Possible Miscarriages Of Justice Due To Manipulated Test Results
The Law Of… compromising forensic results
The arrest of 2 employees of an organisation responsible for the forensic testing of blood, saliva and hair samples for police forces throughout the UK, has led to fears that as many as 484 criminal investigations could have been compromised. Julie Robertson, Head of Motoring and Criminal Offences at Simpson Millar, takes a look at the developing scandal.
Once handled by the state run Forensic Science Service, forensic testing in the UK was privatised in 2012, resulting in police forces either undertaking their own analysis in-house, or outsourcing the work to private companies. One such company is RTS (Randox Testing Services), which has the contract to carry out diagnostic support for the majority of forces within the UK.
It is at Randox's Manchester toxicology lab that the arrests were made.
Perverting The Course Of Justice
Police were called following an internal investigation and 2 men, aged 47 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, a charge, if proven, that carries a possible life sentence for the accused. The case centres on the manipulation of quality control data for toxicology reports, which RTS – keen to mitigate negative fallout from the news of the arrests and 'inaccurate reporting' by some news agencies – stress is not related to any 'fixing' of, or tampering with actual samples. The forensic science company is also underlining the fact that the Manchester laboratory, to which the deception is restricted, does not conduct alcohol analysis for drink-driving offences.
Tory MP, Tim Loughton, whose government was responsible for the service's privatisation in the first place, said of the incident:
"Serious questions need to be asked about how this was able to happen, and what checks and balances are in place to scrutinise the quality of results that affect people's lives."
"Two of the most disquieting aspects of this story are the volume of samples that may be affected and whether any of the manipulated data resulted in convictions that would now be regarded as unsafe. If that is the case, then the possibility of miscarriages of justice having occurred is worryingly real."
"What is also concerning is how this was allowed to happen in the first place. Randox claim that its quality system 'complies with global best practice and is fit for the purpose', but that didn't prevent the rogue employees, for whatever reasons, committing these acts."
"This is likely to affect many facing the possibility of criminal prosecution, particularly those under investigation for drug or alcohol-related driving offences."
"Where a person's freedom is at stake, the systems in place for safeguarding against errors or malicious intent need to be absolutely infallible. Anybody who has been affected by this will now have their samples reanalysed, but even if only one person was convicted because of compromised data, it is one too many and should never have been allowed to happen in the first place."
"Anyone who is concerned, and facing prosecution for a drug or alcohol driving offence, is advised to get specialist legal advice from an expert motoring offence lawyer, with the necessary experience to help."