Mason Boycott-OwenSat, 27 March 2021, 8:45 pm
Three quarters of police officers say they have seen evidence lost or destroyed, as a report reveals negligent forces are “the blind leading the blind.”
The research carried out by Inside Justice, which looked at all 43 police forces in England and Wales, found that 77 per cent of officers they spoke to had been unable to locate exhibits.
Two thirds had seen evidence stored incorrectly, often directly impacting the outcome of their investigations.
Officers across cases such as murder and sexual offences told researchers that forces did not understand the the consequences of mistreating evidence, adding: “if people found out how bad it is, and what we did.”
Justice charities have told the Telegraph that “confidence of the whole criminal justice system is at stake”, for victims of crimes as well as those who may have been wrongly imprisoned when evidence is lost and destroyed.
The findings, revealed today by the Telegraph, also found that almost three quarters of criminal justice practitioners, such as lawyers, said that they had worked on cases where evidence had been lost, contaminated or even destroyed.
A third said that they were unable to launch an appeal against someone’s conviction because of missing evidence.
The National Police Chiefs Council issues strict guidance on how evidence such as swabs, murder weapons and clothing must be stored during an investigation.
For the most serious cases, such as murder, evidence should be kept for 30 years before it is reviewed.
Freedom of Information requests have revealed that only 8 police forces cited this NPCC guidance for storing their evidence, with some forces saying they follow either out of date or completely irrelevant guidelines.
Statements given to researchers from Inside Justice and Northumbria University revealed that officers in UK forces are aware of the poor practice.
A senior police officer working in homicide, child abuse and counter-terrorism, said: “You literally had to squeeze exhibits into places with other evidence – that’s cross-contamination… There’s holes everywhere.”
One senior officer investigating sexual offences and homicides said: “You’d be really surprised at how rubbish we are at understanding the impact of it – if people found out how bad it is, and what we did.”
“Things go missing all the time,” said one provider of forensic services for the police, while a former detective revealed that “supervisors now don’t understand the procedures themselves – it’s like the blind leading the blind.”
Louise Shorter, Founder of Inside Justice, told the Telegraph: “If evidence is destroyed or not kept properly, criminals may evade conviction or innocent people in jail can’t be freed.
“Confidence in the whole criminal justice system is at stake – from victims right through to the highest courts.
“Imagine the horror of being in prison for something you haven’t done only to be told that evidence which could objectively prove your innocence has been lost or destroyed.
“The murder conviction of Barri White was quashed and the real killer convicted because evidence from the murder had been properly stored. If the evidence had been lost, as Inside Justice has seen in so many other cases, an innocent man would still be in jail and a dangerous killer free to attack more victims.
“It is vitally important that all material – swabs, clothing, weapons – gathered during a police investigation, not just the evidence used in court, is carefully stored.
“HM Inspectorate of Constabulary must bring this within their audit regime and police forces must systematically train staff to apply the guidance provided by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Criminal Procedure & Investigation Act 1996.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Under the Code of Practice issued to police, any officer investigating alleged crimes has a duty to record and retain evidence which may be relevant to the investigation.
“This is an operational matter, but we work closely with policing partners to ensure standards are upheld.”
NO WONDER OUR BRITISH JUSTICE SYSTEM IS SO SCREWED UP!!! I HAD BLAMED THE JUSTICES BUT THE FAULT NOW LIES WITH THE POLICE BECAUSE IF 77% OF OFFICERS MISPLACED EVIDENCE, THEN YOU AREN’T GOING TO GET JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF CRIME WHICH COULD EXPLAIN WHY THE LAW IS SOFT ON PERPETRATORS OF CRIME. REALLY MAKES SENSE NOW!!!