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I thought that this only happened in the US

Written by: Alan Baker 20th February, 2017

There is a mixture of fear and disbelief among the forensic community about what may have happened at the Randox lab in Manchester and at the moment an additional level of uncertainty about what actually happened.

We know that mistakes happen but the inclusion of rigid quality ISO and UKAS procedures and the need for the peer-review of any work means that the failings which seem to have occurred, should not have.

It doesn’t seem to a case of accidental contamination or a misplaced digit or decimal. It seems like deliberate attempts were made to alter data. How could this have happened?

It is reported that no actual samples from individuals were tampered with i.e. no additional substances were added to, say, a blood sample from driver but that the quality control procedures or samples around the actual test sample haven in some way been affected.

In the absence of more detail, it may be wrong to speculate but perhaps reference samples used to calibrate scientific instruments such as a GC/MS have either been tampered with or the data associated with them has been.

The forensic community is rightly always under scrutiny and when I have been asked over the years about the need to actually re-test a sample I have usually taken the view that whilst (accidental) mistakes can happen it wouldn’t be believable that someone has deliberately falsified data. It is the stuff of TV’s series and Netflix where that occurs.

But the simple truth is that this calls into question so many issues that we take for granted; usually it is a case of accept the test data and worry about the interpretation. I’m not sure that we can say that any more.

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