Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A matter of trust

When it comes to forensic science and police work a lot of trust has to be in the procedures involved. It has to be robust and as nearly flaw free as possible and mistakes should be rectified quickly or eliminated by the investigatory process. Stands to reason, after all this is what happens when the system doesn't work...
An innocent man spent five months in jail falsely accused of rape following a DNA blunder.
Adam Scott, 20, was arrested after a plastic tray containing a sample of his saliva was re-used by a forensics company.
It meant his saliva was wrongly linked to a violent attack on a woman in Manchester – carried out when he was hundreds of miles away in Plymouth.
Yesterday a report by the forensics watchdog found he was the ‘innocent victim of avoidable contamination’.
The Forensic Science Regulator said the lack of records meant it was impossible to work out which laboratory technician was behind the mistake – meaning they are likely to have kept their job.
The watchdog has allowed the firm, LGC Forensics, to keep its licence despite fears of other miscarriages of justice.
Mr Scott had been arrested and a saliva sample taken after a street fight. But the tray holding his DNA was re-used for the rape test and a positive match showed up.
Now the guy is clearly no saint hence the arrest for a street brawl, however the mistake could have been quickly rectified by 'normal' police work as the incident happened in Manchester and Mr. Scott has never been to Manchester and had the phone records to prove it. Yet the police still took the word of LGC Forensics that this was their guy, despite clear evidence in the real world that it wasn't! As it is, his life has been blighted and he's from all accounts had a pretty bad time of it on the sexual predator wing of the prison, prisoners themselves not liking rapists or paedo's.
Yet the company, despite a previous case where the rapist is still free, will not lose its license, and owing to poor documentation the employee who put Mr. Scott in jail cannot be identified and so is still in a position to possibly cock things up.
Yes, mistakes are rare, but cases like this only underline just how easily trust in the system can be undermined and the time taken to rectify the mistake is also very, very disturbing. The fact that the company involved is more or less getting off scot free does not aid our confidence in the system either.
Mr. Scott will no doubt be aiming for a big wad of compensation, I don't blame him for this, however instead of coming out of the public purse, perhaps it should be coming out of the profits of LGC.

4 annotations:

Anonymous said...

England used to have a particularly efficient police forensic service, until Labour decided that it would be cheaper and more efficient were it to be privatised.

I wonder how many of Labour's donors or ex ministers have interests in forensic labs.

MTG said...

Excepting those areas where resolution is still achieved by coin tossing, Forensic Science is the loyal, disciplined and precise servant of Justice.

Anonymous said...

A half decent ambulance chaser will get compo from both.

Anonymous said...

No DNA database for me not cos I have nothing to hide but I fear having to prove I have nothing to hide. Certainly with these muppets around