2024 UK Fingermark Symposium – Review

Last week I had  another day out of the office/classroom.  This time it was for the UK Fingermark Symposium created and organised by Paul Butler from ForenteQ Limited and John Hicks from West Technology Forensics.

UK Fingermark Symposium june 24 1
Delegates being seated at the Symposium

There was a brilliant range of guest speakers, many are UK’s leading experts;

Roberto King spoke on Innovation and the problems that business can have with product development and user engagement.  The need to have a Multi-stakeholder (three way) partnership between Industry (manufacturers), Academia (Research and Validation) and Police Forces (practical real world application of the product).

Nick Marsh M.B.E. is a Lead Forensic Imaging Specialist for the Met Police with over 35 years of experience.  His passion for photography and specialist forensic lighting techniques has never diminished in the 20+ years I’ve known him. “What he doesn’t know ain’t worth knowing”, is a common expression, but you really would be hard pressed to find someone with such in depth knowledge and let’s face it, Nick has had so much experience gained from working in the Met, where else in the UK could someone get so much serious and major crime?

He is a massive advocate for using white light to find fingermarks BEFORE any other process.  Did you know that there are 16 different ways to light a fingermark?

The lovely Tracy Alexander FKC is the Director of Forensic Services for the City of London Police, a Fellow of King’s College London and the President of the British Academy of Forensic Sciences.  She spoke about the work she is doing to help reduce the near extinction of wildlife in Africa and then in complete contrast, being a mortuary manager at the Grenfell disaster.  Her passion and commitment shone through on both subjects;

James Price talked about the innovative products Attestor Forensics produce for the forensic market and about working closely with forensic practitioners to continuously develop their extensive range of equipment;

PhD Researcher Joel Able from De Montfort University spoke on his research work to find an alternative solvent for HFE 7100* (used in the Ninhydrin solution, that’s used for developing fingerprints on paper, etc);

Associate Professor in Forensic Chemistry at De Montfort Kevin J. Farrugia talked about the various fingerprint studies his students are currently working on i.e. effects of powdering on marks developed by using CNA.

UK Fingermark Symposium june 24 3
Derek Hardy talking about the FSIS CSE Camera

Derek Hardy, Imaging Systems Programme Manager for Arrowhead Forensics, had flown from the U.S. to give a demonstration of the FSIS CSE Camera and lighting system.  This is a robust full spectrum Imaging System for use at crime scenes.  He talked passionately about his love for UV-C (254nm light wavelength) before and after chemical treatments have been applied and gave numerous examples of case work where the application had worked.

Another U.S. speaker, Greg Mason, had flown over from Pinellas County, Florida to share his experience of processing crime scenes in the U.S.  Greg talked about the 1994 OJ Simpson murder trial (and subsequent acquittal).  It had a big impact on the way U.S. CSI’s worked (which they called the ‘OJ Simpson Forensic Effect’).  OJ Simpson had been charged with the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman in Los Angeles.

Apparently the fact that the blood sample had been mishandled by lab scientists and that the use of DNA evidence in trials was relatively new, (and so many ordinary people didn’t understand how to evaluate it), had a big impact on the trial.   Protocols were put in place, so one CSI wouldn’t go to the initial crime scene and then go on to the suspect/s; house, car, or other related crime scene.

Greg followed this up with a case study from 2003 and the murder of Karen Pannell in Pinellas County.  Highlighting the fact of smeared blood over blood splatter.

Greg now works for West Technology Forensics supporting their North American customers having used Vacuum Metal Deposition (VMD) (as supplied by West Technology)  in an operational role for 24 years.  He talked about a number of North American cold case reviews (one being 35+ years) where VMD was used to help identify and convict the murderers.

UK Fingermark Symposium june 24 6
Dr Steve Bleay presenting to delegates of the UK Fingermark Symposium

Last but not least, Dr Stephen Bleay talked about the importance of understanding each process for chemical treatment of forensic exhibits as per the Fingermark Visualisation Manual.  How it’s important to take into account new knowledge and include new research of evidence types.  For instance, plastic carrier bags and cellophane have changed their polymer compositions (biodegradable).

