Tag Archives: Currency

A ‘note’ of forensic opportunity – or forensic challenge

I am sure many of my British readers would have read with interest as I did this week on the Bank of England’s proposal to replace the current paper bank notes with a polymer version from 2016.

Money and Fingerprints
Money and Fingerprints

You can read the BBC article on the proposal here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24029785

The benefits around security and durability are very well presented, but from a forensic perspective I have a number of questions……..

The current paper notes are porous, which make them (in theory) ideal for forensic examination as they can easily retain evidence such as fingerprints, DNA, drug residue etc.

To quieten some of the forensicators amongst you who are now shouting at your screen, I did say in theory.  Of course, in practice it is incredibly difficult to obtain meaningful evidence in most cases due the fact that most bank notes have been circulated between tens, hundreds and even thousands of people; which makes it difficult to differentiate between different donors… and even if you could, it would be virtually impossible to date the evidence (in the case of fingerprints), or discount transference / contamination for other evidence types.

Nevertheless, bank notes can be a common and crucial piece of evidence in many types of criminal investigation; therefore it is important to understand the forensic impacts of any new materials being used for bank currency.

Actually I believe from a fingerprint point of view, there could be more opportunities to retrieve better quality, more meaningful fingerprints; as the notes will not be permanently folded or ‘scrunched up’, and ‘older’ prints may be wiped off with regular use and you ‘may’ be left with the most current ‘owners’ prints…. but this belief will need to be confirmed with research and experimentation.

So, how would you visualise, develop, enhance, recover and record forensic evidence? … This is a question that I will be raising with work, but I am keen to learn your thoughts.

For example, there are a number of countries who have already adopted plastic notes e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Canada; who I am sure have already considered some of this??

Another question I have is around the note’s durability…..

If the new material can withstand a trip to the washing machine and be rid of stains such as red wine, how do these affect forensic deterrents such as DNA SmartWater and exploding dye packs (commonly used to prevent robberies in transit)?

Over to you……