Deal agreed for drink-drive samples

A raft of private companies have been signed up at the 11th hour to test samples from suspected drink-drivers.

Government officials have spent the last week in talks after the Forensic Science Service (FSS) withdrew its services.

A leaked memo warned chief constables that blood and urine samples from motorists should be stored in fridges until a deal was struck.

The news sparked fears some drink-drive cases could collapse if samples were held for more than a fortnight and drivers challenged their handling.

Police leaders announced today that new providers were now in place and insisted there had been "no adverse impact" on road policing.

The move came within hours of a self-imposed seven working day deadline to set up a fresh deal.

In a joint statement, the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) and Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said all collected samples will be tested.

A spokesman said: "New forensic service providers are now in place and will be providing analysis of blood and urine samples taken from motorists who are suspected of driving while over the alcohol limit.

"The speed of our response means that there has been no adverse impact upon road traffic policing or the administration of justice.

"Suspected drink-drivers have continued to provide samples, and the police have continued to store these in refrigerated conditions.

"These samples, together with any future samples, are now being sent to the new forensic providers for testing."

Blood and urine samples are taken when suspected drink-drivers opt for a second test, when police equipment is faulty or when they are unable to take a breath test.

In December, the Government announced the loss-making FSS will be wound down by March next year.

Wiltshire Deputy Chief Constable David Ainsworth is leading a behind-the-scenes team, dubbed Operation Slingshot, tasked with managing the demise of the FSS.

He is working with officials from Acpo, the NPIA and the Home Office to manage the transfer of services to the private sector and police forces.