Investigation launched into the potential mishandling of forensic evidence by suspended scientist

Scotland Yard has launched an urgent review into 33 criminal investigations following allegations that a forensic scientist within the Metropolitan Police mishandled evidence.

The unnamed scientist in question was suspended from her duties in March of this year for failing to ‘complete the requisite forensic examinations and in some case[s] wrongly informed investigators about the progress of forensic examinations’.

It is believed that the cases in question, handled by the suspended scientist, had resulted in convictions.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson explained: ‘We are urgently conducting a review to understand whether there is any risk to the criminal justice process and to take remedial action where necessary.’ An internal review found that, out of the 33 criminal investigations potentially affected, 21 relate to rape and sexual offences, whilst the remaining 12 relate to burglary, violence and drug offences. All these cases occurred within the period of 2012 to 2017.

The spokesperson added that ‘[a]ll victims in the affected cases have been contacted, where it has been deemed appropriate to do so. In the case of the investigations into rape and sexual assaults, victims have been contacted by a Sexual Offences Investigative Techniques officer’.

‘In order to be reassured that this issue is not more far-reaching, we have completed a full audit of scientists’ workloads within the department, and are satisfied that there are no other instances of undeclared casework.’

The review has plunged forensic services into an even deeper crisis following the decision to close the publicly owned Forensic Science Service (FSS) in 2012. That decision meant police forces had to employ private services or set up in-house forensics, with the Met selecting the latter option.

Since that closure, another investigation was launched into the alleged manipulation of data by the private forensics firm, Randox. In that case, it is thought that some 10,000 cases were affected nationwide.

In addition, Key Forensics Services, another private forensics service provider, collapsed earlier this year potentially affecting thousands of cases.

Earlier this year, Dr Gillian Tully, the government’s Forensic Science Regulator, published a critical report into the effects of legal aid and policing cuts on the quality of forensics services (read about this here).

This latest case has been referred to the Forensic Science Regulator.

This article first appeared on May 10, 2018

Author: Calum McCrae

Calum is presently working at the California Innocence Project. He was previously an intern at the University of Greenwich’s Innocence Project London. He volunteers as a Justice Gap reporter

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