To Catch a Paedophile, You Only Need to Look at Their Hands

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Posted on Nov 10

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Professor Dame Sue Black
director, Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification
Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, MSI Complex, University of Dundee


Scottish forensic anthropologist and human anatomist Sue Black has worked on identification initiatives after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, in criminal cold cases and forensic work in Kosovo.


A young girl was abused by her father. After confessing to her mother but not receiving help, she decided to use technology to document her abusive experience. Before going to bed one night, she turned her web-camera towards her bed and used Skype to record the incident.

Prof Sue Black and her team of five people specialize in using technology to unveil the truth about such crimes. After analyzing the video material they were able to use the recordings against the suspect as the evidence revealed remarkable details: The infra-red light from the recording camera exposed the suspects’ veins on the arm which are unique to every human.

Despite the clear evidence, the court ruled in favor of the suspect and freed him of the allegations. The jury did believe the evidence gathered thanks to the technological attributes used – however, they did not believe the girl as she did not show enough signs of sadness and disturbance. This led to a wave of outrage and disbelief across the nation. Sadly, this is only one case of many.

In the UK, one in twenty children is experiencing sexual abuse. Disabled children, who are even more disadvantaged, are exposed to three times higher risks than the already devastating figures.

Prof Sue Black and her team are the only people in the UK using forensic sciences and technology to tackle crimes. The question we should be asking ourselves today is how is it that we protect our cars better than we protect children?
Car theft has reached record-low numbers due to technological advancements that let us monitor and track vehicles. How can we justify that these very technologies are used in our everyday lives, but we have not found ways to fight against crimes such as sexual abuse.
The story of the young girl is only a notion of the scale. This is a global problem. There are websites that hit one million hits - in only one hour.

In times of interconnectivity and technological breakthrough, we need to make it our very responsibility to tackle such issues together.

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