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Firm's collapse into receivership sees forensic scandal retests delayed

The closure of the Forensic Science Service in 2012 led to an increased reliance on private sector providers competing to offer services to police forces at the lowest cost.
The closure of the Forensic Science Service in 2012 led to an increased reliance on private sector providers competing to offer services to police forces at the lowest cost.
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Work to reassess evidence in more than 10,000 criminal cases connected with a national forensics scandal is being delayed by the collapse of one of the companies asked to conduct the retests.

Secret guidance casts fresh doubt on safety of thousands of convictions

Key Forensic Services was one of the firms given the responsibility of retesting samples thrown into question by alleged data manipulation by a pair of scientists at a company called Randox Testing Services, which provided services to all of Yorkshire’s police forces and dozens of others around the country.

Around 2,000 cases in Yorkshire have been affected and the small number of retests conducted so far has already seen dozens of convictions found to be unsafe and other planned prosecutions dropped. Nationally, most cases relate to drug-driving, but hundreds of murders, sudden deaths, fatal road accidents and sex offence cases are also affected.

But KFS, which itself was handling a variety of work in work in 2,000 cases for 30 forces, went into receivership last month - resulting in police bailing out the company to keep it running for three months to finish processing outstanding cases and find a buyer.

It has now been confirmed that one of KFS’s jobs is to conduct the retesting work relating to the Randox criminal investigation. In a written answer to Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh last week, Home Office minister Nick Hurd confirmed this was the case and efforts were now under way to redistribute the work, which was already scheduled to take up to three years to complete.

A National Police Chiefs Council spokesman said: “Key Forensics entering administration will cause some delay to the retesting of the samples collected from RTS. However, the NPCC, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and Home Office are working tirelessly alongside the remaining providers to minimise the impact this delay will have upon the criminal justice system.”

Louise Haigh, who is also Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, said the situation is the latest of series of problems to hit the sector since the Government closed down its Forensic Science Service in 2012 in favour of private sector providers competing to provide services.

“The collapse of Key Forensics shows the service is lurching from one crisis to the next and the blame lies squarely at the door of a Government which first privatised forensics and then washed their hands of the fall-out which has inevitably followed as corners were cut in the pursuit of profit,” she said.

Regulator's work being 'dominated' by scandal

The work of the forensic science industry watchdog is being ‘dominated’ by the fallout to the Randox scandal.

The annual report of the Forensic Science Regulator, published last month, said that in 2017 other work it had planned to carry out had been delayed as it dealt with the issues surrounding alleged data manipulation by a pair of scientists working for Randox in Manchester.

But the report added: “It is important to recognise that although the impact of these issues has been large, they arose from the actions of a very small number of individuals and should not be taken as a reflection on forensic scientists more widely.”