The use of photography in the recording of a crime scene is very important and has become a steadfast part of the investigation process.
As well as witness statements, the reports made by officers and other physical evidence provided by the crime scene itself, photography is used to provide an accurate account that cannot be altered.
Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) are charged with the task of recording the scene of a crime using various means; one of the most common of them being photography.
Why is The Scene Photographed?
The crime scene is photographed to minimise the risk of conflicting statements and – if there is a corpse at the scene – it too will be photographed post mortem so that a record of how the body was found, what position it was found in, and the nature of its mortal injuries can be documented for later inspection.
In many cases photographic evidence is very important for both the prosecution and defence counsels. It is also used as a means of displaying the nature of a crime scene to officers of an investigative team who were not able to attend.
The means in which crime scenes are photographed are such that the most intricate of details can be recorded for future reference. There are many different types of lens, camera and indeed light that can be used for this procedure and even night vision photography is used in certain scenarios.
Advances in modern technology have also meant that a crime scene can not only be photographed but also recorded as video to represent an accurate depiction of what was happening at the time; this can be useful in criminal proceedings and subsequent court cases.
How Forensic Photography is Used
A forensic photographer will often use numbered indicators, which are also height indicators and these are placed next to pieces of evidence before they are photographed. This is used to portray height, distance and radius especially if the crime scene is outside or in a very enclosed space. These numbered markers are also used to cross reference the evidence against any reports made and often find themselves known as ‘exhibits’ in subsequent court proceedings.
Crime scene photographs are also used – not only as a means of evidence – but also as a blueprint for reconstructing a scene or event at a later stage. These reconstructive events can be used as a means of jogging the memories of passers-by who may have been witness to an event or saw a perpetrator without realising they had.
Photography is also used to catalogue the series of events, which occur from the time a corpse is found – and removed from a crime scene – and taken for autopsy. The autopsy itself is photographed so that all relevant details as to the procedure can be recorded and that all visible wounds are catalogued.
Again while the pathologist is performing the autopsy photographs of the internal organs are taken so that internal injuries can be noted; these photographs are often used in court proceedings as a means of providing the jury with relevant information without presenting them with too much gore. Expert witnesses are often called upon to explain the whys and wherefores of the images photographed.
All photographs or video taken at a crime scene are indelibly time and date stamped.