An advanced fingerprint visualisation technology which will make it more difficult for criminals to avoid justice has been licensed by Ploughshare Innovations to Foster+Freeman.

Developed jointly by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) and Loughborough University, the new technique will make it harder for criminals to destroy their fingerprints.

Fingermarks on empty cases.Their work means fingerprints can now be recovered from surfaces that were previously extremely challenging or impossible to work with. This includes items exposed to high temperatures, including IED components and fired ammunition cases as well as metal items that have been deliberately cleaned, such as knives. The new technique could help identify those responsible for IED attacks, or in domestic crime scenes.

The cutting-edge technology uses an innovative chemical to develop the fingerprint, making it visible so that forensic scientists can identify individuals. The project started life at Loughborough University where the concept was inadvertently discovered by Dr Paul Kelly, and developed by Dstl into an operational capability. The licence has been negotiated by Ploughshare Innovations, Dstl’s technology transfer company and has since been licensed by Foster + Freeman (F+F), one of the world’s foremost forensic science equipment suppliers. F+F will refine the technology before making it commercially available next year.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“British innovation is progressing at a rapid pace and we are investing millions in it to keep our country safe. Whether it’s used on a foreign battlefield or a British crime scene, this pioneering fingerprint technology will make it much harder for criminals to escape justice.”

Commenting on the announcement, Steve Thorngate – from the Defence Security Analysis Division of Dstl, said:

“Through our work with Dr Paul Kelly at Loughborough University, the ability to significantly increase fingerprint recovery rates from items recovered, means that criminals will find it much harder to conceal their identity. Although the technology needs further refinement, it will be of significant benefit to forensic scientists across the world”.

Bob Dartnell, F+F Managing Director, added:

”By having access to this technology we will be able to provide a major step forward in fingerprint detection and visualisation, which means our customers will have significant gains in their capability, improving detection rates and convictions”.

The Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST), the organisation behind the world recognised Fingermark Visualisation Manual, worked closely with Dstl to test the technology in challenging and realistic scenarios. Currently in the final stages of refinement, an LFT development chamber will be introduced to the market in the summer of 2018 when it is expected to be of immediate interest to police and forensic examiners worldwide.


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