Skip to main content
 
 
 

‘Hot-Tubbing’ in a Suit – Highlighting fingerprint flaws in the witness box

‘Hot-Tubbing’ in a Suit – Highlighting fingerprint flaws in the witness box

hot-tubbing ► verb: the process by which expert witnesses from like disciplines can give their evidence concurrently.

Simon Bunter, one of our Fingerprint Experts, recently ‘hot-tubbed’ with his police counterpart in the witness box and made waves regarding a fingerprint ‘identification’.

 

Four men had been charged with two counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and perverting the course of justice, in relation to an attack on two males in September 2015.  The prosecution mainly relied on the ‘identification’ of one of the defendants by a palm mark in apparent blood on an internal door frame.  The man vehemently denied ever having been in the house and was categorical that the identification was incorrect.  The police expert, however, stated he found 18 corresponding ridge characteristics and was in “no doubt” that the defendant was the donor of the mark.

KBC’s Simon Bunter was instructed to examine the palm print evidence.  In his initial review, he noticed that no forensic testing appeared to have been carried out on the mark to determine whether it was indeed in blood.  Subsequently, when he compared the prints, he found the quantity and quality of the alleged correspondence fell significantly short of what would normally be expected for an identification result.  Mr Bunter noted that the crime scene mark was so poor that only one ridge characteristic and two skin creases clearly corresponded to the defendant’s palm.  This is significantly less than the amount of correspondence normally required for a safe identification.

At the trial, it was agreed by the judge, barristers and experts that the best way to proceed was to have both experts present their views on the fingerprint evidence at the same time.  In the ‘hot tub’ with the Police Expert, Mr Bunter explained to the jury that only one ridge characteristic clearly matched and that the remaining 17 points marked by the Police Expert were not clear enough to rely on and several were not visible at all.  The Police Expert insisted that he could clearly see all 18 ridge characteristics despite failing to annotate one of them in his jury hand-out and accepting that he may have marked another in the wrong place.

Mr Bunter also explained to the court that he was concerned that the procedures employed by the Fingerprint Bureau may have affected their findings.  In particular, no steps had been taken by the Police Fingerprint Expert to minimise the risk of cognitive bias or confirmation bias, specifically:

  • The Police Fingerprint Expert’s analysis and comparison had not been separated out into distinct stages and he had made no notes.  This allowed the expert’s interpretation of the ridge characteristics in the poor quality crime scene mark to be influenced by those in the defendant’s better quality reference palm print.
  • A second Police Expert was aware that his colleague had already ‘identified’ the mark prior to his own comparison.  Indeed, he was actually provided with a photograph showing the ‘matching’ ridge characteristics found by his colleague (which interestingly was significantly fewer than the 18 later reported by him).  This introduced the risk of confirmation bias.

Mr Bunter explained to the Court that research has shown that this type of process can lead to ‘reverse reasoning’ where a Fingerprint Officer subsequently ‘sees’ ridge characteristics that are not present in the crime scene mark.  This can result in erroneous ‘identifications’ and was found to be one of the main reasons a fingerprint from the 2004 Madrid train bombing was infamously misidentified to Brandon Mayfield, who was later shown to have had no involvement whatsoever and had never been to Spain.

After considering the evidence the jury found the defendant not guilty of all three charges.

Mr Bunter commented:

"In addition to this being an experience of ‘hot-tubbing’, it was also an interesting case from a technical and procedural fingerprint point of view.  The ‘circular’ approach of Fingerprint Bureau procedures (ACE-V) used in most fingerprint identifications and the lack of separation between the first two stages is common place in most UK Fingerprint Bureaux.  When discussing these issues with Fingerprint Experts they have told me that they are aware of cognitive and confirmation bias but it does not affect them as they rely on their experience and expertise.  There is, however, published research to the contrary.

Simply being aware of the potential for cognitive and confirmation bias is not enough to prevent or limit the effects.  A significant change to normal day-to-day practices is required in order for UK Fingerprint Bureaux to bring fingerprint methodology into line with other, more modern, approaches to forensic science."

Tweets by @KBCforensics 

Subscribe To Mailing List

To unsubscribe click here

What our customers say...

  • Really happy with all aspects of this case and would definitely recommend this company. Thank you.

    Private instruction, September 2020
  • Clear advice given at start and very prompt response.

    Private Client, March 2021
  • We have used KBC on many occasions in the past and have always had a reliable service.

    Solicitor, April 2020
  • Mr Brown was an impressive witness. As far as I am concerned, you can give him full marks all round.

