Cops contaminated with GSR
(CNS): A significant number of convictions and charges over firearms related cases could be at risk as a result of the amount of gun-shot residue (GSR) found at the George Town police station and on Uniform Support Group vehicles, equipment and officers. The findings of the survey conducted by the RCIPS into the levels of particle contamination show that there is a serious risk of contamination and transfer which could jeopardize cases where GSR is being used as evidence in trials or was used to bolster existing convictions. A memo by Scientific Support Manager Martin Gaule was disclosed to a local attorney in connection with a current case but it may have serious implications for many others.
The lawyer, who received the report albeit very late, said the findings had serious implications for many cases before the courts, going back sometime.
"The belated release of a RCIPS forensic report dated 29 August on 10 October suggests widespread GSR contamination in RCIPS buildings and cars," Peter Polack told CNS. "A request had been made for such a report to have been completed in July 2010 by me but was refused by the DPP representative. This report will possibly compromise all firearm convictions in which the court relied on GSR evidence in the past several years.”
Summarizing the random survey, Gaule tells the deputy police commissioner in the memo that he found high levels of GSR on one of the cells and the hands of some officers, low levels on officers' uniforms and other cells, and trace levels at the custody suite, the USG vehicles and police equipment. He points out that this could adversely impact the value of GSR evidence in cases before the courts of those suspected of firing guns.
Gaule lists six recommendations for the RCIPS management to follow to reduce the risk to evidence. The forensic expert says it is not possible to entirely avoid GSR contamination and notes how the current levels demonstrate how easily particles can be transferred. As a result, he advises limiting the use of GSR evidence to cases where a weapon was very recently fired.
Besides bagging the hands of those arrested in connection with guns, Gaule recommends that firearms suspects are handled by officers who do not use guns themselves, wherever and whenever it is safe to do so. He suggests that suspects be conveyed in police cars not used by USG and that suspects are processed by scenes of crime officers or other non USG officers, supervised by someone from scenes of crime.
The forensic cop also recommends swabbing all the areas where suspects are taken at the station and, above all, he stresses the need for USG officers using firearms at work or socially to take even more care to wash their hands and clothes thoroughly after touching guns and ammunition.
In addition, Gaule points to the need to continue random surveys every six months to monitor GSR background levels at the station and on officers.
The findings, which are now public and likely to be of interest to the entire local criminal defence bar, could upset not just forthcoming trials where the GSR is an important part of the evidence but possibly past cases where GSR has played a part in the conviction of suspects in gun-related crimes.
See memo below.
|RCIPS GSR pg1.jpg||336.14 KB|
|RCIPS GSR pg2.jpg||383.62 KB|
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