The Crime Live event – “Real Life” Silent Witness but no time for sexual liaisons

Scientists&Logo

A previous performance of live crime with the two forensic scientists

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On May 10 not too far from the National Theatre on the South Bank a remarkable stage scene will be set up at the BPP Law University. A room with walls spattered with blood, a potential murder weapon and clues galore.

But this dramatic scene is not part of a rerun Agatha Christie play or some avant garde production on a pre West End theatre debut..

Instead of actors there will be two forensic scientists Tracy Alexander, Director of Forensic Services at City of London Police and Jo Millington, Senior Forensic Scientist at Millington Hingley both of whom featured in BBC’s Conviction: Murder at the Station.

They will take the audience through how you investigate a murder going into detail of how the evidence is gathered using the latest modern methods.

As Tracy Alexander tells the audience: “If you’ve seen Silent Witness you’ll know that Emilia Fox attends the crime scene, examines the corpse, looks for clues, performs the post-mortem, comforts the family of the victim, interviews suspects and sleeps with the senior investigating officer, all in the same nice suit without transferring vital evidence from one to the other. I can’t do all those things myself – well, not in an hour.”

The demonstration is put on by Inside Justice, a charity  which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice particularly where a fresh examination of forensic evidence can make a difference and only when they are convinced that the person usually serving a long jail sentence is innocent.

The charity’s director is Louise Shorter. She is best known for her 10 years as a producer/director of the BBC’s long-running miscarriage of justice TV series Rough Justice. Sadly with reduced media budgets such programmes are no longer made.

The last programme she made about the wrongful  murder convictions of Barri White and Keith Hyatt led directly to new evidence being found which resulted in their convictions being quashed. In 2013, Shahidul Ahmed, the real killer in this case was convicted following a cold-case review led by Inside Justice Advisory Panel member Tracy Alexander.

The charity’s panel which is largely composed of forensic scientists has since then taken up a series of cases – though faces a difficult battle in persuading police forces to release all the forensic evidence it holds to re-investigate cases.

The fact that Inside Justice exists is particularly important because of two issues- which are potentially conflicting. One is the march of forensic science which is now miles ahead of itself. The other is the effects of privatisation and cuts in police manpower and budgets.

As Louise explained to me  new developments in forensic science mean that a minute level of DNA is enough to trace one person to a spot even if he or she wasn’t there.

As she put it: ” Supposing we shake hands and I go off to the ladies toilet. I then touch something in the toilet and a trace of your DNA as well as mine is left there. Supposing unknown to either of us a crime is committed there two hours later. When the police arrive they will find a trace of your DNA at the crime scene. It is now possible to do this and you could become a murder suspect.”

Now this high level of DNA detection is good for crime detection but not so good if a hard pressed police force is anxious to get a quick conviction and you do not have an alibi. Given the growing concern about wrongful police convictions – from recent rape cases where the defence were not given all the evidence – this is not good news.

But in the  meantime it is obviously a  fascinating experience to see how forensic science can help solve real murders.

Inside Justice Poster SCREEN FILE There are two performances at the BPP Law University at 137 Stamford Street
London SE1 9NN. It is  five minutes walk from Waterloo station. Tickets for the event can be obtained from Eventbrite. GO TO WWW.EVENTBRITE.CO.UK
AND SEARCH FOR ‘CRIME LIVE’

 

A damning indictment on the dangerous failure of privatisation in the criminal justice system by a former Tory MP

Jerry-Hayes

Jerry Hayes, practising criminal barrister and former Tory MP for Harlow Pic Credit:Goldsmith Chambers

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I am reblogging this from the site of Jerry Hayes, a former Tory MP and practising criminal barrister. He is highlighting the dangers of miscarriages of justice since the Forensic Science Service was privatised by David Cameron because private companies are cutting corners and not doing a proper job. The person here could have been imprisoned for seven years as a result of their negligence.

THE SCANDAL THAT UNDERMINES OUR ONCE GREAT SYSTEM OF JUSTICE

10 May 2017 at 07:09

I never blog on cases, but today I must break my rule. Yesterday I discovered a scandalous state of affairs which could have led to an innocent man going to jail for a substantial period of time. I will not name the defendant nor the court for obvious reasons. In forty years of practice at the bar this shook my faith in what was once the finest and fairest justice system in the world. Read this and weep. And mourn for British justice.

Yesterday I was sent to the Crown Court to offer no evidence in a firearms case. I had been instructed some weeks ago as Prosecution counsel. Let me give you a thumbnail sketch. Last year the police searched a van. In this van was a tool box and in this tool box were founds guns and ammunition. This comprised of an 8mm blank firing pistol converted to be a lethal weapon. An empty magazine belonging to that hand gun. A Glock self loading hand gun. The magazine from this handgun contained two live rounds. And three further live rounds were found in a knotted bag. It goes without saying that the possession of these items is a very serious offence and carries a minimum sentence of five years for the guns and a consecutive sentence for the ammunition. Anyone convicted potentially faces a sentence of imprisonment of seven years upwards.

The guns and ammunition were forensically examined. The laboratory gave the police what is called a Streamlined Forensic Report (SFR). It came to this conclusion, ‘a match exists between the defendant and the sample’. In other words the defendant’s DNA was found on one of the magazines.

This was served on the CPS and duly uploaded onto the digital case system, effectively serving this on the court and the defence. An SFR is precisely that, and both prosecution and defence are entitled to see the full report. But very often it is taken at face value. As there was no other evidence the CPS reviewing lawyer wanted further information. He asked for more information. Was there a mixed profile? How strong was the DNA? He received obfuscation from the lab. ‘The SFR provided indicated that a number of results were subject to progress.’ But the lawyer was dogged in his determination and finally received this bombshell. ‘The lab confirms due to confusion they have never compared mixed profiles against the defendant.’ They also stated that ‘progress means there are no additional findings’. Then came this chilling line. ‘The lab refused to elaborate any further……’

The reviewing lawyer reported the following,‘I am concerned that the language used in the SFR appears to assert positive and ongoing actions when they are clearly negative. I have requested the OIC to obtain an email from the forensic officer confirming the phone communication and what is implied in the SFR…..he confirmed that the report was misleading.’

The CPS, underfunded, overworked and creaking at the seams comes in for a lot of criticism. In this case the reviewing lawyer deserves a herogram.

Yesterday when I offered no evidence I explained to the judge in detail what had happened. I will never forget the look of horror on his face. There will be a thorough judicial investigation.

And yesterday SKY NEWS reported that a private forensic laboratory had ‘manipulated data.’ What the hell is happening? I will tell you. In 2010 the government announced that the national forensic service (the FSS) was to be closed down and forensic analysis would be privatised. Let me be clear that the FSS has had its fair share of cock ups. But the government announcement prompted horror from professionals. The National Audit Office warned, ‘this could spark a crisis within the justice system.’ They were right. Soon the court of appeal will be swamped. Will someone, somewhere listen? I won’t hold my breath.