The government has urged people worried that family court cases may have been affected by widely reported alleged forensic data manipulation to seek legal advice.
In a written ministerial statement, policing minister Nick Hurd said that contractor Randox Testing Services (RTS) informed Greater Manchester Police in January that test results may have been manipulated at its laboratories. Ongoing police investigations have since uncovered that the same manipulation may have occurred at Trimega Laboratories Ltd, Hurd said.
The tests involved detect the presence of drugs and in some cases alcohol in an individual’s hair, blood or urine. Hurd said the alleged manipulation raises doubts about the reliability of some test results, which may have been subsequently relied on in criminal, coroners and family court proceedings. However, the Ministry of Justice does not believe that any civil cases are affected. The results may also have been used by local authorities when making child protection decisions outside the court process, or by private employers for drug and alcohol testing.
Hurd confirmed that results from all tests carried out by Trimega between 2010 and 2014 are being treated as potentially unreliable. The number of Trimega’s customers affected, such as local authorities, individuals, legal representatives and employers, is unknown.
It is unlikely that decisions about children's welfare will have been taken solely on the basis of toxicology test results, Hurd said. However, the government has created form C650, an application notice to vary or discharge a final court order in relation to children. Hurd encouraged individuals to seek legal advice from a solicitor or Citizens Advice before making an application. Private employers who may have commissioned a test are also encouraged to seek advice.
Most drug tests from RTS between 2013 and 2017 are being treated as potentially unreliable, Hurd said. RTS was mainly commissioned by individual police forces when investigating criminal offences. They have also been commissioned to undertake hair-strand tests for drugs and alcohol in the civil and family jurisdictions.
In a statement posted on its website, RTS said it has worked alongside the police and appropriate authorities throughout the 10-month investigation. Dr Mark Piper, RTS toxicology manager, said: 'We have acted as whistleblower to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system. We will continue to work with Greater Manchester Police and the appropriate authorities in the investigation. We will do all we can to ensure this situation is resolved and deeply regret the distress that has been caused. We are now well advanced in developing a foolproof testing system which would enhance the security of our operations in the future, to provide the necessary level of confidence.'