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Fingerprint funding

A university’s fingerprint technology has been awarded further Home Office funding, meaning it is now a step away from being incorporated into standard forensic investigations. It is the first time in 100 years of fingerprinting that a piece of technology has demonstrated a high level of compatibility with standard forensic procedures, says Sheffield Hallam University, and the results of this latest phase will allow the technique to be used to inform criminal investigations and act as evidence in court cases.

Dr Simona Francese of the university’s Biomedical Research Centre, has secured £153,000 from the Police Innovation Fund for her researchers to increase the technology’s capability of providing an accurate criminal profile from a fingermark. This latest backing from the Home Office will allow post-doctoral researcher, Robert Bradshaw, to continue his PhD work with West Yorkshire Police trialling the technology at real crime scenes.

Using what is known as Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry Imaging (MALDI-MSI), Dr Francese and her team can look for traces of drugs, hair and cleaning products and condom lubricants as well as other substances of forensic interest that will provide crime investigators with crucial background information about a criminal’s activities before doing a crime.

The technology can establish the sex of a criminal in laboratory settings and this is something that will be further developed as the project continues at real crime scenes. “This is another exciting step forward for forensic investigation and is the culmination of years of research and development,” said Dr Francese. She is pictured spraying the lifted fingermark.

“The support from the Home Office and West Yorkshire Police has been invaluable and demonstrates just how powerful this technology is. If implemented in casework, it could save police forces across the country investigative resources and time meaning criminals are brought to justice much faster.”

Neil Dennison, Head of Identification for the Yorkshire and Humber Scientific Support Unit, said: “We have worked closely with Sheffield Hallam University to help them develop this ground-breaking technology. The additional funding that has now been secured will help to make this research the reality for crime scene investigations of the future.

“Forensic work is a vital part of policing and MALDI-MSI shows real potential to be the next step change in terms of developing fingerprint technology for the 21st century.

“We are already trialling this technique at crime scenes and it’s showing some significant potential. The additional funding will help to make this potential a reality.”


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