2021 Shortlist

The Guardian / Mark Duggan police shooting: can forensic tech cast doubt on official report

Country/area: United Kingdom

Organisation: The Guardian, Forensic Architecture

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 10 Jun 2020

Credit: Antonio Voce, Frank Hulley-Jones, Lydia Mcmullan, Haroon Siddique, Forensic Architecture

Project description:

The 2011 police shooting of Mark Duggan triggered the biggest riots in modern English history. The official findings on the circumstances of his death were challenged by Forensic Architecture, a human rights research organisation in 2020. It reviewed hundreds of publicly available documents, including witness statements, diagrams, photographs, videos and expert reports, as well as recreating what went on using 3D technology. 

The Guardian visuals team worked in collaboration with Forensic Architecture to report on their investigation, using innovative storytelling techniques to visually communicate and report on the spatial inconsistencies of the official findings.

Impact reached:

Forensic Architecture claimed they had found inconsistencies in both the inquest verdict and the IPCC ruling on Duggan’s death, and this project was able to articulate these in an engaging and original way to a mass audience. In the wake of the publication of the findings the Duggan family called for a reopening of the investigation. The police watchdog responded by saying it would review the findings in line with its reopening policy and new statutory power to reopen investigations if there are compelling reasons to do so.

The case of Mark Duggan is one that has been widely cited by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and was prominently mentioned during protests that took place in the summer of 2020. Bringing the independent investigation to a wide audience at this time, in an immersive 3D format, helped generate renewed public interest in the case.

The interactive received over 100,000 page views in the first 24 hours and had a median attention time of 1m36s.

Techniques/technologies used:

We digested the investigation and pulled out the key findings that told the story in a way that could be communicated to a wide audience, and worked on a visual narrative that worked alongside reporting on the findings.

We used Figma to create mockups and prototypes until we settled on a style that referenced forensic investigations. The design and interactive elements of the project were built in parallel. We used Mustache for templating our HTML and Google Docs to generate our JSON (so that editors could work in parallel). We used Javascript and HTML canvas to build the scrollable 3D animations and CSS animation for the header and static image transitions. We also used Adobe Illustrator and After Effects to modify the assets provided by Forensic Architecture to reflect the Guardian’s style guidelines and to make sure they integrate seamlessly with the reading experience.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The enormity of the project — both in terms of its significance and the amount of information we were given. The findings by Forensic Architecture had a huge range of complexity, multiple animations and were made up of hundreds of pieces of evidence (including photographs, videos, diagrams, expert reports and witness statements) that we needed to present in an accessible, innovative — and most importantly, accurate — way. Working in collaboration with them enabled their unique investigative and reconstructive abilities, which are dedicated to highlighting human rights abuses across the globe, to be brought to a wide audience and hold to account governing bodies in a way that would be impossible to do with textual reporting alone.

What can others learn from this project?

This project was all about collaboration. Our visuals team worked with the experts at Forensic Architecture, our in-house video editing team and the news team. We believe this demonstrates that collaboration with outside specialists and across a range of disciplines can be enormously beneficial for a newsroom, and can result in outstanding and powerful journalism. In addition, it shows that interactive journalism can be a highly effective tool for holding public bodies to account and giving a voice to local communities.

Project links: