Toxicology:Written statement - HCWS265

WS
Home Office
Made on: 21 November 2017
Made by: Mr Nick Hurd (The Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Service)
Commons

Toxicology

In January 2017 Randox Testing Services (RTS) informed Greater Manchester Police (GMP) that there may have been manipulation of test results at their laboratories. Ongoing police investigations have since uncovered that the same manipulation may also have occurred at Trimega Laboratories Ltd (Trimega). The police are making an announcement about their criminal investigation today. When GMP has concluded its investigation, the Government will consider what lessons can be learned to ensure public confidence in forensic science used in court proceedings. I am providing an update on the police investigation and the cross-government work to manage the impact of this investigation. My honourable friend, Dominic Raab MP, will be overseeing the process for reviewing any impact on individual cases in the courts and will work closely with other Government ministers from departments impacted by the outcome of this investigation.

The purpose of this Statement is to inform people potentially affected by these issues about next steps, including what action they can take.

The toxicology tests involved are used to detect the presence of drugs and in some cases alcohol in an individual’s hair, blood or urine. The alleged manipulation raises doubts about the reliability of some test results, which may have been subsequently relied on in court proceedings (criminal, coroners and family). At this time the Ministry of Justice does not believe that any civil cases are affected by this issue, but continues to keep this under review as more information emerges from the investigation. The results may also have been used by local authorities when making child protection decisions outside the court process, or by private employers for the purpose of drug and alcohol testing of their employees.

The Government recognises the seriousness of this issue and the potential impact on public confidence in the use of forensic science within the justice system. The senior judiciary are aware and Government officials are working with the police to monitor the scale of the issue, as information emerges.

Trimega

Results from all tests carried out by Trimega between 2010 and 2014 are currently being treated as potentially unreliable although it is not clear how many tests from Trimega during that period may have been manipulated. The number of Trimega’s customers affected (such as local authorities, individuals, legal representatives and employers) is unknown. It may never be possible to identify them all, due to poor record-keeping practices. Samples from Trimega cannot be retested, because of the extremely limited chain of custody records and the natural degradation over time of any remaining original samples.

The Department for Education (DfE) has asked all local authorities in England 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. It is unlikely that decisions about the welfare of children will have been taken solely on the basis of toxicology test results. However, DfE has asked local authorities to assure themselves that the rationale for decisions made about children’s safety and wellbeing is not now called into question.

Social care is devolved to Wales and the Welsh Government. Welsh local authorities have duties and responsibility for the care, protection and wellbeing of Welsh children and young adults. Welsh ministers have subsequently been informed and will also be asking Welsh local authorities to review their case files to identify potential cases where test results by Trimega were relied on.

The Government fully understands that people who had a case heard in the family court may have concerns. Form C650 – Application notice to vary or set aside an order in relation to children - has been created (available online at https://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/FormFinder.do). This form enables individuals to apply to the court to vary or discharge the final court order. No fee is payable where Form C650 is used. Individuals are encouraged to seek legal advice from a solicitor or an organisation like Citizens Advice before making any application to the court. The existing legislative provisions for assessing suitability for legal aid will apply. Further information about the court process is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/forensic-toxicology-tests.

Where a private employer has commissioned a test, individuals are encouraged to seek legal advice on the options available to them. They may also wish to consult their professional body or union, which may be able to provide assistance.

RTS

Most drug tests from RTS between 2013 and 2017 are being treated as potentially unreliable. RTS was mainly commissioned by individual police forces when investigating criminal offences. This includes cases subsequently referred to the coroner following an investigation into a suspicious death. They have also been commissioned to undertake hair-strand tests for drugs and alcohol in the civil and family jurisdictions. RTS is cooperating fully with the police to manage the impact of this issue, and has contacted all its customers to make them aware. The NPCC is coordinating a national plan in response to the impact on criminal and coroners’ cases. In the majority of these cases, the original samples remain available for independent retesting, which is being managed through a prioritisation process. The police, CPS and coroners will contact affected individuals once the outcome of the retests is known.

This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: HLWS262

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