    Counsel, March 2020
  • Just a very high quality, professional service.

    Solicitor, December 2019
  • Value for money.

    Solicitor, May 2020
  • Good service, prompt, efficient, have used many times in the past.

    Solicitor, April 2020
  • Provided helpful information above and beyond what was expected.

    Solicitor, February 2021
  • We were kept updated throughout the process and the report was provided promptly.

    Solicitor, January 2020
  • Very quick turnaround, with attention to detail and helpful comments.

    Solicitor, January 2020
  • I was delighted by Mrs Tweedy's professional and thorough approach.

    Mr Saltrese - September 2019
  • Always try to instruct, if possible, due to excellent service provided.

    Solicitor, September 2019
  • I was able to have a meaningful conversation with a specialist when obtaining a quote for the work.

    Solicitor, June 2020
  • I will definitely use Dr Schudel in the future and will be recommending him to my colleagues.

    Counsel, March 2020
  • Complete satisfaction with services.

    Solicitor, September 2019
  • We have always received professional and high standards of services. Reports are produced promptly and communications responded to without delay.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • Karl Ebejer was always prompt with responses and was very helpful.

    Solicitor, August 2020
  • We have used your company numerous times and have always received very well written and easy to understand reports.

    Solicitor, March 2021
  • I have instructed you for many years and always find yourselves to be helpful, efficient and reports are prepared in an easy to digest format.

    Solicitor, October 2019
  • I have been instructing KBC for over 15 years and have always been happy with the service, contact from experts and quality of the reports.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Excellent client care and service.

    Solicitor, August 2020
  • Mr Dampier made an incredibly complicated matter easy to understand.

    Barrister, February 2020
  • Experts are always happy to discuss matters prior to providing report.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Mr Ebejer was always very professional and friendly.

    Solicitor, August 2020
  • Always a pleasure working with you guys; our first choice for instruction.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • Mr Beatson was very helpful and professional, clearly with a wide range of knowledge and understanding.

    Solicitor, March 2020
  • Mrs Allan was most informative and provided explanations where required. A very professional attitude.

    Private Client, March 2021
  • Mr Dunnill’s report was helpful and our conference at Court informative; I would certainly be happy to use him in a case again.

    Barrister, December 2020
  • I have worked with Mr Donnelly in many cases over the years and his expertise, presentation of written work and ability in the witness box is second to none.

    Counsel, November 2020
  • Excellent reports within Legal Aid rates.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • I don’t think the service could be improved upon or bettered in any way.

    Private Instruction, November 2020
  • Courteous and informative.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • I was told you were the best at what you did. I honestly believe I got what was required.

    Private client, July 2020
  • Quick and efficient; and well laid out report.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • Very fast, professional, easy to instruct.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • Report well presented. Concise and precise.

    Solicitor, February 2021
  • Quick, professional, friendly, comprehensive.

    Prison Governor, June 2020
  • I found the service to be very professional throughout.

    Solicitor, October 2019
  • There is no question that your input was instrumental in persuading the Defendants to alter their stance.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • Provided quotes quickly and complied with court timescales.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Fast response and work turnover time; great customer service.

    Solicitor, November 2020
  • Knowledgeable, helpful and polite.

    Solicitor, June 2020
  • Easy access to experts; excellent communication and advice, as required.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • Very approachable.

    Solicitor, November 2020
  • Jenny Gray was excellent and very helpful throughout.

    Barrister, November 2019
  • Brilliant communication, my emails were promptly answered.

    Private instruction, September 2020
  • We have used your services for some time and are very satisfied.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • Would definitely use you again; very impressed.

    Solicitor, November 2020
  • Easy to contact, quick responses (particularly in the current circumstances), very helpful staff.

    Solicitor, April 2020
  • Prompt attention to dealing with queries and providing information and reports.

    Solicitor, March 2020
  • Website was very informative.  First contact was knowledgeable and efficient. The report was delivered in record time - very impressed!

    Solicitor, January 2021
  • Excellent, as usual.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • Andrew Dampier provided first class service in the form of reports and maps. He was able to explain the report in good layman’s terms and was also available to take calls and provide further information to counsel.

    Barrister, January 2021
  • I am extremely grateful to you for all your work on this case, in particular your prompt and helpful responses to my repeated requests.

    Barrister, February 2021
  • Swift service.

    Solicitor, March 2020
  • Quick, expert and accurate.

    Solicitor, July 2020
  • Thank you very much once again for your excellent service.

