It has been reported that the arrests of two men who work at a forensic science laboratory on suspicion of perverting the course of justice may lead to hundreds of cases being reviewed.
Ordinarily, people consider forensic evidence to be a panacea in solving cases - and an infallible mechanism for reaching the truth. However, it is often forgotten that behind the science lies human beings. Human beings and forensic testing are both vulnerable to manipulation.
The company involved, Randox Testing Services (RTS) has confirmed that a number of toxicology results have been compromised. They have also confirmed that “Where possible, when viable, samples will be re-run to provide robust, uncompromised results.”
It is not clear from the reports what the nature of the manipulation is, but RTS have been quick to assert that this is the result of the actions of rogue employees.
It is also not entirely clear what sort of evidence may have been manipulated. The news reports suggest that the evidence relates to toxicology and the RTS website states that the activities under question “restricted to the processing of toxicology quality control data.”
Nevertheless, the National Police Chiefs' Council has been sufficiently concerned that compromised data may have adversely affected outcomes of cases that guidance has been provided to the Police forces affected.
It remains to be seen how many cases may have been affected. RTS estimate that it may be between 50 and 484 cases. Of those cases, it is perfectly possible that the forensic evidence will not have made a material difference to a case. However, it is also perfectly possible that given the faith that is placed in forensic evidence - in a number of cases, the manipulation of data may have been a determining factor.
It is anticipated that the Police and CPS will be in contact with those whose case may have been affected by this issue. In criminal cases, depending on the nature of the evidence, this may give rise to an appeal. Whereas, regulated professionals, for example accountants who have faced ICAEW disciplinary investigations, doctors that have faced GMC fitness to practice complaints or solicitors who have been the subject of SRA investigations, may be able to reopen any findings made against them where they are based on convictions resulting from this impugned evidence.