Establishing Effective Documentation Strategies for Fingerprint Examinations.

July 21, 2022   –   15:00 – 16:00 BST

Presentation will outline the first study of the PhD research –
Collaborative Practise in Forensic Science and Academia: The Development of a Documentation Strategy for Fingerprint Examinations in an English Fingerprint Bureau in the ISO 17025 era 

The documentation of forensic evidence is an essential and routine part of the examination process. Issues relating to the documentation of fingerprint evidence were highlighted by the Fingerprint Inquiry and the case of R-v-Smith, and the mandatory introduction of ISO 17025 has forced changes to the documentation of fingerprint examination practise. 

Academic and grey literature consistently refers to the requirement for effective documentation to provide a sufficient auditable trail, yet there is some dissimilarity in the guidance relating to documentation content, and some subjectivity with its interpretation. According to the minutes of Fingerprint Quality Standards Specialist Group, the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) was not prescriptive in the methods required to produce contemporaneous notes and were open to different practises to achieve the same goal.  

A gap analysis was performed between pre-accreditation operational documentation practise and an ACE-V checklist, which was a summary of best practise guidance on documentation content.  A white box study included thirty-one fingerprint examiners from six institutions who were asked to undertake an ‘Analysis’ of eight friction ridge skin marks and to produce working notes using their pre-accreditation documentation approach and a piece of software called ‘PiAnoS, which prompted participants to annotate and assess the quality of the marks and identify minutiae. The notes were compared to the ACE-V checklist to determine which of the documentary suggestions were considered to obtain an understanding of experts’ decision making.  The results were used to devise a documentation strategy for an operational English fingerprint bureau that contained a ‘Mark Analysis Form’ to record the working notes of the examiner. It consisted of ACE-V checklist content that was supported by literature, and which received high response rates from experts alongside discussions by the academic and operational team to determine its relevance in the documentation strategy. The strategy has met with the ISO 17025 standard, evidenced by UKAS approval, and is currently used for casework.  

Megan Needham

My name is Megan Needham and I am a final year Forensic Science PhD researcher and part time lecturer at Staffordshire University, UK. My area of interest is Fingerprint Enhancement and Analysis.
Throughout my higher education, I have carried out a number of research projects, both as part of the degree and extra curriculum. I have presented my research findings at national and international conferences; these include Chartered Society of Forensic Science annual conferences and the first joint ENFSI conference between fingerprint and handwriting experts.

Research projects

  • Investigating latent fingermark longevity on non-porous surfaces in tap and salt water environment (BSc dissertation – published in Fingerprint Whorld journal)
  • Developing a ground truth database and proficiency test for Fingerprint Examiners
    (MSci dissertation – in collaboration with local police force)
  • A Rapid Evidence Assessment: What impact does digital forensic analysis have in improving criminal justice outcomes? (Collaboration with Transforming Forensics – Digital)

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