Hundreds of convictions in Yorkshire, potentially including rapes and murders, could be overturned amid allegations of data manipulation at a forensics lab.
Two men were arrested earlier this year by Greater Manchester Police on suspicion of perverting the course of justice over allegations that some 484 cases - over 200 of which related to Yorkshire - handled by Randox Testing Services were affected by what the National Police Chiefs’ Council called “data manipulation” of toxicology results.
The original 484 cases largely related to drug-driving offences but a police probe has now revealed more than 6,000 toxicology samples, including for murder offences, could be at risk. It is not yet known how many of the new cases that have been uncovered relate to Yorkshire.
It was revealed in March that Randox had provided toxicology services to all four of Yorkshire’s forces.
A team of forensic experts are identifying any live cases which require retesting and past cases where convictions could be unsafe, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said.
“The majority of cases affected are Road Traffic Act offences such as drug driving.
“However, RTS provided toxicology tests for other offences including rape, assault and murder so it is possible these cases could be affected,” a spokesman added.
Deputy Chief Constable James Vaughan, NPCC forensic expert, warned that the number of affected samples could change again as the investigation continues.
He said: “This is a serious breach of the very rigorous professional standards set by the Forensic Science Regulator for staff and organisations working in this critical field.
“We now have a clearer picture of the scale of this data manipulation and have been able to set out a plan of action in partnership with RTS, the Forensic Science Regulator and the CPS.
“The numbers affected could change as our investigations progress.
“We are prioritising the most serious and pressing cases but all cases where there could have been an impact on prosecution will be assessed, retested and appropriate action taken.
“It is important that we nationally prioritise retesting of samples to ensure that resubmitted samples do not flood the market and impact on other important ongoing cases.
“While there has been limited retesting to date, the evidence has shown that in the vast majority of cases, the original reporting was accurate. “
The Crown Prosecution Service has been warned that a number of cases due in court soon need retesting of samples.
The allegations came to light in January when concerns were raised about data from RTS in a drug driving case and a criminal investigation was launched by Greater Manchester Police.
Two members of staff at RTS Manchester laboratory, aged 47 and 31, were arrested and bailed on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.
RTS’s Manchester lab had its accreditation suspended on March 21 and has voluntarily suspended accreditation at its Northern Ireland site. Law firm Freeman & Co previously suggests the case of a 26-year-old Chester man who was arrested on suspicion of drug-driving has been dropped as a result of the investigation. The results claimed to show the driver was not only over the prescribed limit for cannabis, but his blood also tested positive for traces of cocaine and another, which the defendant disputed.