Forensic lab potential data manipulation casts doubt on thousands of criminal cases
Over 10,000 criminal cases are due to be reviewed by Police following an alleged manipulation of forensic data at Randox Testing, a laboratory in Manchester responsible for analysing evidence of drug driving, sexual offences and violent crimes.
The Forensic Service Regulator and the Police were first notified of a potential issue arising from the test results back in January 2017 by Randox Testing. Randox Testing carried out an investigation following which two people were arrested. However an investigation by the Guardian reveals that Randox Testing bought Trimega which had previously come under scrutiny for the quality of its work dating back to 2012. In that case Trimega had wrongly informed a court in care proceedings that a mother of two young children had been using cocaine and opiates. Upon realising the error Trimega withheld an apology for fear of rivals using it to their commercial advantage. Trimega were heavily criticised by the High Court. Two senior employees of Trimega remained at Randox in prominent positions.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) working with the Forensic Services Regulator, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office have set up a team of independent forensic experts to work with the various Police Forces affected in order to prioritise samples for retesting. It is understood that the manipulation relates to the data that supports the sample and does not involve manipulation of the samples themselves.
National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for the Forensic Marketplace, DCC James Vaughan said:
“The integrity of forensic science in criminal justice is crucial in the investigation and prosecution of crime and keeping people safe.
“This is a serious breach of the very rigorous professional standards set by the Forensic Science Regulator for staff and organisations working in this critical field.
“We now have a clearer picture of the scale of this data manipulation and have been able to set out a plan of action in partnership with RTS, the Forensic Science Regulator, and the CPS. The numbers affected could change as our investigations progress.
“We are prioritising the most serious and pressing cases but all cases where there could have been an impact on prosecution will be assessed, retested and appropriate action taken.
“It is important that we nationally prioritise retesting of samples to ensure that resubmitted samples do not flood the market and impact on other important ongoing cases.
“While there has been limited retesting to date, the evidence has shown that in the vast majority of cases, the original reporting was accurate. ”
The NPCC further state that Randox Testing have “fully cooperated with this investigation and they have engaged external accredited laboratories to carry out the retesting and are covering associated retesting costs”.
Dr Mark Piper, the toxicology manager at Randox Testing has said:
“We have acted as whistleblower to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system. We will continue to work with Greater Manchester Police and the appropriate authorities in the investigation. We will do all that we can to ensure this situation is resolved and deeply regret the distress that has been caused."
It is estimated that it will take up to three years to retest the evidence in the 10,000 cases thought to have potentially been affected. Around 50 cases that were due to go on trial have been dropped and two road deaths have been referred to the Court of Appeal.
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