As we go on about our daily lives, we often need to verify our identities. This is usually done by simply handling your ID, but soon, this might not be enough. A new technique has been introduced to reduce problems of identification. Either it be to verify a person who claims they are them (I am who I claim who I am), or generally to identify them (Who I am?) (Jaec, 2008). This identification technique is called 'Biometrics'. 'Biometrics is the use of automated methods of recognising an individual based on physical or behavioural characteristics' (Dunn). All airports, and some casinos, schools and even shopping centres now have some type of biometric scans. Biometrics is a very powerful tool for problems requiring accurate identification. Reliable identification is making our lives much more convenient. It not only protects us from criminals but also makes business more efficient. This automated authentication process can bring better safety and ease for everyone. 'Biometric devices consist of a reader or scanning device, software that converts the gathered information into digital form, and a database that stores the biometric data for comparison with previous records' (Aradhana, 2010). There are many different existing types of biometric methods. They are characterized into two types as mentioned earlier. Physiological characteristics can be face, fingerprint, DNA, hand geometry, and eye, namely iris and the retina of eye. Behavioural characteristics can be voice, signature and writing speed.
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Every biometrics has its strengths and weaknesses. Each of the following types of devices captures data in a different form and by a different mechanism. This essay will be discussing two main types of biometrics; Fingerprints and DNA Fingerprinting. I will be defining what they are, how they were introduced (history) and the process of both. Along with this, I will analyse two case studies, in which these biometrics have been used and have had an impact on forensic science today.
Fingerprint detection is the oldest techniques of biometric identification. Fingerprinting was firstly used in China in the 14th century to distinguish between families and also for business reasons (Woodward, 2003). Children would have to stamp their hands and feet into ink and then onto a paper. However, fingerprints were never used for crime purposes, but in the 19th century, Sir William Herschel developed a way to identify criminals. In 1958, Sir William Herschel, an Englishman was working in India, used identification of fingerprints for contracts (Herschel, 1916). He recognized fingerprints were one of a kind. He soon became the Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India. He was frustrated and annoyed with the lying of the local natives. So, to reduce fraud, him and Rajyadhar Konai, a local businessman stamped his handprint on the back of the documents (Herschel, 1916). In 1879, he stopped studying fingerprinting and left India. A couple of years later, a Scottish doctor Henry Faulds was in Japan and realised fingerprints on ancient pieces of clay, he found this very interesting and started to study fingerprints. Later in 1880, Faulds writes an article on his findings and this encouraged Herschel to start studying fingerprints again (Hershel, 1916). Faulds needed more help with his invention, so he asked Charles Darwin. Darwin rejected this offer and passed it on to Sir Francis Galton. Galton researched more into fingerprints, did many tests and was proven to be reliable. He started gathering fingerprints and collected about 8,000 different samples to examine. 'In 1892, he published a book called 'Fingerprints', in which he outlined a fingerprint classification system -- the first in existence. The system was based on patterns of arches, loops and whorls' (Watson, 2008). Galton said 'Fingerprints are very unique as there is only one in every 64 billion chance that someone else's fingerprints will match yours'.
In the meantime, another method was created called 'Bertillonage', it was created in the 1893 by an anthropologist named Alphonse Bertillion (Skopitz, 2002). This method was mainly used to identify criminals in the late 19 century. It was based on the fact that the measurement of people's bones does not change after 20 years of age. People who had offended previously, their measurements were recorded and compared manually. The government was impressed and thought it was a good idea.
Later on, Sir Edward Henry, an Englishman was motivated by Galton's work and made his own system. Henry called it the 'Henry Classification System'. India was very impressed by his work and they started to adapt to it. The Indian government kept track of criminals only by fingerprints. He also published his book 'Classification and Uses of Fingerprints' in 1900. In 1901 the first UK Bureau opened and while Henry introduced his fingerprint system, they hired him to be the assistant commissioner of police in New Scotland Yard (Triplette, 2001). The Henry system in 1901 was functioning successfully. The following year in 1902, fingerprints were presented as evidence for the first time in English courts. In 1903, some states in United States of America also accepted this new system and later were taken on by the FBI. '10 years after the publication of Henry's book; his classification system was being used by police forces and prison authorities throughout the English-speaking world' (Triplette, 2001). Fingerprinting became a huge achievement for forensic scientists and was valued by the government.
