Parliament hears criminal trials in jeopardy, children wrongly taken away from parents in growing forensic services privatisation crisis
BREAKING: Shocking details of the scandal behind the urgent review of 10,000 criminal cases possibly tainted by faulty or manipulated forensic data have been aired in an emergency parliamentary debate.
Westminster heard how the Government had been warned that “murders and rapists will go free” because of their policy of privatising forensic services.
Judges’ adoption and fostering decisions have relied on questionable forensic data too.
“What assurance can the minister give that children haven’t been removed under false forensic evidence?” asked Labour MP Chris Elmore as parliament heard how the government had ignored repeated warnings from the all party science and technology committee, the regulator and forensic scientists.
Instead this integral part of the country’s justice system had been reorganised and privatised as part of austerity cuts.
The Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott had asked for an urgent statement from the Home Secretary on the growing scandal.
But Policing and Fire Services Minister Nick Hurd stood in for Amber Rudd and faced a barrage of questions from the opposition, which he accused of being “driven by tribal politics.”
But Graham Stringer MP hit back pointing to “three reports – not one or two – reports of the science and technology committee – all party – that criticised his government’s Home Office – for not consulting Professor Silverman – who was the Scientific adviser to the Home Office.”
The Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton also brought up the repeated warnings of “Dr Tully – now the regulator of the forensic science services who said that murders and rapists will go free because of changes that his government made,” adding, “not one party – all parties made that conclusion.”
Replacing a national forensics service with the private market in a climate of austerity has been as botched as those who worked in the field predicted. Operators are trying to get out of the sector and LGC, Britain’s biggest provider recently sold its forensics security wing to a European company. Police have suspended forensic tests with another provider Randox after two scientists were arrested on suspicion of tampering with data.
“In January Randox Testing Services informed Greater Manchester Police that here may have been manipulation of test results at their laboratories,” admitted Home Office Minister Nick Hurd, adding: “ongoing police investigations have uncovered that the same manipulation may also have occurred at Trimega Laboratories. Criminal investigations by Greater Manchester Police into alleged manipulation of toxicology results are still ongoing.”
SNP MP Carol Monaghan MP accused the government of ignoring “warning signs” about Trimega “which had seen children almost taken into care on the basis of erroneous evidence.
“This major mistake should have been a red flag to the government,” she added, insisting that had shown how “privatisation of vital elements of the justice system without proper oversight can lead to errors or deliberate tampering.”
Shadow home secretary Dianne Abbott asked “is it true that ministers did not consult the chief scientific adviser on the decision to privatise the forensic service – merely informed him of the decision two weeks before announcing it?”
In what has rapidly become “the biggest forensic science scandal for decades,” the shadow home secretary explained how not consulting “evidence used in sex cases, violent crimes, driving cases and unexplained deaths” and highlighted the concerns of both victims of such crimes and those possibly wrongly convicted. “
Abbott demanded that the Government reveal the full scale of the scandal, whether other labs that had been contracted since the service was privatised may be involved in the scandal and what the likely cost to the public purse from retesting, criminal investigations, retrials and possible litigation might be.
Forensic experts had warned since the Conservatives entered power in 2010 and first suggested privatising the nation’s forensic services that it could lead to mass miscarriages of justice.
Now in the biggest recall of forensic samples in British criminal justice history, it appears that evidence from Randox Testing’s Manchester laboratory may have been manipulated. And that the same issues may have occurred at Trimega between 2010 and 2014.
Around 50 trials have been dropped over the scandal, and two road deaths have been referred to the Court of Appeal. – A fraction of the cases possibly affected across 42 police force areas in England and Wales.
Newport West MP Paul Flynn denied Nick Hurd’s claim that Labour were politicising the issue. He told the House of Commons today that the Government were at odds with the opposition and the scientific community. In a comment after the emergency debate, the former scientist and Labour MP told The London Economic: “False results are very rare – either by malice or incompetence.
“There is a proud record of scientific integrity among laboratory technicians. Without reaching conclusions on this case, there were early warnings from the scientific community in 2012 that removing forensics into the world of commerce would expose its results to the dangers of manipulation.”
Urgent Question: Forensic evidence: Alleged manipulation Full Debate
Posted by Parliament Today UK on Monday, 27 November 2017
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