The quantification of dorsal hand features of interest to assist forensic human identification

  • Briony Macdonald-McMillan

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science


    Traditionally, the identification of offenders from photographic or video evidence through physical features has been via facial characteristics. However, criminals are increasingly ensuring that their face does not appear in physical evidence. This has become particularly problematic within investigations related to paedophilic images transmitted via the Internet, where eye-witness and trace evidence are of limited value, and suspects must be identified via offender/suspect comparison. This has led to a requirement to investigate methods by which an individual may be compared via physical features found in areas of the body other than the face. As seen in recent Court cases, the ability to exclude or include an individual based on the comparison of a small anatomical area such as the thumb or fingers can be vital.Currently, however, there is no empirical data supporting the individuating power of these features, which limits their admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings. The aim of this project is to determine the occurrence rate of the anatomical features seen on the dorsal surface of the hand, in an effort to assist future forensic investigations that require comparison of images between the suspect and the offender in order to exclude or include them for further investigation. These features were quantified within divisions of the dorsal surface of the hand in 260 participants (520 hands), allowing statistical testing of relationships between hand features and their occurrence in these different regions. Biographic information gathered from participants allowed factors including sex, handedness and age to be included in statistical testing. Further to this, intra and inter-observer error were assessed. Subsequent statistical analysis showed that certain features of the hand show significant variation between males and females,and between age groups. These findings are of importance to the forensic profession, as this variation may be of use in forensic image comparison cases related to disputed identity.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSue Black (Supervisor) & Xanthe Mallett (Supervisor)

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