Fingerprint comparison and adversarialism: The scientific and historical evidence

Edmond, Gary, Cunliffe, Emma and Hamer, David (2020) Fingerprint comparison and adversarialism: The scientific and historical evidence. The Modern Law Review, 83 (6). pp. 1287-1327. ISSN 0026-7961

History of Fingerprints MLR revised.pdf - Accepted Version

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This article suggests that lawyers and courts are largely oblivious to scientific insights regarding the value and limitations of latent fingerprint evidence. It proceeds through a detailed historical analysis of the way fingerprint evidence has been reported and challenged. It compares legal responses with mainstream scientific research. Our analysis shows that fingerprint evidence is routinely equated with categorical proof of identity notwithstanding scientific warnings that such an approach is ‘indefensible’. We find that legal challenges to latent fingerprint evidence have been uniformly focused on adjectival issues (e.g. compliance with enabling legislation), leaving the validity and accuracy of this subjective comparison technique virtually unexamined since its first reception at the very beginning of the twentieth century. Lack of legal engagement with validity, error and scientific research suggest that adversarial procedures have not worked effectively to secure scientifically reliable expert evidence and that legal personnel struggle with elementary scientific reasoning.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M200 Law by Topic
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2020 11:44
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 10:04

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