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Self-administered procedures for constructing identifiable facial composites

Our research focuses on techniques that allow police to identity suspects through use of composite images produced by witnesses and victims of crime.

Normally, police interview these observers to create a facial composite, and names put forward, often by members of the public, then provide investigative leads. Because policing needs to be evidence-based and efficient, we have been investigating how to make best use of limited police resources while taking into account needs of eyewitnesses. Considerable constraints on police resources mean that composites are usually only constructed for serious crime—such as sexual assault, abduction and burglary.

As part of a six year programme of research, we are exploring techniques that would allow witnesses of less serious (volume) crime, or in situations where face-to-face interviewing is impractical, to construct a facial composite themselves. Construction of composites in these cases would still require supervision, but not extensive practitioner training, thus providing opportunities to solve crime that are usually not practical. The project has already indicated that self-administered procedures have considerable forensic value.

Related staff:

  • Project lead: Professor Charlie Frowd
  • Project staff: Claire Ford
  • Collaborators and Partners: Dr Emma Threadgold


  • Development of systems for solving volume (less serious) crime
  • Production of composites in a supervised environment
  • Optimisation of techniques that produce the most identifiable composite face

Martin, A. J., Hancock, P. J. B., Frowd, C. D., Heard, P., Gaskin, E., Ford, C., & Hewitt, T. (2018). EvoFIT composite face construction via practitioner interviewing and a witness-administered protocol. In G. Howells et al. (Eds.) Proceedings of 12th NASA / ESA Conference on Adaptive Hardware and Systems, 6th - 9th August, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Frowd, C. D. (2017). Facial composite systems: Production of an identifiable face.  In M. Bindemann and A. Megreya (Eds.) Face Processing: Systems, Disorders and Cultural Differences (pp. 55 - 86). Nova Science: New York.