Thursday, December 17, 2015

UK: Crime scene blunders let murderers off the hook

Damning report says officers are missing 'obvious indicators of suspicion' such as violence when investigating deaths.  They're afraid it might make work for them

Murderers are likely to be escaping justice because of police blunders when a body is discovered, a damning report revealed yesterday.

Officers are overlooking ‘obvious indicators of suspicion’ – such as signs of violence – when confronted with unexplained deaths, especially of elderly people or those who drank or used drugs, the Government study said.

It added that relying on routine post-mortem examinations for unaccounted deaths was also ‘risky and potentially unlikely to identify a complex murder’.

Last night a senior police officer acknowledged that the mistakes meant ‘the potential existed’ for homicides to be missed.

Half of a sample of cases studied by the Home Office’s Forensic Pathology Unit were found to be homicides or suspicious deaths after an expert intervened.

Incredibly, killings that did not prompt the police to call in an expert immediately included a severely-wounded body found in a remote rural location, a young man who had been stabbed and a corpse lying in a large pool of blood.

The report said: ‘It is concerning that evidence uncovered...has identified cases where apparent and obvious indicators of suspicion were overlooked by those making decisions at the scene of unexplained deaths.

‘It therefore seems entirely reasonable to suspect that a number of homicide cases may have been missed in the past and will continue to be missed in the future.’

It added that assessments by investigators at a death scene were ‘inadequate’ and urgent action needed to be taken to ‘address the shortfalls’.

The study raised the chilling prospect of police assuming that if a person was old or had been ill their death was due to natural causes, when they had in fact been murdered – so allowing the killer to escape.

This ‘cognitive bias’ was also seen with people who had used drugs or alcohol, with one force admitting it presumed such deaths were ‘due to intoxication’.

The study looked at 32 cases where police non-forensic post-mortem examinations were started before being passed to a Home Office-registered forensic expert after concerns were highlighted.

Of these, ten turned out to be murders, while another five were suspicious and required further investigation.

These cases ‘should have been treated as suspicious from the outset’, with the decision not to have a forensic autopsy in all 32 cases ‘flawed’.

Senior officers suggested cash-strapped forces might balk at calling a forensic pathologist, who cost £2,500 a time compared to around £100 for a routine post-mortem. In all of the cases studied, justice was served.

The report said an additional 150 cases reported since January 2014 should now be examined, adding: ‘The findings ... have highlighted the potential for professionals involved in death investigation to “miss” homicides by conducting limited scene assessments and not utilising the advice and expertise of a Home Office-registered forensic pathologist early on ... The prevailing situation poses an obvious threat to the criminal justice system.’

Chief Constable David Crompton, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: ‘Whilst it is important to recognise that there is no evidence that homicides have been missed, it is equally important to acknowledge that this potential exists.

'Procedures for dealing with deaths are being reviewed in order to reduce the likelihood of this occurring.’

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress.  If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where  posts  appear as well as on  the primary site.  I have reposted  the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts  HERE or HERE

No comments: