10:27, February 19 490 0 theguardian.com

2017-02-19 10:27:09
Manchester lab's drink and drug tests may have been manipulated

Hundreds of drink and drug tests may have been manipulated by staff at a forensics lab – with almost 500 police investigations under review.

Two employees of Randox Testing Services (RTS), which analyses blood, saliva and hair samples on behalf of police forces, have been arrested by Greater Manchester police.

RTS blamed the “perverse actions of individuals” and said the issue “came to light as a result of an internal investigation” at its Manchester site.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s forensic science lead, Ch Const Debbie Simpson, confirmed a criminal inquiry had started into the “quality failure” and that 484 potentially affected cases would need to be reviewed.

Forces around the country will now determine “if compromised data played a part in prosecution and the CPS will then take appropriate action”, added Simpson.

It raises the possibility that hundreds of people could have been the victims of miscarriages of justice because of convictions based on incorrect toxicology test results in their cases.

An RTS statement said the manipulation was of quality control data supporting the test results – not the samples themselves. It added that no alcohol samples were affected and that some samples could be “rerun to provide robust, uncompromised results”.

The government closed down the independent state-run Forensic Science Service in 2012 amid multimillion-pound annual losses.

Forensic testing is now either done in-house by police forces or outsourced to private companies.

Last month, official regulator Dr Gillian Tully told the Guardian further cuts to the forensic science budget would compromise quality and damage the British justice system.

RTS, based in Northern Ireland with offices in London and Manchester, says on its website that it is “a world leader in clinical diagnostic solutions with offices and distribution in over 145 countries”.

It is part of the Randox Labratories group, which includes Randox Health, the sponsor of UK horse racing’s premier event, the Grand National.

RTS’s website adds that it is “entrusted by the majority of UK police forces to provide forensic toxicology testing”.

In a statement on the website it said the issue “came to light as a result of an internal investigation” and that the investigation was limited to its Manchester site, and two men who worked there for three years.

GMP said two men, aged 47 and 31, had been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice and bailed until next month.

A GMP spokeswoman confirmed it had been asked to investigate forensic results issued by Randox Testing Services.

She added: “Randox Testing Services have provided forensic services to police forces, including GMP, for the past two years. The organisation is being fully co-operative (with) the investigation.”