out by the person that was attacked. While outside of the establishment where it took place the attacked man told the door ladies that I had done nothing wrong because I was not wearing all black. The door ladies ignored this and I was still arrested.

In the statement that was given from the person attacked the description didn't fit me at all. Do the police have to ask the person making the accusations what the attacker looked like? Please advise of what can be done about any of this?

(L.D, 19 May 2009)

A.

When police are called to deal with an incident, such as an allegation of assault, they will speak to the complainant and other people at the scene who will assist them in determining what happened and who – if anyone - is likely to have committed a crime. They don’t just take descriptions and information from the person who has been attacked, but ask numerous people. (If the victim had been unconscious, for example, the police would only have other eyewitnesses they could ask.) From the information that you have provided it sounds to me as though a man was attacked outside a venue, but that he then told the ladies on the door that it couldn’t be you because you weren’t wearing all black.

However, the ladies who were working on the door then told the police that you were the person who attacked the man, which is why you were arrested. You do not say whether or not you have been charged with an offence, or whether you have been bailed by the police pending further enquiries.

The Strength of the Identification Evidence

The fact that the victim picked you out in an ID parade could be compelling evidence in court that you were the person who attacked him. However, there are numerous other factors to take into consideration here which you, or your lawyer, could argue in court: firstly, the written description he gave to police wasn’t anything like you (although this could be explained by the fact that he’d just been attacked and was confused and in shock.) Secondly, the victim said you weren’t the attacker while he was still at the scene because you weren’t wearing all black. Thirdly, he could have picked you out as someone he recognised from the night of the attack but in his confusion he’s put the wrong face to the person who attacked him.

Perhaps the most problematic part of your case is that the door ladies who were purely bystanders (i.e. people who weren’t involved) pointed you out as the attacker at the scene. If they have given witness statements to the police that confirm this, their accounts are likely to be quite persuasive evidence when presented in court.

Cases Involving Identification Evidence

Although great care must be taken in a case in which identification evidence is the main part, or a very persuasive part of the prosecution’s case, it is inevitable that people make mistakes. This is why judges have to give juries warnings (called ‘directions’) when they are summing up cases.

Good luck

.

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Ive to go to court in a few days I was grabbed by the jacket from some guy on the street I cant remember much about that night its worrying me I cant sleep am not eating properly so looks like I might end looking like im lying will anything happen to me can I speak to someone for help in tell them I dont want to go to jail in leave my children behind but obviously dont want to look and sound silly in court either
Lolo - 4-Jan-17 @ 12:53 PM
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Embod - 1-Nov-16 @ 7:13 AM
smit - Your Question:
I was punched in the face and locked in his house , I really broke down when o give evidence , I felt like I'd done the crime, I came straight home after I giv evidence, then I hear he was found not guilty??? I reported it the day after cuz it hit that bad o cudnt open my eye do police arrested him , charged him with assault by beating , went to trial and got not guilty , there was pics which the police took wat Wer absolute crap to the ones I ad , feel like he's the victim in suffering in not happy with how it's been dealt with, please help

Our Response:
Please see link: How to Complain About the Courts and Police, here which should answer your question.
CourtroomAdvice - 31-Oct-16 @ 2:16 PM
i was punched in the face and locked in his house , I really broke down when o give evidence , I felt like I'd done the crime, I came straight home after I giv evidence, then I hear he was found not guilty??? I reported it the day after cuz it hit that bad o cudnt open my eye do police arrested him , charged him with assault by beating , went to trial and got not guilty , there was pics which the police took wat Wer absolute crap to the ones I ad , feel like he's the victim in suffering in not happy with how it's been dealt with, please help
smit - 29-Oct-16 @ 5:18 AM
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Gotrex - Your Question:
I was arrested today for an outstanding warrant for not showing up at court, when I question the police saying that I had never been charged. I was told by the police that they sent me the charge by post but to the wrong address. Can they send your charges by post

Our Response:
Yes, since 2011 offenders who have been bailed by police will receive formal notices in the mail ordering them to court.
CourtroomAdvice - 4-Feb-16 @ 11:43 AM
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Dowley - Your Question:
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Our Response:
For obvious reasons we cannot offer guidance on how you should plead, you would need to seek some legal advice.
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If you push someone and they react and punch you in the face, can that be seen as assault for the person who has pushed them?
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