An appalling report found that rape cases were dropped because DNA evidence was destroyed in “dilapidated or broken fridges and freezers” used by the Metropolitan Police.
During her review of standards and culture in Britain’s largest police force, Baroness Louise Casey discovered that it was institutionally racist, misogynist, and homophobic, and that “fundamental change” is required.
Her team discovered that someone had kept their lunch in a sexual offence unit’s evidence fridge, while one chiller “broke down completely” during last summer’s record heatwave, meaning that all of the rape kits inside could not be used as evidence.
The kits contain samples taken during intimate examinations of rape victims in order to collect DNA, hair, and other medical evidence from perpetrators.
Medical samples can only be taken for a limited time after an assault, and they cannot be retaken if they are lost weeks or months later.
“It’s important to have the swabs taken as soon as possible, as forensic evidence will wear and wash away,” the NHS advises rape victims.
It comes as the prosecution rate for rape and sexual offences in England and Wales has reached a new low, with only 1.6% of recorded rapes resulting in charges in the year to September.
During a press conference, Baroness Casey stated that the issue of faulty evidence fridges and freezers “kept coming up” while her team was interviewing officers for her review, which was prompted by the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving armed officer.
“They are symbolic of how the force has lost its way,” she added. “We found that officers were using bungee cords to keep a freezer closed – that meant that some of the samples got spoiled. People found a lunchbox in one of the fridges.”
“Instead of access to fast-track forensic services, officers have to contend with over-stuffed, dilapidated or broken fridges and freezers containing evidence including the rape kits of victims, and endure long waits for test results,” it said.