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Today, criminals are found by using fingerprints and do not any longer use 'Bertillonage'. England sent a couple of investigators to Paris, England wanted to enquire the methods used there. It was recommend to use the system of 'fingerprints' as suggested by Galton and as it was being practised at that time in Bengal, India which seemed to be very successful. In December 1900, the Belper Committee in England, chaired by Lord Belper, recommended that all criminal identification records be classified by the fingerprint system (Lambourne, 1984). No longer were people measured after 1987. Fingerprinting was the method for police all around the world.
So, what are fingerprints and how is the process of fingerprinting changed? 'A fingerprint is an impression of the friction ridges found on the inner surface of finger and a thumb' (Triplette, 2001). Fingerprinting is a type of science which helps to identify people. These fingerprints could be taken from the finger directly by ink or by a live scan. Collecting fingerprints are inexpensive and analysing them can be easily accomplished. Fingerprints of a person never change and are the same from the day a person is born till the day they die. 'Our skin is composed of two layers, the epidermis and the dermis' (South Wales Police Museum). Epidermis is known to be the thinner layer which protects the thicker layer of skin which is called dermis. Dermis lies under the epidermis; it contains sweat and sebaceous glands (South Wales Police Museum). 'The products of these two glands constitute a fingerprint, a mark that is left when we touch something' (South Wales Police Museum). Fingerprints are made of ridges. Every ridge produces pores which are connected to sweat glands beneath the skin (South Wales Police Museum). Due to the sweat, fingerprints makes are left on basically anything we touch. Such as glasses, doors, tables, etc. All ridges contain patterns. These patterns can be loops, whorls or arches. These patterns are unique on everyone's fingerprints. The government can analyse any fingerprinting they capture at the crime scene, but there are two different types of prints. There can be visible prints or latent prints. Visible prints like clay and dirt leave on impressions. On the other hand, latent prints are made when sweat or oil can be seen on weapons or glass. Latent fingerprints are not easy to visualise. It cannot be viewed with the naked eye but can be made visible for identification by using powders and lasers.
There are thousands of fingerprints on record, when a suspect is charged there fingerprint is put on file. At court, fingerprints can be shown as evidence if there are 16 points of similarity with the suspects fingerprints found at the scene (International Biometric Group, 2003). The process of fingerprinting since 19th century has transformed a lot. In the past, the processes of identifying and matching fingerprints were prepared by a system called 'The Henry'. This system was very non-manageable. When fingerprints were taken to compare, they would do it manually with the ones on file. The Henry system would take hours or even days and did not always produce a match. In the l900's, computers were introduced. This was a great achievement as it helped them search, classify and match fingerprints in a more convenient way. In the late 1900's, Japanese National Police Agency introduced the first electronic fingerprint matching system. They called it the 'Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems' (AFIS). AFIS was being used around the whole world to analyse millions of fingerprints instantly that were on record. AFIS designed a system were digital fingerprints were scanned with sensors. The computer software looked for minutiae points to find the best match in the system. However, this system established by Sir Edward Henry, had some technical limitations (International Biometric Group, 2003). There was not a way to connect or share information with other agency systems. Every local, state, and federal law enforcement was connected to a different AFIS system (International Biometric Group, 2003). In 1999, a new system was introduced, Integrated AFIS (IAFIS). This system was not only for criminal checks but also for employment, licenses, security, and social service programs. This system is managed by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division. This system was much faster and reliable. It searched and found fingerprints from anywhere in the country within 30 minutes (Watson, 2008). It not only has fingerprints but also mug shots and histories of many criminals. The local, state and law enforcement all have access to IAFIS; it is filled with a huge database of information. In the United Kingdom, 'one in every six people in this country has a fingerprint record on IAFIS' (Watson, 2008). 'Modern technologies have made fingerprinting a much more effective means of identification' (Watson, 2008).
