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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

DNA and the takeaway

I have spent a lot of time on this blog bemoaning the Government's policy of collecting as much DNA as possible on a database and the implications this has for civil liberties. I even have outstanding freedom of information requests to the Welsh police forces to establish how many minors and innocent people they are holding DNA samples on.

Despite this I have never really been a conspiracy sort of person preferring to attribute strange coincidences and unacceptable practices to cock-ups rather than the often more obvivious option. Paranoia can often follow otherwise.

It is heartening therefore to have my faith in human nature and the inability of the British authorities to get most things right reinforced by stories such as this one:

Cambridgeshire's police force was warned yesterday that its shoddy handling of forensic material could lead to miscarriages of justice after DNA samples were found in a fridge alongside a half-eaten takeaway meal.

The police and prison inspectorates found the force had "ill-defined" audit trails for samples, leading to forensic material being binned when it was needed for court cases. Other samples were found stored with "unsealed foodstuffs", including congealed blood which was kept with raw meat in a freezer, raising the risk of contamination.

The report said: "Fridges were full of forensic samples that had not been dealt with and there was widespread evidence of systemic failings in the handling, storing and destruction of forensic and DNA samples.

"The situation was highly unsatisfactory, with potential failings to bring offenders to justice and cases being unnecessarily discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service as a result of police failings. This raised the prospect of miscarriages of justice and had serious implications for the administration of justice and maintaining public confidence in forensic or DNA evidence."

I wonder what the local environmental health department might have said if they had discovered such a system in a local restaurant? I am unlikely to ever visit this police station but if I do I will make a point of not accepting any hospitality off them. On the other hand if a chicken tikka masala is arrested for a series of crimes in Cambridgeshire then I will know what has happened.
What an absolute gift to a defence barrister
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