Video surveillance material is one of the unavoidable dilemmas we have to dealwith as civil assessment psychiatrists. I have been sentthree or more hours of video surveillance. A colleague was asked in court whether or not he had viewed the surveillance at normal speed. I thought his reply was excellent. He said “I viewed the relevant sections at normal speed!”.
For some years I have been advocating for viewing surveillance material with claimants. There was a notorious case more than 10 years ago when a psychiatrist was sent video surveillance material after he had seen the claimant and on the basis of that material changed his opinion without giving the claimant any opportunity to explain. As a result there was an appeal to the Medical Board and the psychiatrist was reprimanded.
Recently, as part of a Medical Panel in Victoria, the other psychiatrist and myself viewed the video material available in the presence of the claimant. She said the person in the video was not her! We agreed with her. Imagine if we had seen the video material in the absence of the claimant. The person in the video was doing many things that the claimant said she was unable to do.
A barrister told me that he had been acting for a man who had been videoed throwing firewood from the back of a truck to someone down below. He denied that he was the man being videoed and said it was his twin brother. The judge insisted he come the next day with his twin brother. He did so and his twin brother testified that it was him on the back of the truck. The workers claim was accepted. The barrister told me that as they were leaving the court the claimant said to him “I’m glad they didn’t ask who was catching the firewood!”
So, what have we learned? Only look at the relevant part of the video material at normal speed and otherwise fast forward. Keep notes of what you are observing. Try and view the video material in the presence of the claimant to ensure the claimant is the person on the video but also because of natural justice, allowing the claimant to explain why they were doing what they were doing.