Monday, January 07, 2008

Flood of appeals over suspended use of unreliable DNA evidence may not affect Scotland

Scots Police Chiefs hope there wont be a flood of appeals after the ruling on low copy number DNA which saw the release of the only suspect in the Omagh bombing atrocity in England.

Quoting the Scotsman story, one reason there are hopes of no appeals in Scotland is that : "... because in Scotland any evidence presented by the Crown has to be corroborated, it is thought it is highly unlikely such problems will arise here."

Oh really ? .... evidence presented by the Crown, or sometimes the lack of it, seems to be a big problem in many cases recently before the Scottish Courts ...

The Scotsman reports :

Scotland hopes to avoid flood of appeals after Omagh ruling

By Richard Elias

POLICE chiefs in Scotland hope that a different system of law will stop the anticipated flood of appeals expected south of the Border because of the suspension of a controversial DNA technique.

The only suspect in the Omagh bombing atrocity walked free from court last week after doubts were cast on the forensic case presented against him.

Sean Hoey's prosecution centred on so-called low copy number DNA. As a result of the decision, it was immediately announced that any pending cases in England and Wales using the technique would be put on hold.

Lawyers have also warned that a flood of appeals from prisoners already convicted through LCN DNA evidence may now follow.

However, because in Scotland any evidence presented by the Crown has to be corroborated, it is thought it is highly unlikely such problems will arise here.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland said: "The judgment has just come out, and so it is too early to make any comment on its contents.

"However, we will be examining it to see if there are any pressing issues we have to address and any lessons we can learn."

A similar review is being made in Northern Ireland at the request of Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde.

Lawyer Robert Brown said: "There are lots of cases where LCN DNA could have been part of the evidence.

"In some of these, people will turn to appeal. Whether these appeals will be successful remains to be seen.

"It is very difficult to say what will happen. But in cases where the evidence almost entirely relies on this type of LCN DNA, it is more likely that the conviction could be unsafe, and that could lead to a retrial. It is likely to be a fluid situation."

The review in England and Wales is likely to include thousands of forthcoming court cases.

The forensic science services in England and Wales have been involved in carrying out forensic tests in the Madeleine McCann case, but it is not known if LCN DNA was used in these circumstances.

A spokesman for the McCanns said yesterday: "We are not aware that LCN DNA features in our case, but we would want to be entirely reassured of the absolute accuracy of any technique that the police are using either in Portugal or Britain in the search for Madeleine.

"We and our lawyers will be watching developments in this very closely indeed."

The relatively new LCN DNA testing system, which enables the analysis of a small number of cells, was used on the timers for bombs involved in Real IRA attacks and allegedly linked them to Omagh accused Sean Hoey.

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