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Volume 476: debated on Thursday 22 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recognised methods of taking fingerprints there are; and what assessment she has made of the use of each of those methods for the purposes of matching marks from scenes of crime. (202449)

[holding answer 29 April 2008]: There are two methods employed to take arrestee fingerprints in the United Kingdom. The traditional method is a ‘wet set’. This is an ink and paper method whereby a brass plated block is inked and the subject's fingers placed in that ink and then rolled and pressed into the designated areas of a paper form known as a ‘tenprint’ form. Palm prints can also be recorded in a similar fashion by police personnel at a police station. The resultant tenprint set (finger and palm) is forwarded to the local fingerprint bureau for scanning and processing the IDENT1 system.

The more widely used method (around 80 per cent.) uses digital imaging technology, known as ‘Livescan’. This allows an operator to capture all 10 fingers as both rolled and plain impressions, and palm prints, directly from an individual's hands, electronically, without the use of ink.

The operator places the subject's hand or individual fingers directly onto a camera platen that scans the fingerprints, producing digital images. The images are then processed and immediate feedback is presented to the operator. Livescan allows the operator to capture images again to meet the required standard.

The digital images are streamed into the local fingerprint bureau and the images printed using a laser printer as a representation of the traditional paper tenprint form.

There are one or more Livescan units at all major custody centres. Livescan is integrated with IDENT1.

Crime scene marks are developed by a variety of methods as outlined in the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) Fingerprint Development Handbook and the resultant developed marks can also be scanned into IDENT1 or captured via a digital camera and entered into the IDENT1 system.