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Convictions for drug-driving overturned after forensic testing investigation

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Alice Sanderson, December 07, 2018

Over 40 motorists convicted of drug-driving offences have had their convictions overturned after evidence of data manipulation by a forensic testing company was found.

Serious breach of standards

Around 10,500 test results from Radox Testing Services are currently being reviewed across 42 police forces after the alleged data manipulation was discovered.

A further 50 cases have been dropped by the CPS after the issues at the firm’s Manchester laboratory were discovered.

The majority of the work carried out at the laboratory involves analysing the blood samples of people who have been arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs.

The 40 motorists whose convictions have been overturned so far were fined or banned from driving, but were not imprisoned.

It has been described as a “most serious breach of forensic science standards” by the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) lead on forensics, James Vaughan.

42 of the UK’s 43 police forces worked with the company, but in November last year the police suspended all contracts with the firm.

Two accused of perverting the course of justice

Two men who worked at the laboratories have been arrested by Greater Manchester Police on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

An additional six have been interviewed under caution and one remains under investigation, in what has been described as an ‘expansive’ criminal enquiry by Justice Minister Lucy Frazier.

Case reviews

So far 2,700 cases have been reviewed, with two cases that resulted in road deaths having been referred to the Court of Appeal. One of these motorists had their sentenced reduced, but both convictions were upheld.

There were no cases of serious violence, rape or sex offences.

90% of the highest priority cases have been retested and this is expected to have been completed by April 2019, with the rest of the lower priority cases due to be re-examined by the end of next year.

Comment

Mr Vaughan says the scandal has caused a knock-on effect for investigations and prosecutions across the UK: “There was already a chronic shortage of toxicology capacity in England and Wales that has been further exacerbated by the fact that RTS gave up their accreditation. We have a perfect storm,” he said.

Spokesperson for First4Lawyers, Andrew Cullwick says: “This controversy clearly shows the reliance on forensic testing in criminal prosecutions, and how it can so easily be affected by outside factors. The lack of forensic labs across the UK is an issue that needs to be addressed in order to prevent something like this happening again.

Victims of drug-driving related road traffic accidents may now be worried that anyone convicted of harming them will have their conviction overturned, and the delay in testing will only extend this worry. We hope that the retesting will be done ahead of schedule, and we hope not to see a scandal such as this again.”