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In England, the first case to use fingerprint evidence to convict a person for murder took place in 1905. This was taken place in South London (Deptford). This case became very influential and had a huge impact on England. A local shop keeper, Thomas Farrow aged 71 lived on top of his shop with his wife, Ann aged 65. Mr. Farrow always opened his shop at 7:30am. When the worker of Mr.Farrow's shop arrived to work at 8:30am on March 27th, he saw the shop was closed and found it to be very unusual as Mr. Farrow never opened his shop late. He knocked on the door, and yelled out for Mr. And Mrs. Farrow but there was no response. He peeked through the window and saw chairs knocked over. He quickly ran and got help from a local neighbour Louis Kidman. They both forced themselves into the shop and found the body of Mr. Farrow on the floor. Mrs. Farrow was still alive but unconscious on top of their bed. They quickly called the police and doctor, as Mrs. Farrow needed help. The police investigated and found no sign of forced entry into the shop. The two investigators, Fredrick Fox and Melville MacNaghten believed that the motive was most likely to rob Mr. Farrow. Looking for evidence, they found an empty cash box on the floor and two black masks made from stockings were left at the scene, which meant two men were involved. Both Mr. and Mrs. Farrow were in their night clothes, which meant someone had attacked while they were half asleep opening the door. He was attacked immediately but was still alive and got back up to go after them, but was hit again and died on the spot. As soon as they went upstairs, they attacked Mrs. Farrow and took the money in the cash box. Fox and MacNaghten took the empty cash box to examine it. He realised there was greasy smudge which appeared to be a fingerprint. He took carefully wrapped the cash box and took it to get tested at the Fingerprinting Bureau at Scotland Yard. Charles Stockley Collins, a fingerprint expert who had previously in 1901 identified a criminal through fingerprinting, took over and inspected the cash box (Colin, 2001). Collins observed the print and realised it had been left by the thumb from his right hand. It did not match the Farrows, or any other person they suspected. At that time the Bureau themselves had 80,000 - 90,000 fingerprints on record but they did not match either. Now, they needed a suspect to match it with, they were hoping Mrs. Farrow would get better and gain consciousness but she passed away in the hospital on March 31st. As normal police officers, they went around questioning people and asking questions so they can identify who committed this crime. Luckily, as they went around, many people had witnessed two men walking out of Mr.Farrows shop at about 7:30 am. Both witnesses described one man to be Alfred Stratton who was twenty two years old. Alfred Stratton was known to be connected with the underworld, but had no previous convictions. Looking for Alfred, they found his girlfriend. This was when they realised, Alfred was definitely the murderer. She told the police; Alfred and his brother Albert aged twenty, were both out all night previous Sunday, they had died their shoes black, destroyed the jackets they were wearing and had asked her for stockings. Based on this, both Albert and Alfred were arrested and taken to custody on April 2nd. They both were fingerprinted and the results were taken to Collins. Collins matched their fingerprints to the cash box and said it had exactly matched Alfred Stratton's right hand thumbprint. 'Collins claimed that in all his years of experience, he had never found two prints to have more than three characteristics to be in common, but in this case, there were 11 characteristics in common' (Colin, 2001). With fingerprints being the strongest piece of evidence, both brothers were convicted of murder and sentenced to death on May 23, 1905.
'Despite the modern technologies, fingerprinting is still an old detective's trick. What are some other ways to catch a thief?' (Watson, 2008) DNA Fingerprinting a more modern technique is another type of biometrics which helps to identify people. The deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a 'composition of a human determines hair colour, eye colour and any other physical and behavioural characteristics displayed' (Lieberman, 2004). DNA has a specific pattern that is called DNA fingerprint. The possibility that two people would have an identical DNA fingerprint is one in thirty billion (Norrgard, 2008). In the past, they used DNA fingerprints to see if any genetic diseases were present. This is now used all over the world in forensic science to resolve not only paternity issues, immigration disputes but also to assist police investigators to detect crime.
The award winning, Sir Alec John Jeffreys was born in Bedfordshire and studied in Oxford. He invented DNA fingerprinting. After receiving his PhD degree, he joined University of Leicester as a geneticist (Aronson, 2007). In 1984, he managed to make the first usable version of DNA Fingerprinting. This had a major impact on not only Britain, but also United States. They were influenced by his findings and by 1985; they had their own DNA techniques.
Jefferys discovered DNA fingerprinting while him and him his students were studying the evolution of genes. 'While comparing the globins of various sea-dwelling animals, they noticed a particular sequence in varying repetitive patterns in almost all of the species tested'. (Aronson, 2007). After examining the motifs in most mammals were present. Additionally, the patterns they had gathered seemed to be unique in each animal. This was the new and exhilarating discovery made by Jefferys. After this exciting establishment Jefferys abandoned his work on gene evolution and went on further to examine genetic fingerprints (Aronson, 2007).
