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May 12th 2017

Civil Liberties

Hundreds of convictions could be overturned following investigation into police drug samples being manipulated

Vicky Richardson

Vicky Richardson

Manager, Civil Liberties

Hundreds of convictions could be overturned following investigation into police drug samples being manipulated

It is truly shocking that we find ourselves looking at a situation where hundreds of people charged and found guilty of crimes could eventually be found to have been the victims of foul play themselves.

It is truly shocking that we find ourselves looking at a situation where hundreds of people charged and found guilty of crimes could eventually be found to have been the victims of foul play themselves.

Serious question marks are now hanging over the convictions of people across the UK following revelations that 6,000 drug test data samples may have been manipulated when sent for analysis at a laboratory used by police forces across the UK.

Retests are now required on these samples as doubts have been cast over the integrity of the results which came back from Manchester-based Randox Testing Services (RTS), where two employees, aged 31 and 47, were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice earlier this year.

Initially we were told only a few hundred cases may have been affected. Now we are informed some 6,000 samples are in question.

Cases with missing drugs samples could lead to serious challenges over convictions

They were taken from suspects and alleged victims dating back to 2014, and are from investigations mainly into drug-driving cases, but some could also involve rape and murder.

The question is, how many of these cases resulted in unjust convictions?

Equally, this investigation could lead to suspects who were not charged being prosecuted if retests show toxicology levels higher than the police were informed.

A further issue comes in that it has been reported that only 90 per cent of the original drug-test samples exists.

Of course, it is unlikely a murder conviction would hinge solely on the outcome of a drugs test, but it certainly could play a major role in a rape case if drugs were suspected, and in driving convictions, which although far more minor, can still have a significant impact on an individual’s life.

Police Council admits ‘scores’ of convictions could be overturned

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) admits “scores” of convictions could now be overturned in cases where no samples still exist to be retested – and it therefore has a huge problem on its hands.

Some court cases are already having to be postponed to allow for the data to be retested, and this situation undermines the trust we all have in the justice system to accurately investigate crimes and bring people to book on hard evidence.

As the investigation firstly looks to ensure individuals have not been wronged, it must also look to ensure measures are put in place for the future to ensure there can be no repeat of this situation.

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