The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) working with the Forensic Services Regulator, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Home Office have set up a team of forensic experts to work with police forces to prioritise samples for retesting. This process will identify any live cases which require retesting and any past cases where convictions could be unsafe.
The Forensic Science Regulator and police were first notified of this issue in January when a concern was raised about data integrity in a drug driving case in which the forensic analytical work was performed by RTS. RTS investigated the matter and a criminal investigation was launched by Greater Manchester Police. As a result, two individuals have been arrested.
The NPCC worked with partners to identify the scale of manipulation. It was initially thought that 484 samples could have been affected.
The majority of cases affected are Road Traffic Act offences such as drug driving. However, RTS provided toxicology tests for other offences including rape, assault, and murder so it is possible these cases could be affected.
Alternative accredited providers will undertake retesting. While all evidence so far suggests that this is isolated to two individuals, the Forensic Science Regulator has asked all providers to carry out audits to ensure the integrity of other forensic providers.
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. ”
Greater Manchester Police are conducting a criminal investigation into the manipulation by two members of staff at RTS Manchester laboratory.
Accreditation was suspended at RTS’s Manchester lab on March 21 and they have voluntarily suspended accreditation at the Northern Ireland site.
An investigation by the Forensic Science Regulator has determined that no toxicology results from RTS forensic toxicology results from RTS should be relied on as it is not possible to conclusively rule out manipulation.
RTS have fully cooperated with this investigation and they have engaged external accredited laboratories to carry out the retesting and are covering associated retesting costs.
Manipulation relates to the data that supports the sample. There is no evidence that this involved manipulation of the samples themselves.
Where retesting is not possible, a full disclosure pack will be created and passed to the CPS for review and to determine appropriate action.
Work is ongoing to determine how many forces may be affected by this manipulation, as Randox Testing Services provided testing directly to some forces but were sub-contractors to other providers.
The CPS has been made aware of some cases that are soon to be heard in court that require retesting of samples to ensure they are accurate. The CPS has advised prosecutors, for those cases where we are relying on positive tests as part of our prosecution, to request adjournments so the data can be retested.