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DNA evidence in court

By Louise Shorter,, from insidetime issue April 2012

A man in court on a rape charge had his trial abruptly halted when it was revealed that a forensic blunder very nearly had him imprisoned for a crime he did not commit


DNA evidence in court

Adam Scott from Exeter, Devon lived 190 miles away from the scene of a rape in Manchester but when police were told by LGC Forensics that crime scene DNA had produced a hit against Scott’s own DNA profile, he was arrested and charged. Scott vehemently denied ever having been to Manchester. New tests of the original crime scene sample by scientists at the lab, the second time did not match to Scott. Human error had led to the contamination.

In a statement, Scott said: “I am angry that I was falsely accused. I am angry about the amount of pain it has put me and my family through. I sincerely hope that justice comes for the victim and that the true rapist is caught. I am disgusted that it has taken this long for them to work out what went wrong.”

Sources told The Guardian newspaper, which exposed the contamination, that Adam Scott was unknown to the police team investigating the crime before the lab claimed they had a 1 in a billion DNA match to him. LGC Forensics told Inside Time “the root of the contamination was human error in the incorrect re-use of plastic trays as part of the robotic DNA extraction process.” It appears Mr Scott’s DNA profile was found in a crime scene exhibit from an unconnected charge of affray which was being processed in the same laboratory that was examining the crime scene stain from the rape.

The affray crime scene exhibit which contained Mr Scott’s DNA had been processed in a plastic tray which was then erroneously reused for a new, separate testing of the rape scene exhibits, giving the false illusion that he had been at both crime scenes. Mr Scott was later convicted of the affray charge but, as has now been proved, had not committed rape.
 
The lab at the centre of this storm added “new processes have been introduced to prevent such an error happening again and 26,000 samples that have been processed since the robotics were introduced in March 2011 have been checked to ensure they had not been contaminated. This checking is now complete and no other cases of contamination have been found.”

Yet, Adam Scott is not the first to be up against the perceived infallibility of DNA evidence. Cold case reviews of unsolved crime scene stains have led to celebrated high profile convictions but this apparent ‘barcode indicator of guilt’ is not without criticism.

Inside Justice was established in 2010 to assist prisoners who protest their innocence. So far, we’ve been alerted to 290 claims of innocence.
Three of our cases have worrying echoes of this latest case of false evidence. All are rape cases and none would have reached court
without the DNA evidence. All the men involved have no similar offending behaviour or apparent escalation of crime type leading up to a stranger rape. But the difficulty these convicted men face is proving contamination has occurred if indeed it has if the samples have been destroyed and there is no opportunity left to run a new DNA test on a retained, untested, section of a crime scene exhibit.

Establishing whether any material has been kept in archives has always been an uphill struggle for any prisoner, post conviction, as
described previously in Inside Time, and it has just become harder still. The closure of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) last month has
led to fears that already hard to access, postconviction, crime scene samples and files will become impossible to gain access to now the
laboratories and scientists no longer exist.

A letter to a firm of solicitors, seen by Inside Justice, from Chief Scientist Dr Chris Howden sets out that now the FSS has closed, all files and retained materials have been sent to a central archiving facility in Birmingham. This facility has been renamed the “Forensic Archive” and is now managed through the Home Office. Dr Howden states that prisoners and their legal representatives will no longer be able to request access and writes “it will not be possible for you to make an application for material directly to the Forensic Archive.”

He continues “applications for retrieval of materials will now only be accepted by the Police and other law enforcement agencies, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”

It is understood the Association of Chief Police Officers has provided assurances that materials relating to serious offences will be retained for 30 years and less serious offences for up to 7 years.



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Comments about this article

4/4/2012 rod

louise you where right to bring this last summer concerning FSS to the public attention.Some off us fight with solid evidence on the abuse of process in our courts and as you all know by the press this week concerning PII cases concealed special courts i exposed last year. A right to a fair trial either DNA or PII cases started increasing in 1995 under the last time conservatives government was in power as was allowed to carry on putting 1000s of innocent men/women behind bars just to show the public they where doing a fine job in the public eye as they had the press on there side creating fear in this country.The courts should be totally independant of the Government but they are not? How many Scotts are behind bars,how many have been convicted of murder on contaminated evidence, the list goes on,the whole system needs an overhaul removing the individuals in our legal profession who cover up misconduct just to get a pay check.I congratulate you for the effort you put in last year in this battle field some of us are fighting in to change the rot that has set up in all areas of our legal profession/cps/police.

