West Yorkshire Police have become the first force in the country to secure a conviction for harassment by the use of an innovative use of forensic marking.
The victim had been provided with a SmartTag canister as part of a new initiative being used by West Yorkshire Police to prevent and detect repeat domestic abuse offences. The spray contains uniquely coded liquid which, once dry, is invisible to the naked eye but glows under UV light.
In an incident last month, the perpetrator visited the victim’s address while the subject of a non-molestation order. The victim was able to spray him with the SmartTag solution and the unique tag was found on his clothing on his arrest. She was able to spray the perpetrator from her window which kept her safe while providing clear evidence to the police.
He was charged and convicted of breach of a non-molestation order and harassment and was jailed for 24 weeks. A two-year restraining order was also put in place.
The initiatives is funded by the Wakefield Community Safety Partnership.
A detailed article by BBC technology reporter Shiona McCallum (@shionamc) provides additional details. You can watch Shiona’s video report below which explains the technology behind the innovation. The SmartWater is invisible to the naked eye, but glows bright yellow-green under UV light, which is how it is detected by police officers.
The forensic liquid is nearly impossible to remove and will remain on skin and hair for weeks, even with frequent washing.
As perpetrators leave the scene of the incident, most will also leave additional evidence in the form of SmartWater handprints and footprints at the scene.
The key to the effectiveness of the approach is that each bottle of the forensic spray has a unique chemical make-up evidencing a robust link between the perpetrator to the specific batch of water that was sprayed.
The victim is one of over 200 women across England who now have the forensic deterrent packages in their homes. The packages include a hand-held canister for spraying, a gel for door handles and gates, and an automatic trap that sprays the liquid if someone approaches the house. West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Staffordshire police forces are the early adopters of the spray.
The kits cost about £150 a month per person,. Since the average cost of responding to a domestic abuse incident is £640, the kits are a cost effective approach which also provide victims and survivors with reassurance and confidence that they can be safe in their homes.
On reflection, it is surprising that this forensic spray, which has been used for many years to protect high value items from theft, is only now being used against perpetrators of domestic abuse.
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