Scottish Police Service Authority to investigate 'Gerbil' case forensics

Kevin Carroll and Ross Monaghan
Ross Monaghan (right) denied murdering Kevin Carroll in January 2010

An independent investigation is to be carried out into the Scottish Police Service Authority's (SPSA) handling of forensic evidence during a high-profile murder trial.

On Thursday Ross Monaghan was acquitted of gunning down gangland figure Kevin "Gerbil" Carroll in an Asda car park.

Judge Lord Brailsford ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him.

The SPSA has asked an independent expert to look into concerns about aspects of the ballistic evidence.

The trial heard that on 13 January 2010 two masked men shot Mr Carroll outside Asda in Robroyston, Glasgow.

Mr Monaghan was acquitted of killing the gangland figure after it emerged there was no evidence which placed him at the Asda store at the time of the shooting.

DNA matching Mr Monaghan's was found on one of the guns used to kill Mr Carroll but forensics experts were unable to say how it got there as it was such a tiny amount.

In further evidence which can only now be reported, and was only heard by the judge not the jury, it emerged that a single particle of gunpowder residue was also found on a jacket taken from Mr Monaghan's wardrobe.

Lord Brailsford ruled that the finding was "of no evidential value".

Mr Monaghan's jacket
A SPSA expert gave evidence about a particle found on Mr Monaghan's jacket

SPSA forensic Alison Colley told the hearing that a single particle was insufficient to draw any scientific conclusion from.

But she said she had been asked to form her conclusion using the particle at the request of a detective superintendent involved in the investigation.

The judge said he found her claim "disturbing".

He told the court: "My understanding is that the SPSA is an independent body, distinct from the police, and its reports are intended to express independent expert statements of opinion."

The SPSA has now commissioned an independent expert to look into the case.

Home Office forensic science regulator, Andrew Rennison, has agreed to conduct the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the case.

One of the gun thought to have been used to kill Kevin Carroll
Evidence during the trial focused on DNA on guns found in Coatbridge

Director of forensic services at the SPSA Tom Nelson said: "It is the job of forensic science to carry out analysis to the very highest standards, but also to ensure that findings are conveyed and presented in a clear and transparent way to the court.

"I take very seriously the suggestion that undue influence or pressure may have been placed on an individual member of forensics staff to reach a conclusion.

"I expect that investigation to provide me with findings and recommendations for any further action required within Forensic Services, and also for how we ensure wider lessons are learned for the criminal justice system as a whole."

Reacting to Lord Brailsford's decision to acquit Mr Monaghan, Strathclyde Police assistant chief constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said: "The chief constable and everyone at the force is deeply concerned by the comments made by his lordship and is determined to get to the bottom of what has happened in this instance.

"This remains a live investigation and one named person is the subject of a European Arrest Warrant. As such, the police will continue to make inquiries and will do so in support of and under the direction of the Crown."