8/4/2012 Lorraine -

My son is in the same situation he was sentenced last year for a rape that he didn't commit , DNA evidence was stated as a 1:1400 chance of being his so not conclusive and he was never identified, unless he confesses to the crime he has been told he will never be released. Why should he admit guilt for a crime he didn't commit just so he can get out. Your help would be gratefully appreciated in this matter

9/4/2012 rod

lorraine go back to last month issue my e.mail address is on there,need to know more,i am under s.9 CAA 1995 spent many years learning law.Might be able to help? I do not belong to a group and i do not ask for donations etc. as advice comes free of charge,more learned people should try to help not look for a quick £ to scam of someone. DNA PII cases are out of control in this country.Many will not remember Sally Clark (cot deaths) and the turmoil these so called experts put her and many more cases similair through but many innocent women are still behind bars on one persons professional testimony which was nothing but hogwash.

11/4/2012 rod

lorraine this is how it stands,if the judge gave him a fixed term in prison the following he will do inside,1. under 4 years half his sentence,2 over 4 years he will do two thrds of his sentences,3 what ever the course they are not compulsary,they use all types of threats on inmates just to fill up there classes o.k.

12/4/2012 Simon

Rod,

I thought that the rules on sentencing had been changed a few years ago? Now all inmate serve half their sentence inside (unless the get HDC) and the other half on licence.

I may be wrong, but I'm sure that's what they were coming in with before I got released.

13/4/2012 Tom Carlisle -

Simon,

You are correct, the general position is that all prisoners will serve half their sentence.

13/4/2012 Rod

thanks for that Tom,good to see you clarified it has changed now,not long ago had a word with your boss on twitter,loves golf. But the point being made originally was to do with DNA etc. It is the great effort that Louise and i in a similiar area we raised and have been fighting for to stop this misconduct going on generally in our courts etc.for a long time.Efforts should be put in the right direction to stop abuses of process in our legal /police/cps etc. under concealment of vital evidence in our courts and abuses in our prisons

16/4/2012 rod

just spent an hour looking at paddy hill talking at a meeting last week,dna,forensics police corruption/courts/ccrc is 100% correct worth looking at

18/4/2012 Rod -

When i read that 45 cases of murder students found evidence including DNA showing these individuals where innocent makes you wonder why qualified criminal lawyers did not find it?maybe because the corrupt system has not got hold of them yet,on the 23rd april to 4 th may outside the High Courts Strand they are nameing and shameing these corrupt Judges in our legal system,most full under one group of members to a society in England,they have run up the ranks by being members of such a group, when falsified documents plus the manipulation of DNA tampering plus a special court set up justice goes out the door and you have nothing left. Now honest lawyers can not get near the DNA evidence so stopping another avenue plus the reforms of legal aid reforms rushing through leaving little chance to the innocent getting the case exposed before the public, best tool is the internet worldwide,keep writing louise and fighting,hope one day to meet

18/4/2012 Mr Done -

As a wrongly accused man having served 6yrs 8mts of a 10yr sentence for a rape i DIDN'T commit i know how hard it is to prove youe innocence on 'Flimsy' DNA evidence! Once the jury hears the word 'DNA' evidence all other evidence that suggests your are innocent becomes irrelevent!
Keep up the good work Louise.

18/4/2012 rod

when paddy hill and others where released all hell broke loose,well since then nearlly 6000s of miscarriages of justice have accured but i do not see them screaming around the world what happened to them,one of them happily married in the USA,i see certain individuals also following them i have come in contact with that is why i do not follow groups, this area of law DNA can easily be abused by prosecution cases plus fingerprint evidence by transfering from A to B etc.

27/4/2012 Rod

Louise, just to let you know that the Lord Chief Justice,Lord Justice Gross,Mr. Justice Treacy are looking into seeing if P.I.I. is being abused in criminal cases which also covers D.N.A. abuses.

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This article appears under the following categories...
Appeals
Miscarriages Of Justice
Organisations

Summary of headlines for April 2012
Women’s prisons shame Britain
Current page: DNA evidence in court
Is the prison system failing Britain’s youth?
Who is responsible?
Exclusion zones or banishment
Childcare resettlement leave: A prisons’ duty to consider the best interests of the child
PRISON: A FAILED SOCIAL EXPERIMENT?
A sense of déjà vu
Psychology: off on a tangent again
Thousands of children ‘unlawfully restrained’
Weighing up the risk
Month by Month April 2012
Skills for Life
Families First
Eurovision Song Contest Baku 2012 Light your fire!
O Brave New World
Man’s inhumanity to man
We can’t go on like this
In support of gay marriage
From over the wall
The Rubies
It’s time for active equality over passive tolerance
The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
Conspiracy to Defraud & Conspiracy to Cheat

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