Haven rape crisis centre in Whitechapel ‘failed to send DNA samples for testing’

Two staff members have been dismissed from a rape crisis centre in London’s East End after failing to send 93 samples to police forensic laboratories for DNA tests, it has emerged.

The Whitechapel Haven, one of the first three rape crisis centres in the country, had also failed to pass results of other DNA tests to victims, according to the NHS.

Other shortcomings included criminal exhibits being stored in plastic bags which can cause evidence to deteriorate and contaminated clothing mixed with clean items, an investigation found.

Swift action was taken to retest samples, the NHS said this week.

Now the Bart’s health Trust, which ran the centre in Whitechapel Road until NHS reorganisation in April, has apologised for “inexcusable failings”.

The centre was closed for four months during the investigation in 2012 and has since reopened, but not yet providing a full 24-hour service.

Samples taken from the 93 rape victims that should have been sent for forensic analysis had been left in a fridge instead, a national newspaper inquiry found.

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Barts NHS Trust said in a statement: “We took swift and immediate action as soon as we became aware that there was an issue to ensure the affected samples were re-tested and contacted those involved to offer a full apology and counselling. We are extremely sorry for the inexcusable failings at the Whitechapel Haven.”

The rape crisis centre was set up as one of three in London in 2000, along with Paddington and Camberwell, where women can be seen by specialist doctors and get treatment for injuries and emergency contraception.

All three Havens, now run by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust since April, are funded by the NHS and Met Police. Rape victims are referred to the centres by police who rely on their staff to collect samples for forensic testing and potential prosecutions.

The Whitechapel centre received a ‘Justice’ award in 2009 for its work within the Criminal Justice System. Around 60 victims were passing through its doors each month when it operated 24 hours a day before the scandal came to light two years ago.