    Solicitor, March 2021
  • Your (cell site) reports and maps were extremely helpful.

    Barrister, February 2021 ​​​​​​
  • Always provide detailed quotes to assist with applying for authority from LAA. Quick response and good communication.

    Solicitor, March 2021
  • Thank you for your hard work in this case and for the prompt responses. 

    Barrister, March 2020
  • Telephone communications were very helpful when we were not able to contact the expert directly. The call takers were knowledgeable as to the case and what was required and answered any queries we had.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • I used Andrew Dampier for a cell site case and he was exceptional.

    Barrister, November 2020
  • Easy to use BAC calculation form, fast turn around.

    Solicitor, September 2019
  • Thank you very much, I am grateful and impressed with your service.

    Solicitor, January 2021
  • Simon Bunter is extraordinarily knowledgeable, remarkably efficient and a wonderful communicator. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

    Barrister, December 2019
  • Very quick response to queries raised following receipt of report. Very helpful.

    Solicitor, January 2021
  • Extremely helpful, efficient and above all thoroughly professional.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Prompt provision of report and prompt reply to queries.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • Mr Armstrong impressed throughout the trial as a real expert in his field. It was apparent too that Mr Armstrong was entirely impartial.

    Counsel, March 2020
  • Quick, efficient service and a well-prepared report.

    Solicitor, July 2020
  • Exceptionally efficient service.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Mr Prime reported to us with great efficiency and presented his evidence to the Jury in an extremely persuasive manner.

    Counsel, March 2020
  • Speedy responses to our instructions and questions asked. Helpful estimated timeframe for the service of reports.

    Solicitor, January 2021
  • Service was excellent throughout.

    Solicitor, August 2020
  • There are times when DNA evidence can be a little dry, but Mike Appleby's presentation and delivery to the jury was pitch perfect.

    Barrister, December 2019
  • I am very impressed by your service.

    Solicitor, February 2020
  • I find KBC invariably helpful and reliable.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • Simon Bunter is as good an expert as I have ever worked with.

    Barrister, December 2019
  • Overall helpful and efficient service.

    Solicitor, September 2019
  • Mr Frost has been a great help in this case and we really appreciate his assistance.

    Solicitor, February 2021
  • Jenny Gray acted with the utmost integrity throughout. This was noted in open court by the judge hearing the case.

    Solicitor, October 2019
  • I can say that I am very satisfied with the service I have received from KBC, starting with my initial phone call and interaction your colleague when I made my initial enquiry, right up to the report being received. I would certainly use KBC again and would recommend you to my colleagues.

    Solicitor, January 2020
  • Fast service; timely response to communication.

    Solicitor, January 2020
  • Prompt and Professional and produces excellent reports.

    Solicitor, September 2020
  • Mike Appleby's exceptional quality was noted by all of the Counsel involved in the case. It is always a pleasure to watch someone, who is good at something, doing it and doing it well.

    Barrister, December 2019
  • A thorough analysis, with well set out conclusions.

    Solicitor, July 2020
  • Regular contact, advice on hand via phone if necessary, prompt and efficient.

    Solicitor, August 2020
  • Found the service to be extremely helpful, given the timeframe in which the report was required.

    Solicitor, January 2020
  • My impression of your service was excellent.

    Private Instruction, November 2020
  • Extremely good customer service and continuous contact/support.

    Solicitor, November 2019
  • I chose this company, as the first point of contact was extremely helpful.

    Private instruction, September 2020
  • Speedy and detailed quotes which do not delay funding from LAA.

    Solicitor, December 2020
  • No question was too silly and everything was explained so clearly and easily; great customer service.

    Private instruction, September 2020
  • Communication and speed of delivery of information was, as always, excellent.

    Solicitor, April 2020
  • We have used your services on many previous occasions. You always provide the cheapest estimate and respond quicker than any other service provider we have contacted for the purposes of Legal Aid.

    Solicitor, January 2021
  • Mr Appleby was truly excellent. While giving evidence it was plain that he has achieved the perfect blend of clarity and authoritative charisma.

    Barrister, December 2019
  • I have had the pleasure of the assistance of Mike Appleby on a number of occasions now and he is an excellent man to have around. 

    Counsel, March 2020

Keith Borer Consultants is a division of Orchid Cellmark Ltd, a company registered in England at 16 Blacklands Way, Abingdon, OX14 1DY.

Registered No. 4045527; VAT registration No. GB 750 0292 64

Website developed by Problue Solutions