Identification Parade – Law & Procedure

A group of persons including one suspected of having committed a crime are assembled for the purpose of finding out from the witness who claims to have seen the accused or suspect at the scene of crime whether he or she can identify them as the person they saw previously at the scene of crime or actually committing the offence. Therefore, once the identification parade having been carried out, the trial judge has to caution him or herself about the steps or procedure as described in the landmark case Sentale v Uganda [1968] EA 365 at 369.

For the identification parade to comply with the law, the rules, steps and procedure governing this exercise must be followed and these were first enunciated in R v. Mwango s/o Manaa [1936] 3 EACA 29 and emphasized in Ssentale’s case and Stephen Mugume v. Uganda, Criminal Appeal No. 20 of 1995 (SC).  From the above precedents, the rules of this procedure are as follows;

  1. That the accused person is always informed that he or she may have a solicitor or friend present when the parade takes place.
  2. That the officer in charge of the case, although he may be present, does not carry out the identification.
  3. That the witnesses do not see the accused before the parade.
  4. That the accused is placed among at least eight persons, as far as possible of similar age, height, general appearance and class of life as himself or herself.
  5. That the accused is allowed to take any position he chooses, and that he is allowed to change his position after each identifying witness has left, if he so desires.
  6. Care to be exercised that the witnesses are not allowed to communicate with each other after they have been to the parade.
  7. Exclude every person who has no business there.
  8. Make a careful note after each witness leaves the parade, recording whether the witness identifies or other circumstances.
  9. If the witness desires to see the accused walk, hear him speak, see him with his hat on or off, see that this is done. As a precautionary measure it is suggested the whole parade be asked to do this.
  10. See that the witness touches the person he identifies.
  11. At the termination of the parade or during the parade ask the accused if he is satisfied that the parade is being conducted in a fair manner and makes a note of his reply.
  12. In introducing the witness tell him that he will see a group of people who may or may not contain the suspected person. Don’t say, “Pick out somebody”, or influence him in any way whatsoever.
  13. Act with scrupulous fairness, otherwise the value of the identification as evidence will depreciate considerably.

Every Police officer conducting an identification parade should abide by the above Rules and should inculcate in themselves the practice of always abiding by them to the letter.  This will ensure that both the accused person and the Court are satisfied with the conduct of the identification parade even if the accused may agree or not agree with the outcome of the conduct of the identification parade.


No information contained in this alert should be construed as legal advice from Centre for Public Interest Law or the individual authors, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

For additional information in relation to this alert, please contact the following:

Gad A. Kisaalu

Legal Officer, Litigation & Advocacy.

A group of persons including one suspected of having committed a crime are assembled for the purpose of finding out from the witness who