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Judgement in UK fingermark recovery: room for development?

21 March 2013

 Helen Earwaker

The field of forensic evidence analysis is currently experiencing considerable change and controversy in the UK and abroad. The publication of the NAS report in 2009 and the UK Law Commission Report in 2011 brought heavy criticism of long standing practices of the discipline, suggesting the need for considerable reform and transparency. There is currently a move towards improving the scientific robustness of forensic science, in particular within fields of evidence analysis that claim to be able to individualise, such as fingerprint evidence. Considerable research has targeted the tasks carried out by fingerprint experts, but there is a lack of research concentrating on the tasks carried out by fingerprint development officers who visualise latent prints prior to examination by experts. This study looks to examine policies, procedures and decision making within fingerprint development in the UK. The research will involve collaboration with the Home Office Centre for Applied Science and Technology and independent UK fingerprint experts and will utilise participants from Home Office police force fingerprint development laboratories. The research aims to form the basis for recommendations which will improve judgement and decision making within fingermark development and submission leading to a reduction in loss of fingermark evidence, and aiding in the transparency of fingerprint evidence in the UK.