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You don’t know what you’ll find until you look

Written by: Alan Baker 31st January, 2020

This morning’s shocking news about the decreasing number of rape prosecutions https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48095118 has prompted me to offer comment from a scientific perspective and is even more pertinent in light of the Faculty of Forensic and Legal medicine recommendations https://fflm.ac.uk/publications/recommendations-for-the-collection-of-forensic-specimens-from-complainants-and-suspects-3/published this week for the collection of blood and urine samples from those complaining of rape. These recommendations suggest that blood is taken if an incident occurred within 3 days and that urine is taken if the incident occurred within 5 days.

These directions are, sadly, very much in contrast to Bericon’s recent experience in cases of this type.

The timescale from an alleged incident to the collection of blood and urine samples from a complainant is a massive factor in rape cases where the issue of consent is usually vital. The simple position being that the sooner that sample sare taken, the more likely the lab will be able to detect any alcohol or drugs in the complainant’s body.

It seems that some forces are reluctant to take samples when  the incident was more than a couple of days before the individual is either interviewed or medically examined and whilst that view has some scientific foundation, the simple reality is that you don’t know what you’ll find until you look for it.

However, a recent case that we have been involved with have had samples taken within 24 hours of the incident but were still not tested by the investigating force with a trial a matter of weeks away.

Is it all down to cost?

Is it because toxicology labs have backlogs of work?

Is it scientific naivety?

Is it all down to a poorly integrated process from the time of any incident to the time that a Judge sums-up a case?

I’ll let you decide but until more stringent directions are given to forces, I fear that rape cases will continue to be hindered by the lack of scientific evidence and that could be from a defence or prosecution perspective.

Syringe and heroin,with pills. isolated on white with clipping path.

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