This means treatments like multi-metal and single deposition are required to be used – apparently no one in the UK currently uses this method, although Steve knows where it can be done!  Steve’s fundamental assertion is that the Fingermark Examination Laboratories need to Test, Share and Collaborate with each other and the people in Academia need to move forward and use new techniques that will meet the scrutiny of an ISO assessor!

UK Fingermark Symposium june 24 4
View of the company stands at the UK Fingermark Symposium

All in all, this event was a brilliant day out to catch up with old contacts ( Nick Marsh , Richard Tunstall, Jim Smith and Jo Morrissey hello!), get some hands-on experience of new equipment, learn from the experiences of others (let’s NOT make the same mistakes!) and make new contacts in the hope of collaborating and working together in the future. 

Well done to Paul Butler and John Hicks and thank you again, for investing so much money, time and effort to organise this event. I very much look forward to the next one.

The event was held at the delightful Arden Hotel & Leisure Club in Solihull. In my mind a great location which is fairly central, maximising the opportunity for many Police Forces to send staff. The hotel was great, easy access off the motorway, easy parking, good food and great staff.

* 3M, is the sole manufacturer of HFE 7100, is stopping production of this and all other Novec products due to the chemicals being made with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are under increasing scrutiny due to environmental and health concerns.  Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS breaks down very slowly and can accumulate in the environment, posing potential health risks to wildlife and humans.

The regulatory landscape is shifting towards reducing or eliminating PFAS use, and 3M’s decision to phase out PFAS products anticipates stricter regulations in the future.

Additionally, public and industry expectations regarding environmental responsibility are evolving, and 3M is aligning with these changes by ending PFAS production by the end of 2025. While some distributors may still have stock available after this date, the chemical’s strong carbon-fluorine bonds make them useful but also difficult to break down in the environment, leading to accumulation in soil and water, and potential entry into the food chain.

Growing evidence suggests that exposure to some PFAS can lead to health issues such as increased cancer risk, developmental problems in children, and immune system issues. This has led to increased regulation and companies like 3M phasing out their use.

Martin Bloomfield

Martin has over 45 years photography experience with 26 years as a specialist CSI photographer, Crime Scene Manager and occasional Crime Scene Coordinator.  Finishing his Police career as head of Sussex Police Imaging and Crime Lab.  He’s a qualified trainer (obtaining City & Guilds, Certificate in Further Education Teaching) and holds a Diploma in Crime Scene Investigation accredited by the University of Strathclyde.  He is a founding partner of the Forensic Training Partnership CIC.
Chemical Treatments / ISO / Research / United Kingdom

Fingermark Visualisation Manual Released Openly

Editorial Team / 2024-03-13
Research / United Kingdom

New Spray can Detect Fingerprints in Ten Seconds

Crime Scene Investigator / Crime Scene Management / Training / United Kingdom

Crime Scene Managers: Why are they so important?


Impactful Collaboration with Victim Support

17020 / 17025 / ISO / QMS / United Kingdom

Navigating the Challenges: Five Top Tips for Quality Management Systems

Crime Scene Investigator / Training / United Kingdom

Dusting for Clues: A New Frontier in Crime Scene Forensics

Crime Scene Investigator / Photography / United Kingdom

Why are Cameras Changing to Mirrorless?

Forensic Science Regulator / United Kingdom

Code Of Practice – Why is it important?

Crime Scene Investigator / Photography / Software / United Kingdom

Remote Transmission of Fingerprints

Crime Scene Investigator / Photography / Training / United Kingdom

Unleashing the Power of Forensic Training: Introducing the Initial CSI Course

Crime Scene Investigator / Environment / United Kingdom

Guest blog: Turning the tide of plastic waste in CSI

Crime Scene Investigator / Training / United Kingdom

What is the role and responsibilities of a police crime scene investigator?

17020 / Crime Scene Investigator / ISO / Training / United Kingdom

The Crucial Role of ISO 17020 in Crime Scene Investigation

Crime Scene Investigator / Training / United Kingdom

Forensic Training in the UK

Crime Scene Investigator / Photography / Training / United Kingdom

Unveiling the Challenges: Capturing Night Time Photographs as a CSI

17020 / Crime Scene Investigator / ISO / Training / United Kingdom

What are the pro’s and con’s of working to ISO 17020?