Police Forces Fail to Meet Fingerprint Evidence Standards


UK forensic science regulator warns of shortcomings that could cause cases to collapse.

Forensic science regulators have set up international standards regarding fingerprint evidence for police forces and stated to ensure to adhere to it. However, according to a recent report less than 10% of police forces have met basic quality standards for fingerprint evidence.

The UK forces were ordered to ensure their laboratories met international standards for analyzing prints found at crime scenes. Out of all the laboratories, only three forces have complied with the order, while the rest of the laboratories are set to achieve the target by November 2019.

Various police forces failed to obtain accreditation, including the Metropolitan police and Greater Manchester police, will have to declare this in court, prompting concerns that cases could collapse because of unreliable evidence, as stated in the Guardian.

Gillian Tully, the government’s forensic regulator, said: “The shortcomings identified do not mean that all fingerprint evidence is of poor quality, but they do highlight risks to the quality of evidence. The risks are greatest in situations where the comparison is complex, for example because the fingermark is partial or distorted.”

The failure for the police forces to meet the standards will affect the cases dealt in the past year. In addition to this, a number of rape trials collapsed due to the shortcomings in laboratories with problems in digital forensics. The police were also severely criticized due to this shortcoming.

Prof Niamh Nic Daéid, the center’s director, said: “The majority, if not all of those techniques, are not robustly researched. In a lot of cases, the comparative process is left to the subjective opinion of the person doing the comparison. It often could be described as no better than spot the difference.”


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Aira Goldsmith is a graduate of Parsons School of Design. She’s based in NYC but travels much of the year. Aira has written for Buzz Feed, Motherboard, The Financial Post, and the Huffington Post. Aira is a business reporter, focusing on technology and markets.