UK Rape Center Kept Forensic Samples In A Fridge With Deficiencies To Safeguard Children And Vulnerable Adults

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By Ryan Inoyori | December 27, 2013 6:39 PM EST

National Health Service (NHS) has exposed scandals from a flagship rape victim center suppressing findings and inexcusable failings to provide support for dozens of samples left inside a fridge that should be solving rape crimes and deficiencies to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.

Catastrophic Failure

NHS accused of pioneering a rape victim center with suppressing findings. Based on a confidential report obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, fundamental forensic protocols have been breached routinely at the rape center in London which was designed to provide "gold standard" for supporting rape victims and improving conviction rates.

Dozens of samples from rape victims were discovered at the left inside a fridge and multiple deficiencies in the unit's dealings for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. These samples should have been sent for forensic analysis to speed up criminal investigation and bring justice for victims.

"The women who have been affected have a right to know who is responsible for the unacceptable failings at Whitechapel Haven and that they are properly held to account," as stated by Liz Kendall, Labour's Shadow care minister, quoted by Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

According to the staff at the unit, working has been described as "an oppressive, tense environment" and told investigators that they were afraid to complain to the managers even feeling dreaded during their work shifts.

"The response I received when I raised this issue did not make clear in any way the scale of the problem nor consequences for the rape survivors. When it comes to rape, women are being failed again and again by the services that should be there to support them," Baroness Jones, London Assembly Member of Green Party, said.

Inadequacies Exposed

Whitechapel Haven is one of the three specialist rape centers in London established in 2004. It is where women receive immediate attention from specialist doctors, treatment for injuries and emergency contraception. Moreover, counseling and other support are also provided for the victims.

The investigation revealed widespread inadequacies in collection and storage of forensic evidence collected from rape victims such as:

1.  Samples from 93 alleged rape victims had not been passed on to the police forensic service for analysis;

2.  The unit had a grubby examination suite that did not meet the standards required in terms of a safe forensic area; and

3.   Criminal exhibits were stored in plastic bags which lead to deterioration of evidence and contamination clothing was mixed with clean items.

It is concluded that identified problems at the Whitechapel were the same as those with Robert Francis' findings in his inquiry at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Dismissal And New Governance

Two members of the staff had been dismissed according to an NHS England spokesman after the investigation and victims affected by the crisis have been contacted already.

"Immediate steps were taken to contact each affected client. They received a full apology and were invited to make an appointment with a trained counsellor to receive the results and continued support," NHS England spokesman said.

Findings of investigations had been shared with the doctors at King's College Hospital that now runs the Havens service and would be discussed at an NHS England meeting in 2014.

King's College Hospital said since the overtaking of the Havens in April 2013 paved way for improvements across the entire service such as new systems of governance, improvement on auditing and management of samples was established.

"The Havens are a safe place for anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted to get the help they need. The service is available to anyone who needs it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," a statement from King's College Hospital.

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