Have You Been Wrongly Convicted of Drug or Drink Driving?
CHALLENGING CONVICTIONS IN LIGHT OF THE RANDOX TESTING INVESTIGATIONS.
Many convictions are being overturned as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) contact people following the RANDOX TESTING SERVICES forensic investigation.
As you can imagine, we are getting lots of phone calls and enquiries on this matter, and there are common themes occuring. Here we have put together a useful Q&A section to help advise on some of the more typical questions we are being asked.
If you can’t see your question, then please scroll down to the bottom of the page.
Why have I received a letter from the CPS?
The true scale of the Randox Testing Service forensic testing scandal is now beginning to emerge as more and more people are being contacted by CPS to be informed their conviction were not safe. It is anticipated that the numbers affected will continue to rise as more tests are re-examined.
Results of forensic tests carried out by the Manchester based Company first came under scrutiny in early 2017 when an internal investigation by Randox uncovered irregularities and the company reported those finding to the Police. Two employees aged 47 and 31 have been arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Their arrest raised doubts of the validity of around 10,500 forensic tests, which had been sent to the company from multiple Police Forces in England and Wales.
The scandal involves all kinds of tests for multiple offence types but the vast majority relate to tests performed in “drug driving” or “drink driving” cases.
In a report by the BBC it was said that “about 10,000 cases were incorrectly tested”. Most of those samples related to road traffic cases. The BBC Home Affairs correspondent, Danny Shaw, called it “the biggest forensic science scandal in the UK in decades”.
The majority of affected cases will involve road traffic offences such as “driving with excess alcohol”, or “driving over the prescribed limit” and “drug driving” or “driving with drugs over the prescribed limit”.
Have you provided the Police a blood or urine sample to the police as part of their investigation?
In the majority of “drink driving” or “driving with excess alcohol” cases the volume of alcohol is tested by the police by measuring the level of alcohol in the driver breath. This is normally done on a machine at a police station following arrest. The problem arises where the police took a sample of blood or urine instead.
All “drug driving” or “driving with drugs over the prescribed limit” cases involve the laboratory testing of samples.
If I have a conviction for drug / drink driving will I definitely be affected?
Most convictions will not be affected. The scandal only relates to one forensic laboratory – RANDOX TESTING SERVICES. Not all police forces used that laboratory. The police rely upon test results to charge motorists and bring cases before Criminal Courts. Most accused who were wrongly charged with drink or drug driving had no idea the test results were flawed, simply accepted the police evidence and pleaded guilty. Others pleaded not guilty and tried to challenge the prosecution evidence but were convicted after a trial. Very few successfully challenged the Randox test results before the scandal came to light.
You need to discover if RANDOX TESTING SERVICES tested your blood or urine sample before early 2017. That information is contained in the prosecution papers served upon you or your solicitor when you first went to court. If you do not have that information yourself you should contact your solicitor if you instructed one or the CPS for the court where you appeared.
A press release from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) states that the police are re-testing all of the affected samples, prioritising the most serious cases. The process will take between two to three years. The NPCC state the CPS will write to anyone who has been wrongly convicted.
Letters confirming unsafe forensic results may come as a relief, but come after the damage has been done. Many of those who we now represent felt their convictions to be unjust but were unable to argue against what was considered by the police, the prosecution and the courts to be indisputable scientific evidence of guilt.
If I have received a letter from the CPS, what should I do next?
Every case needs to be considered carefully on its own merits, every case is different. The following “steps” provide general advice and are not specific to your case.
Step 1, request the convicting Magistrates Court to re-open your case. The application to re-open is made under Section 142 Magistrates Court Act 1980. This legislation allows a court a discretion to “rectify or correct a mistake”.
Step 2, once the application to re-open has succeeded then an application to “vacate” your guilty plea (if relevant) needs to be made.
Step 3, once your guilty plea has been vacated, you enter a “not guilty” plea.
Step 4, request the CPS to “offer no evidence”. If the CPS do offer no evidence the court will dismiss the allegation bringing the proceedings to a successful conclusion. If the CPS do NOT offer no evidence the court will proceed to fix a date for your trial or interim case management hearing. If the CPS contest the case you may need to adduce expert evidence in your defence.
What can I do if my application to re-open my case fails?
If the application to re-open your case under section 142 Magistrates Court Act fails then the alternative approach is to appeal your conviction.
Step 1, draft and lodge with the local Crown Court an “application for leave to appeal out of time” and a “notice of appeal” (normally an Appellant has 21 days from the date of sentence to lodge an appeal notice) if an appeal is made outside that time limit an application must be made to the Crown Court explaining the delay.
Step 2, Appeal your conviction to the Crown Court. At the appeal hearing the Judge usually sits with two Magistrates. They hear the case afresh and decide how to proceed. If the prosecution does NOT contest the case the appeal will be allowed. If the prosecution does contest the case a trial date will be fixed.
Why should I challenge this?
Here are just some of the reasons why you could consider challenging your conviction;
- To preserve your good character.
- To recoup the money paid in fines, prosecution costs and the victim surcharge.
- A criminal record can make it hard to find employment (especially if drugs related). For certain types of employment convictions have to be declared forever.
- Car insurance is more expensive.
- Foreign travel can be more difficult with a criminal conviction.
Can I claim for compensation?
Criminal convictions and driving disqualifications based upon inaccurate or unsafe forensic evidence have cause suffering and damage to people’s lives.
Individuals have lost their employment, struggled to pay bills such as mortgages and rents, some have been unable to travel and see their families or children. There are many identifiable losses.
We are currently referring our clients to specialists’ solicitors to seek civil redress, ensuring people are rightly compensated for their losses and suffering.
How We can help
If you have received a letter from the CPS confirming your conviction is unsafe then you need to instruct a specialist criminal defence solicitor with a proven track record in defending road traffic cases.