Earlier this month, Moazzam Tariq was found guilty of sexual assault against a woman after a night out in Ontario, Canada. In sentencing, the judge mentioned extensive surveillance video footage that showed Tariq giving the complainant alcohol. This was marked as evidence that proved the woman could not consent.
The introduction of security footage in courtrooms as evidence is increasingly common. With the number of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras rising, the likelihood of images deemed relevant for criminal proceedings being recorded also increases.
However, while CCTV footage may arguably have assisted in achieving convictions in some high-profile cases, can it assist in the overall reduction of violence against women?
Where it has helped.
A well-known example in Australia of CCTV helping solve a crime is the footage pulled from a shop on Sydney Road the night Jill Meagher was raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley. This footage was mentioned in his sentencing in 2013.
In the same year, Simon Gittany was found guilty of the murder of his partner Lisa Harnum. CCTV footage – taken from his own security cameras – was again interpreted as key evidence.
Beyond the courtroom, news media reports of crime are saturated with the use of CCTV footage. In both contexts, it is often seen to be decisive – an authoritative and objective witness that can tell us “what really happened”.
While used in a range of offences, its inclusion in instances of extreme (and public) violence against women can mean certain images receive significant and sustained media attention, and may remain online indefinitely.
The strength of CCTV in our public consciousness is such that questions of privacy are often dismissed as inconsequential. CCTV installed in the homes of family violence victims has even been considered.