Detailed guide: Forensic toxicology tests

Ministry of Justice - by Jim Larrison via Flickr
(Source)

Introduction

The government has been made aware that the police are investigating potential manipulation of forensic toxicology test results at 2 private companies. The test results were used as expert evidence in England and Wales. We are unable to comment on the on-going criminal investigation. As a precautionary measure, we are currently treating test results from the laboratories of these 2 companies as potentially unreliable. Results from other forensic test providers are not believed to be affected. The information below gives examples of where toxicology tests may have been used as part of decision making.

We recognise the seriousness of this issue, and the concerns people who have used the courts may have about its implications for them. The information below is aimed at helping people understand where toxicology tests may have been used as part of decision making in court cases, and to guide them on the next steps.

Family cases involving decisions about children

Hair strand testing for drug and alcohol use was undertaken by Trimega Laboratories Limited between 2010 and April 2014.

Family court proceedings

These are cases where the court was asked to make decisions about a child’s upbringing and may have ordered a toxicology test to be carried out to help it make decisions. Court proceedings may either have been started by the local authority, by parents, or others. A local authority may have made an application to ask the court for an order, for example, to place a child into local authority care or under the local authority’s supervision. A parent (or other person) may have made an application, for example, for a child arrangements order (previously known as a contact or residence order) or special guardianship order.

If you believe that a test by Trimega was carried out in your case and may have materially affected the decisions made in respect of your child(ren), you can:

  • contact your local authority
  • contact your original solicitor from the original court proceedings

You may also wish to seek legal advice about other options available to you. A legal adviser will be able to tell you about the merits of making any application to the court. Legal Aid may be available to you. Individuals will continue to be assessed for their suitability for legal aid on a case-by-case basis.

Court staff are unable to give legal advice, which includes advice on what type of application you should make and the likelihood of any application being successful. Organisations like Citizen’s Advice may also be able to provide you with assistance.

If you are concerned that the final order made by the court in your case was affected by an unreliable test result you can ask the court to consider changing or setting aside that order.

Local authorities may also have requested tests as part of their decision-making before court proceedings. Local authorities have been asked to review their files to ensure that the basis of decisions about children’s safety and wellbeing is not now questioned.

I want the court to review my final order

If you wish to ask the court to change or set aside your order(s) you can complete a special form C650 ‘Application notice to vary or set aside an order in relation to children’ that has been created specifically for this purpose. The form and any attachments can be sent by e-mail or by post. Details are provided in the form. No fee will be payable if you use this form.

The availability of this specifically created form does not prevent you from making any other application to vary, discharge or appeal your order, that you may wish, or be advised, to make. The relevant court fee will be payable for any other type of application.

Criminal prosecutions and coroners’ cases

These are court cases where Randox Testing Services carried out testing of blood, urine, and other bodily samples for drugs on behalf of the police between 2013 and 2017. Potentially affected cases are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis by individual police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Where it is possible to do so, samples are being re-tested. Priority is being given to cases where individuals are in custody or where court proceedings are on-going. Members of the public do not need to take any action at this time. Those affected will be contacted by the police or CPS in due course.

A similar approach to independent re-testing is being applied to cases which have been referred to the Coroner, in particular following an investigation by the police into a suspicious death. Coroners are reviewing potentially affected cases and will consider the outcome of any re-testing and what steps need to be taken. Members of the public do not need to take any action at this time. Anyone affected by this will be contacted by the coroner’s office in due course.

Civil cases

There is no information that any civil case is affected. However, if you were involved in proceedings where expert evidence following hair strand testing for drug or alcohol use was relied on, and you are concerned, you may wish to obtain legal advice about the available options either from a solicitor or an organisation like Citizen’s Advice.

Other types of cases

If you believe forensic laboratory testing for drug or alcohol use has been undertaken by either of these laboratories (Trimega or Randox Testing Services) which have not resulted in court proceedings as set out above, you should contact the party who commissioned the test and may wish to consult a legal adviser, your union or professional body or an organisation like Citizen’s Advice about the options available to you.

If you have any questions which have not been addressed above about the court process, and do not fall within the remits of legal advice, you can send these by email to forensictesting@justice.gov.uk.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply