By Sophie Day

“IT RUINED my life, I lost my job, my car, I lost everything.”

Those were the words of an Andover man who has had his conviction overturned in a contamination scandal potentially affecting over 8,000 samples.

Karl McFadden, of Florence Court, was caught drug driving, in Weyhill Road, on April 7, 2016, a swab found presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and he was taken to the police station for a blood test.

He admits that he had smoked cannabis earlier in the day, but from experience, believed he was not over the limit, but the test revealed he had 5.7microgrammes of the drug in 100 millilitres of blood - the legal limit is two.

Despite pleading guilty in court, Karl believed that the result of the sample were correct, and decided not to take the case to trial.

On June 9, 2016, he was banned from driving for 12 months and fined £220, but last month he was shocked to receive a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which threw his conviction into doubt.

Karl said: “I couldn’t believe it when it came through the door, I thought it was bogus, I phoned the number straight away and thought nothing will come of this.”

But on Tuesday the 24-year-old attended Basingstoke Magistrates Court where his case was reopened and his conviction and sentence rescinded.

“My ban has been revoked, that would have stayed on my license forever, and my criminal record is now clean.”

The ruling is in light of an investigation carried out into Randox Testing Services, used by a number of police forces to test blood and urine samples for the presence, and in some cases the level, of drugs.

Launched in 2017, the inquiry initially found 484 samples that had been manipulated by Randox, but it was later revealed that more than 8,000 samples which are potentially affected from its two laboratories.

The CPS has said that the resampling process is underway by other forensic science providers.

Speaking after his conviction was overturned, Karl said: “My life spiralled out of control because of it [the conviction].

"I had no money to pay for my car as it was on finance and that was taken away, but I am still paying for it.  “I lost friends over it and people looked down on me because of it.  “At the time it hit home - I felt like I had messed up my life. Everyone just thinks of you differently so it makes you feel low.”  Karl said the case exacerbated his depression and he struggled to get a job when employers learned of the conviction, but after months of searching he is now in employment and has begun driving again.  But he is now considering a civil claim to get back the money he has lost on the car finance package.  “I just think it is mad how a company trusted by the police and government can get away with something like that. I am more shocked about it than anything, you put your trust in something.

“The police and the CPS were just doing their jobs.”

A CPS spokesperson said: “Following an ongoing nationwide investigation into alleged data manipulation at Randox Testing Services, samples from drug driving and other cases are being retested.  “If a retest shows that no offence was committed or a sample can no longer be tested the CPS has rightly written to the defence who can then apply to the court to quash the earlier conviction.

“After a retest of his blood sample earlier this year showed the first test result was no longer reliable we alerted Mr McFadden and invited him to consider his next steps which he has done.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Murray, from Hampshire Constabulary, added: “We apologise for any distress and uncertainty this may have caused. We are working hard to resolve any issues caused by the Randox failure alongside our partners in the criminal justice system.”

A RTS spokesperson said: “In January 2017 RTS discovered alleged manipulation of quality data within its laboratory processes in Manchester and acted as the whistleblower by immediately reporting the incident to the Police, The Forensic Science Regulator, The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and the Home Office.

“RTS complied fully with all The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accreditation requirements and in numerous inspections by UKAS, when it appears data manipulation was underway, nothing untoward was found.

"Three ex-employees are now under police investigation. All three were trained and developed their skills elsewhere within the industry including, in one case, the Forensic Science Service. 

“RTS continues to act with absolute integrity by actively supporting the police investigation, working alongside all appropriate authorities to resolve any outstanding issues in as timely a manner as possible. 

“As a matter of good faith, we continue to manage and cover like-for-like costs of the retesting – estimated to be £2.5m.”