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Review of the Sixteen Points Fingerprint Standard in England and Wales

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Identification Volume: 46 Issue: 1 Dated: (January/February 1996) Pages: 49-73
I W Evett; R L Williams
Date Published
25 pages
The fingerprint service of England and Wales works to the requirement that a fingerprint identification should be based on at least 16 points of comparison before evidence may be given in court; in 1988-89 the authors of this article reviewed the need for this requirement.
The review included visits to bureaus in the United Kingdom and in various other countries, a study of the statistical aspects of fingerprint identification, a historical review, and a collaborative study in which fingerprint experts from many different bureaus at home and abroad examined 10 sets of comparisons. The review confirmed what had been determined by the International Association of Identification; i.e., that point counts do not make sense, since settling for any particular number of points is not a necessary measure for the attainment of quality. Still, the authors do not recommend a change in the 16- points standard. Instead they present recommendations designed to produce the kind of atmosphere in the forensics profession that would facilitate its members in debating the issues more freely than in the past. In particular, the training process should encourage a questioning attitude rather than a doctrinaire obedience to dogma. More junior, yet progressive, members should have the freedom to put their views forward in discussion arenas that in the past were apparently dominated by a small number of influential senior individuals whose objective has been to maintain the status quo. Given a system where there is confidence that each expert is operating above a minimum level of competence, there is no need for a national numerical points standard. 5 figures and 6 references