Every human cell contains a set of 23 chromosomes. Inside those chromosomes contains a genetic material called DNA (Hall, 2007). DNA looks like a twisted latter with rungs. The four different bases that take place in a DNA are adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. (A, T, G, C). There are many base pairs in each person's DNA and every person has a different sequence. Every person can be identified by the sequence of the base pairs. The process of DNA fingerprinting is called gel electrophoresis, as shown in the diagram below. It is a process that sorts pieces of DNA depending on its size. The procedure takes place by taking samples of DNA from the crime scene and comparing it with samples already on file. Blood, semen, hair and saliva are all biological types of samples. For example, a piece of hair is taken and the cells are copied. After that it copies the DNA and establishes a sequence which then compares it to the other sequence to find out if the DNA fingerprints are identical or different.
(Cellmark Diagnostics cited in Aronson, 2007)
This process of this figure is known as the 'Southern Blotting'. This figure shows the 11 steps to how to produce a DNA fingerprint. It starts off by obtaining a sample, either it be blood or tissue (Step 1). It then involves taking DNA from the sample (Step 2). The DNA is cut into fragments by a restriction enzyme (Step 3). These fragments are then separated into bands which go into a gel like material called agarose. This technique is called 'electrophoresis' (Step 4). The DNA pattern in gel is transferred in a piece of membrane by the technique known as 'Southern Blotting' (Step 5). The DNA probe is prepared (Step 6). DNA probe is placed on a hybridizing solution which contains many chemicals. After a while, the piece of membrane is removed and the hybridizing solution is washed off (Step 7 and 8). That leaves the DNA sequence with a single restriction fragment on the membrane (Step 9). The X-ray film is placed on top of the membrane to distinguish the radioactive pattern (Step 10). Lastly, The X-ray film is developed to make visible patterns of bands which is known as the DNA fingerprint. This is process is also called 'autoradiogram', it looks like a barcode (Step 11).
Jeffery published later that 'the probability that two individuals would have the same DNA fingerprint was less than 1 in 33 billion' (Aronson, 2007). DNA fingerprinting is a method used to identify an unknown source of DNA samples. This technique is very helpful because it is used to identify and distinguish among individual human beings and helps solve a crime. Without Jeffreys invention, many criminals would have not been convicted and still would have been committing crime.
The first murder conviction with the use of DNA fingerprinting in United Kingdom took place in 1983. A 15 year old girl, Lynda Mann was raped and murdered in Leicestershire. Semen sample was taken off Lynda's body. Forensic examination showed that the person had a type A blood, which matched 10 percent of men of the adult male population. The police tried but did not find the murderer. Three years later, in 1886, another girl was raped and murdered; Dawn Ashworth in the same town. She was also 15 years old. The police tested the semen sample and the results were the same as Lynda's. They were positive it was the same murderer. A 17 year old boy, Richard Buckland had been spotted by Dawn's murder scene and knew other details about her body. The police suspected him and questioned him. After questioning him, he confessed he was the killer but only confessed about Dawn's murder. He said he had nothing to do with Lynda's murder case. The police were convinced he murdered both girls and contacted Professor Alec Jeffery's at Leicester University. Dr. Jefferey compared a blood sample given by him with the semen samples. Both of the murderers were killed by one man, but that man was not Richard. He was the first person in the world to be exonerated of murder through the use of forensics. In 1987, police and forensic scientists took about 5000 blood of saliva samples of men from that village. This was unsuccessful because the murderer asked a friend to give blood under his name. Fortunately, a woman in the village had overheard him speaking about the switch and had reported this to the police. A local baker, Colin Pitchfork was convicted and charged by DNA fingerprinting evidence. His semen matched both murder and was jailed for life imprisonment in 1988 (Aronson, 2007).
Both biometrics; Fingerprints and DNA fingerprinting have had a huge impact on our lives today. Fingerprint identification is a very reliable method for identification. No two individuals have the same fingerprints and DNA proof can be gathered almost anywhere at a crime scene. For the past 100 years, United Kingdom has a very powerful device which can help us fight against crime and this powerful tool is the different types of biometrics. Both fingerprints and DNA fingerprinting have helped solve many crimes and prevent criminals from escaping. These biometrics have developed a great amount in the police department and is now are being used in everyday life. DNA Fingerprinting has transformed the way we look at any living organism and a saying by Gellar et al (1999) should always be remembered 'Fingerprints cannot lie, but liars can make fingerprints'.