Belfast Telegraph

Jailed drug drivers challenge lab data from Northern Ireland-based firm

By Jack Hardy

Two drug drivers who killed on the road are trying to get their convictions quashed over concerns that forensic evidence in their cases had been manipulated.

Both offenders are attempting to launch proceedings at the Court of Appeal after it emerged two scientists allegedly tampered with data at a forensics lab run by a Northern Ireland company.

The revelations sparked a major review of more than 10,000 criminal investigations, so far leading to around 50 prosecutions being dropped.

Hit-and-run driver Matthew Bravender (38) is appealing against his conviction after pleading guilty to a deadly motoring offence.

He was jailed for five years and four months at Manchester Crown Court in February for mowing down 52-year-old pedestrian Alan Strong in Salford, Greater Manchester, in April 2016.

Mr Strong died in hospital from his injuries.

Bravender was convicted of causing death by careless driving while over the legal limit for a prescribed drug, receiving a seven-year driving ban along with his jail sentence.

Also battling his conviction in the courts is Anderson Ward (39), who was jailed for causing the death of his girlfriend in an accident while he was high on drugs.

Marie Hardes (56) was killed after Ward lost control of the vehicle in which they were travelling on the M3 in Winchester in November 2014.

He was sentenced to six years in prison in February after being found guilty of causing death by driving without due care while unfit through drugs, causing death by driving a vehicle unlicensed and possession of Class B and Class C drugs.

More appeals stemming from the unprecedented breach of forensics standards could soon follow as thousands of toxicology tests are re-analysed.

Three-quarters of the cases were traffic offences such as drug driving - with the rest including violent crime, sexual offences and unexplained deaths, spanning back to 2013.

Two men have been arrested and five interviewed under caution by Greater Manchester Police over the alleged manipulation by individuals working at a Randox Testing Services (RTS) site in Manchester.

RTS is based in Crumlin, Co Antrim, and has offices in Manchester and London.

Retests have so far found no impact on cases of sexual offence cases, violence or murder, the National Police Chiefs' Council said.

Potential data manipulation at a separate facility, Trimega Laboratories, is also being investigated by Greater Manchester Police - affecting child protection and family court cases, the NPCC said.

It is understood the two suspects arrested in connection with the alleged malpractice also worked for Trimega.

Deputy Chief Constable James Vaughan, the NPCC forensic expert, said: "This is of grave concern to me, it is of great concern to policing and our partners in criminal justice and we are taking it extremely seriously and provided a nationally co-ordinated and very swift, robust response, to understand more detail."

The NPCC revealed that retesting was either complete or under way for around 70% of the 900 highest priority cases, with the rest expected to be completed by mid-2018.

These include live investigations approaching or in trial, those convicted but not sentenced, those bailed in advance of trial or sentence and convictions where the defendant is in prison.

Belfast Telegraph

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