University of Dundee University of Dundee
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14 December 2011

'Road map for reform' of fingerprint practices to be developed at the Scottish Universities Insight Institute

Forensics academics from the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee have welcomed the findings of the Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry.

Professor Jim Fraser, Director of the Centre for Forensic Science at Strathclyde and Professor Sue Black, Director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee, were speaking after today's publication of the inquiry's findings.

The inquiry was set up by Scottish Ministers following the Shirley McKie affair, and was chaired by retired high court judge, Sir Anthony Campbell.

Professor Fraser said, 'The publication of the Scottish Fingerprint Inquiry is likely to be a watershed event that will precipitate the most important reforms to fingerprint practices in their history.

'Human identification is central to an effective criminal justice process and the most common means of achieving this worldwide is by comparison of fingerprints taken from the individual with known fingerprint records. In the interests of justice, it is essential that this capability is maintained throughout the process of reform and modernisation.'

Strathclyde and Dundee have secured funding from the Scottish Universities Insight Institute for a series of workshops entitled 'Fingerprints: a road map for reform'. It is anticipated the workshops, led by Professor Fraser, will provide a template for the major reforms required following the publication of the Inquiry report.

The workshops will reflect on:

  • Factors that contributed to the failings in the Shirley McKie case and other similar cases, including R v Smith in England and Wales.
  • How these factors arose and practical mechanisms to address them.
  • The relevance of these factors to fingerprint practices in jurisdictions outside the UK.

Professor Black said, 'The joint workshops between Dundee and Strathclyde Universities have come at a very important time for the future of forensic science to the court. Identification of victims and perpetrators are vital to the success of our judicial system and it is only right and proper that it be scrutinised.'

The road map for reform workshops have already received extensive support from senior figures and agencies in criminal justice communities in the UK and internationally, including the Forensic Science Regulator, Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, Scottish Police Services Authority, National Policing Improvement Agency, Metropolitan Police Service, Forensic Science Society, Fingerprint Society, and the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes.

'The range of agencies, senior policy makers, leading practitioners, experts and academics involved in the workshops provides an unprecedented opportunity to develop and implement the major reforms necessary in this area,' added Professor Fraser.

The Scottish Universities Institute ( brings together researchers and wider communities to address substantial issues facing Scotland and the wider world. The Insight Institute is currently supported by the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, St Andrews and Strathclyde with the objective of wider membership as it moves forward. It is hosted at the University of Strathclyde.

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