Method of Sampling

The optimal sample is clippings of the whole fingernail as these are more practical to handle. However, in some cases, the fingernails may be too short to cut or the complainant may withhold consent for the sample; complainants who cherish their well-manicured nails may find the proposal distressing, and the examiner must be sensitive to this. In such cases, scrapings of the material under the nails should be taken using a tapered stick or both sides of the fingernails should be swabbed using the double-swab technique (see Subheading 4.1.1.). When obtaining fingernail scrapings, the forensic practitioner should try not to disturb the nail bed (Clayton, T., personal communication, 2003).

Each hand should be sampled and specimens packaged separately enclosing the stick (enveloped in a piece of folded paper), if used.

On the rare occasions when a nail has broken during the incident and the broken fragment of nail is recovered, the residual nail on the relevant finger should be clipped within 24 hours to enable comparison of nail striations (62). If it is not clear which finger the broken nail came from, then it may be necessary to clip and submit all the macroscopically broken nails, as the fingernail striations are individual to a particular finger.

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