German police amputated a criminal’s hands and sent them to Britain when asked for fingerprint samples, according to the policing minister.
Kit Malthouse said the incident occurred in the “early days of fingerprinting” and the hands are still stored in a jar of formaldehyde in the Metropolitan Police’s crime museum.
He told his anecdote as MPs debated the Forensic Science Regulator and Biometrics Strategy Bill.
The proposed legislation seeks to create a watchdog to monitor forensic science laboratories.
Appearing in the Commons, Mr Malthouse rose to his feet to intervene on a speech being made by Labour MP Rupa Huq.
He said: “I just wanted to share a small anecdote with the House.
“In the early days of fingerprinting, the Metropolitan Police were in pursuit of a particular criminal who was apparently apprehended in Germany.
“They sent away to the German police to ask for this criminal’s, he sadly deceased, fingerprints to be sent so they could close the case.
“And the German police amputated his hands and sent them whole and they sit in a jar of formaldehyde in the Met Police’s crime museum to this day.”
Ms Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) replied: “Goodness me. We live and learn. You learn a new thing every day.
“What a gory story though.”
Introducing his Bill at second reading, Labour’s Darren Jones (Bristol North West) said: “Poor quality forensics, as noted by the regulator, has without doubt led to failed prosecution of criminals and a failure to secure justice for victims.
“Because, as it stands, the market for providing forensic services is flawed with grinding delays, gaps in capacity and skills and a lack of real competitiveness.
“The first step in fixing it is to enable the regulator to enforce effective standards, which I hope the House will support me in doing today.”
Mr Jones added: “Plainly, in such a world, we should expect to have robust, mandatory and enforceable quality standards for the providers of forensic science matched with an oversight regime with the independence, the teeth and the resources to do its job.”
But Tory Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) questioned the need for the Bill as a regulator for forensic labs is already in place which has non-statutory powers to uphold standards.
Sir Christopher said: “The scepticism that I have about this is that we’ve had the regulator in place since 2007 and that regulator has got the powers to bring in codes of practice and essentially, by one method or another, encourage people to comply with the codes of practice.
“This Bill talks about the introduction of statutory codes of practice which would have to be subject to consultation but it is not clear to me whether the existing powers have already been used sufficiently.
“It is one thing to say you’ve got the powers, you’ve been using them and you haven’t been able to make them work and therefore you need to have them put on a statutory footing.
“But it is not clear to be that the existing regulation has been using the non-statutory powers that are available.”