Dozens of offences quashed after forensic manipulation
More than 10,500 test results under review after ‘most serious breach of forensic science standards in living memory’, says police chief
At least 40 motorists convicted of drug-driving offences have been cleared after it emerged evidence had been manipulated by scientists in the biggest forensics scandal in decades.
In what the National Police Chiefs' Council’s head of forensics James Vaughan described as “the most serious breach of forensic science standards in my living memory,” around 10,500 test results are being reviewed after data was allegedly manipulated at Randox Testing Services.
As well as the 40 drivers whose convictions have been quashed, a further 50 drug-driving cases have been dropped as a result of the allegations against the firm’s Manchester laboratory.
Based on the samples retested so far Vaughan says the rate of flawed results appeared to be about 3% or lower.
However, according to The Guardian “in some cases (the) retesting process has proved impossible because some samples have been destroyed in line with storage regulations, or they have degraded over time”.
A team of 12 detectives have so far interviewed eight suspects over the alleged forensic data manipulation which dates back to 2014.
Randox, which is used by 42 of the UK’s 43 police forces, has had all its police contracts suspended and two men who worked at the laboratory have been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says the operation to review the 10,500 Randox cases is “unprecedented”.
It is likely to cost the firm £2.5m to pay for samples to be re-tested by other laboratories, while the police may also face compensation claims from drivers whose careers and livelihoods have been affected.
Vaughan said the scandal had created a “perfect storm” for an already stretched police forensics service now facing huge demand for re-testing in the investigation and the loss of RTS, which is no longer being used by forces.
The Daily Telegraph says “a knock-on effect could be delays in investigations and prosecutions across the UK”.
“But the most significant impact of this disturbing affair may be on public confidence in forensic science: can we be sure that the test results we almost take for granted are accurate?” says Shaw.