Sheffield & South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Police blame cyber attack for sentencing delay

Forensic testing Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A cyber attack on Eurofins Scientific caused a backlog of 20,000 samples

A police force criticised after a teenager had to wait 22 months to be sentenced has said the delay was partly due to a cyber-attack on the UK's biggest forensics service.

The teenager was arrested in March 2018, aged 17, charged in February 2019, and sentenced last week aged 19.

Judge David Dixon described delays in the case as "utterly disgraceful".

South Yorkshire Police said the case had been hampered by a ransomware attack on Eurofins Scientific in June.

However, when the force was asked about delays in the case prior to June 2019, it said it did not wish to comment further.

Image copyright Courts and Tribunals Judiciary
Image caption Judge David Dixon said the defendant had been failed by the police and CPS

Passing sentence, Judge Dixon questioned the time it had taken to charge and then prosecute the case after the teenager had been "caught red-handed" with seven wraps of heroin and nine wraps of crack cocaine, a "dealer phone" and £115 in cash.

He slammed police for doing "absolutely nothing" for 11 months despite being presented with "all the evidence needed to charge [the suspect] on the spot".

In a statement, temporary Det Ch Insp Jamie Henderson said the force was aware delays could be "incredibly frustrating and unsettling for those involved".

However, he said that carrying out drug testing and mobile phone downloads had been necessary to prepare the case for the Crown Prosecution Service, to enable it to make a charging decision.

He said that the required forensic examinations had been hit by the cyber-attack on Eurofins Scientific in June 2019, which the BBC later learned lead to a backlog of 20,000 samples.

Mr Henderson said: "This ransomware attack has led to significant delays in processing submissions, particularly drugs [and] unless it is an urgent case, it therefore takes months, or even longer, to get results back."

He said: "We acknowledge the judge's comments in this case and assure those involved the matter was dealt with as swiftly as possible given the wider circumstances."

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