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Disclosure Manual: Chapter 22 - Scientific Support Material: Finger-marks and Photographs

Refreshed: 21 October 2021|Legal Guidance

All scientific support departments should follow procedures and working practices which ensure compliance with the requirements of the CPIA Code of Practice. Accurate and full records must be kept of all scene examinations, including details of any items retained as potential exhibits. Where such items are submitted for further examination, for example by the fingerprint bureau, or other forensic service provider, the record should indicate that this has been done. Retention includes negative information such as no finger-marks being found at a scene, or where the finger-mark cannot be identified as belonging to a known suspect. The minimum periods of retention are set out in paragraphs 5.7 to 5.10 of the Code, but local force policy may determine longer periods.

The records of scientific support units and any other forensic service providers in relation to a criminal investigation should be made available to the disclosure officer to enable him/her to carry out the task of scheduling unused material for the prosecutor. If necessary, scientific support staff should help the disclosure officer identify material which satisfies the disclosure test.

In addition to their obligations under the CIPA those providing expert evidence must comply with the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR 19) and the associated Criminal Practice Direction (Part V Evidence). Experts should act in accordance with the code of practice or conduct for experts of their particular discipline and in the area of forensic science that will be the Forensic Science Regulator’s Code of Conduct. In certain areas of forensic work, the Forensic Science Regulator's Code of Conduct requires that organisations are formally accredited by the UK Accreditation Service for that area of work. A lack of accreditation is not a bar to the admissibility of expert evidence. The Forensic Science Regulator’s Code of Conduct sets out the areas of work that are currently covered by accreditation.

Finger-marks and photographs

All of the following must be recorded, retained, and made available to the disclosure officer:

  • All finger-marks lifted or photographed at the scene, all marks, and the results;
  • Exhibits examined in the fingerprint or other forensic laboratory. All relevant finger-marks must be recorded, and any lifts, photographic negatives or digital images retained;
  • Finger-marks eliminated from the enquiry because it is identified as belonging to a person having legitimate access and identity of that person. However, once the elimination process has been completed, national elimination fingerprint forms should be disposed of by either returning to the donor or by destruction in accordance with force policy; and

Where photographs are taken, all the negatives, digital images or other media should be retained, even if the photographs are not intended to be used as evidence. A record should be kept of the total number of photographs made, and if a statement is provided, this information should be included in the statement.

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