Unreliable forensic toxicology tests—next steps

Unreliable forensic toxicology tests—next steps

Family analysis: The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that it is treating some hair strand test results as potentially unreliable. Maud Davis, partner at TV Edwards LLP looks at what this could mean for proceedings involving children where there was a reliance on hair strand testing, and suggests next steps for family practitioners advising in this area.

Original news

Guidance on unreliable or manipulated forensic toxicology tests

The MoJ has released guidance for those concerned about potentially unreliable forensic toxicology tests. This follows police investigations into the potential manipulation of forensic toxicology test results at two private companies. The test results were used as expert evidence in England and Wales. The guidance includes examples which aim to help people understand where toxicology tests may have been used as part of decision making in court cases, and provides advice for those who believe their case may have been adversely affected by manipulated test results.

What concerns have been raised regarding the reliability of hair strand testing?

The UK government has published information regarding two companies whose test results may be unreliable—Randox Testing Services and Trimega Laboratories Limited. Randox have provided test results in criminal and coroners’ proceedings, while Trimaga has produced results for the family courts.

More specifically, Trimega’s results between 2010 and April 2014 have been called into question.

The MoJ has contacted relevant stakeholders, including the Association of Lawyers for Children (ALC), the Law Society, the Family Law Bar Association, and Resolution, to say that the police are reviewing data to try to identify cases with a sample where manipulation has occurred.

The Department for Education has also written to individual local authorities, asking them to review their records to establish whether they commissioned tests from Trimega, and to consider whether any action is necessary to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.

The MoJ has published more information here. It has advised the public to contact the relevant local authority, or their solicitor.

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