Almost 2,000 criminal cases across Yorkshire have been affected by a major forensics ‘data tampering’ scandal - with the handful of samples reviewed so far resulting in prosecutions being dropped and some convictions found to be unsafe.
Over 10,000 cases across the country have been affected, largely in drug-driving cases, but also more serious matters including violent crime, sexual offences and unexplained deaths.
Two men were arrested earlier this year over the alleged manipulation of forensics results at a Randox Testing Services site in Manchester and it was initially believed 484 cases were affected. But further investigations have revealed thousands more cases are in question.
West Yorkshire Police said 470 of its cases had been affected, largely in relation to road traffic offences. Of the 50 cases to be reviewed so far, more than half are affected. Thirteen have been discontinued before a prosecution, with a further 13 where someone has been convicted of a drug or drink-driving offence found to have “either have an insufficient sample to complete a retest, or on retesting, show a result under the legal limit”.
The Crown Prosecution Service will be informing defendants in cases where there are now doubts about the safety of a conviction.
It is believed the full retesting programme could take up to three years to complete because of the limited number of specialists available to conduct the work.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the force is facing an “extremely challenging situation” as a result of what has happened.
North Yorkshire Police said 493 of its cases had been affected, with more than 70 samples identified as “priority cases” and submitted for retesting.
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said: “This is one of the most serious issues I have come across during my five years in this role, with far reaching consequences both locally and nationally."
Humberside Police has 250 affected cases and of the 13 samples retested so far, six cases have been closed.
South Yorkshire Police said 694 of its cases had been affected and of the 99 results received so far, 20 samples were found either to be under the legal limit or could not be retested.
Yorkshire’s four police forces all make use of services provided from a lab in Wakefield through a company called LGC.
LGC outsourced toxicology work for the Yorkshire forces, as well as those in Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria, to Randox as part of their contract to provide services.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has said three-quarters of the cases involving Manchester-based Randox Testing Services, across 42 police forces, were traffic offences such as drug driving, with the rest including violent crime, sexual offences and unexplained deaths.
Retests have so far found no impact on cases of sexual offence cases, violence or homicide, the NPCC said.
But a number of retests had resulted in drug driving cases being discontinued and two road deaths had been referred to the Court of Appeal.
Of the around 50 cases due to go to trial which have been dropped nationally, some were discontinued due to there being no sample available for retesting, the sample was insufficient in quality or quantity to allow retesting or there had been degradation of evidence.
Two men have been arrested and five interviewed under caution by Greater Manchester Police over the alleged manipulation by individuals working at a Randox Testing Services site in Manchester.
The alleged manipulation emerged earlier this year when a data anomaly in a drug driving case was reported to Randox.
It has also been revealed results from a second laboratory are now under investigation - with child protection and family court cases potentially affected.
Results from a second Manchester-based laboratory called Trimega are being examined, with child protection and family court cases dealt with between 2010 and April 2014 potentially affected. It is understood the two suspects arrested in connection with the alleged malpractice at Randox also worked for Trimega.
The company was involved in hair strand testing for drug and alcohol use in proceedings where courts were making decisions about a child’s upbringing.