Questions over forensic science evidence: Police Ombudsman

Published Date: 01.03.2004

Following a decision in the Crown Court today, the Police Ombudsman will be writing to the Forensic Science Agency expressing concern about the role of the Forensic Scientist in the case.

The case involved a fatal road traffic accident where seven Police Officers present provided their account of what happened. This was contradicted by a witness. A Scientist from the Forensic Science Agency was employed to provide expert evidence of the sequence of events of the accident. The Scientist provided his findings nine months later in a thirteen page report. That report indicated that what the Officers said was incorrect and was submitted with all other evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He subsequently directed prosecution against all seven officers.

The case has been discontinued after further expert evidence has thrown doubts on the Scientist's report, and the Scientist has accepted errors in his original findings.

The Police Ombudsman's Executive Director, David Wood pointed out that the decision to prosecute was not taken by the Police Ombudsman. He added:

“Some months ago the Police Ombudsman's Office suggested that in view of concerns expressed through the media and elements of the Judiciary about some of the work of the Forensic Science Agency Northern Ireland that the forensic report in this particular case be reviewed. In view of there being no specific information casting doubt on the report the Director of Public Prosecutions refused to let the Police Ombudsman secure a further forensic report at that stage. Our non-specific concerns have now turned to reality in this case.

The case largely revolved around forensic evidence and it is regrettable to all concerned that the errors in the Scientist's findings have emerged so late. Seven officers have been suspended whilst this case has been pending.”


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