Not guilty!

I’m taking part in 30 Days of Writing, started by Nicky and Mike of We Work For Cheese. For a list of who’s taking part just visit their blog and check the list of links at the bottom.  Today’s prompt is ‘The other one’

Back in the 60’s, I worked in central London. Not far from all the law courts, and right next to Bow Street Police Station. On the flip side, I was surrounded by all the major theatres and immediately across the road was the back entrance of The Drury Lane Theatre. It was a good place to work, and there was always something interesting going on, and someone famous to see.


One morning, our usual office routine was disturbed when the door opened and two policemen came in. Strange how uniformed police and firemen always look larger than life when they enter a room. After exchanging a few words with the manager, they came over to me, and a couple of other girls and asked if we would assist them in an identity parade (line up). We said we would, and they lead us out of our building and into Bow Street Police Station.

We were getting nervous as we stood in the lift that was taking us up to the room. This was the first time any of us had been in a police station, let alone Bow Street! We were giggling a little too much, the kind of giggling that nerves cause. We were told that we must not giggle when in the line up. As if!

We, along with several other girls, were led into a room and told to stand in line, which we did. He told us that someone would walk up and down the line and then touch the person that they recognized, on the shoulder. I was wondering when they would bring the suspect in, when the door opened and a policeman and young girl came into the room.

She didn’t look much like a criminal, I thought, which shows you how naive we were in those days. She walked slowly up the line, and I realized that this wasn’t the suspect, but the witness. Where was the suspect then? Having reached the end of the line, she turned and came back. Her hand came out as she came toward me and my stomach lurched. I didn’t feel her hand on my shoulder… wasn’t on my shoulder, but the shoulder next to mine. What relief!

Later I was told that the suspects get to choose where in the line they want to stand, and she had made sure she stood next to me because I looked like her. This is meant to confuse the witness. I was also told that if she had chosen me, I would still be free to go, but I’m glad she chose the other one anyway.

It broke the monotony of a typical working day.

Image source.


  • Wow! That would have been a little scary. I thought that they always used one-way glass to separate the witness!

    • I think things are done differently now. This was in the sixties 😉

  • That’s what I though too.  Maybe the procedures were different there at that time.  I wouldn’t have wanted to stand with the suspects.

    • I’m not sure this sort of lineup would work now. Protection seems more necessary now days.

  • Holy crap!!  I don’t think I would want to do that!  And nice of them to let you go if she did pick you!!  =)

    • We saw it as fun at the time. I wouldn’t like to do it now though.

  • Cool. I think I’d want to get it in writing that they’d let you go if you were chosen, though. 

    • Ha ha! They were pretty sure they had the right girl, I expect, but as I looked like her, it could have been possible I would be picked out. That would have scared me, I think.

  • Ron

    Babs, what an utterly fascinating story!

    You had me on pins and needles reading this!I had no idea how a line up was done, so I learned a lot from this post.

    What a cool experience!

    Oh, and I love the photo you chose for this post. Flawless!

    Happy Wednesday, my friend!

    • That’s how it was done back in the sixties, but I expect it’s changed a bit now. I seem to recall lots of people standing around in the room – probably solicitors and police.

  • What was the person being charged with?? Was it really bad?

    • It was fraud. I don’t know how big, but there was no violence involved 😉

  • The problem with this scenario is that if it was me, I’d be feeling guilty and shaking because I would think I probably was the one “who done it” even if I hadn’t.  That’s what I would hate about a lie detector test too.  “Did you kill your husband with an axe?”  The machine would go crazy even if I had never had a husband.  

    • Ha ha ha! I know what you mean. When I have my blood pressure taken, it shoots through the roof, every time. I had to buy my own machine and take it every night for three weeks, so they could get a true reading, which was perfectly normal 🙂

  • I’ve been in a couple line ups in my day.  Grand fun I thought.  I’m glad she didn’t choose you too.  That would have been embarrassing and then some.

    Have a terrific day Babs.  Hugs to you and Mo.  🙂

    • We all thought it was great fun at the time too 🙂

  • Amazing story, Babs! And I am very relieved it didn’t end with “and that’s how I spent the night in jail” 🙂

    • Don’t even joke about it! I think I would have possible died of fear at that 😉

  • Amy

    Just read a story in the NEW YORKER about a college student in England who picked up a few pounds standing in ‘parades,’ which they called police lineups…he tried to make them pick him…

  • Whew! Thank goodness she did NOT pick you!