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Flawed forensic evidence – a ground for appeal?

Flawed forensic evidence – a ground for appeal?

There has been much media speculation recently concerning a number of convictions which are currently being reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) following an announcement that several cases appear to have been based on flawed forensic evidence. In May 2017, The Times reported that as a result of this issue, approximately 600 toxicology tests were being repeated. Exactly how far the CPS have got with this is unclear, but the whole affair is indicative of the way our justice system has been left to decay. Individuals falsely and wrongly accused of crimes they never committed and the failures of the police and CPS to disclose vital evidence is the latest scandal which exposes how inherently unjust and unfair our criminal justice system can be.

Although it cannot be stated with any certainty how many cases are likely to be affected by the issue of flawed forensic evidence or data tampering, the impact, even if it were just one case, will be devastating for the person concerned.

Are you concerned about your conviction?

If you have been convicted, or you know someone who has, and the basis of that conviction was forensic evidence, you should seek advice.

Can I lodge an appeal?

The answer to this will depend on a number of factors such as the nature of the case, the nature of the forensic evidence, who carried out the forensic tests and when.

If data tampering can be proved then certainly there is every chance that a convicted person can ask either the Court of Appeal or Criminal Cases Review Commission to review the case. The important questions will be:

  • How important was the flawed evidence to the outcome of the trial?
  • Can it be shown that the forensic evidence relied upon by the police and prosecution was unreliable?
  • Might the flawed and unreliable evidence have reasonably affected the jury's decision to convict?

If the flawed forensic evidence was the sole or main piece of evidence then the prospects of overturning a conviction are increased. If not, and the (flawed) forensic evidence was a mere contributing factor to a conviction (in other words, one of a number of pieces of evidence against an accused) then the chances of overturning a conviction are reduced. Each case will very much turn on its own facts and so it is important to obtain specialist advice.

What do I need to do if I feel I am affected?

The first thing to do is to contact specialist appeal lawyers. We are widely regarded in the field of criminal appeals with a nationwide reputation.

Can I get funding to help with any review?

Legal aid may well be available to conduct the review in your case so that the re-testing of the sample in your case can be carried out. Legal aid will also include, if available, funding for a senior appeals solicitor to review your case and to formally instruct experienced counsel to review the case further and if necessary, draft grounds for appeal.

What if I am not entitled to legal aid?

We can advise you whether or not you are entitled to legal aid. If you are not, we can discuss with you the likely costs of a review on a privately funded basis.

Contact us in London (West Drayton) on 01895 449288 or in Hertfordshire (St Albans) on 01727 840900 or by email via our contact page.

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