Faulty lab tests could put hundreds of drug driving convictions in jeopardy

A total of 831 results were found to be unreliable

<p>The tests have been relied upon by police and prosecutors UK-wide </p>

The tests have been relied upon by police and prosecutors UK-wide

Over 800 prosecutions of motorists suspected of driving whilst on drugs may collapse because of faulty laboratory testing, it has been found.

Thousands of tests, which are relied upon by both police and prosecutors across the country, have had to be reviewed following the discovery of a problem with the way samples had been assessed.

In December 2020, Synlab Laboratory Services Limited found there were issues with the way in which it analysed drug driving samples, mainly related to quality control criteria, which were found to not always be applied consistently.

Concerns were raised by Synlab which resulted in a review. This found that 588 defendants have been convicted of driving whilst high on drugs on the back of a faulty test result, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

The NPCC went on to say that Synlab’s tests can “no longer be relied on”.

In total, 4,255 samples were reviewed with 709 positive results found to be accurate, meanwhile 831 results were found to be unreliable.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is in the process of informing defence lawyers involved in the 831 affected cases, and it is thought the discovery will likely mean that many cases collapse and convictions are overturned.

James Vaughan, who is in charge of the NPCC’s work on forensics, explained that cases convicted using unreliable evidence were “a huge regret” and added that his “thoughts go out to those who have been affected.

He said: “Any case where an individual has been convicted on evidence that is no longer reliable is a huge regret.

“My thoughts go out to those who have been affected by this and we are contacting the relevant lawyers and teams to ensure they are made aware of the findings.”

Adding: “While the majority of cases are unaffected and results can be relied upon, we acknowledge that this issue will have a knock-on effect for some people.

“It’s absolutely vital that we maintain a robust forensic testing system that provides reliable evidence to the courts.”

The NPCC did however point out that prosecutions based on faulty test results would not necessarily collapse due to the potential that there may have been other evidence to support the case.

Meanwhile, Darryl Preston, who leads the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ work on forensics called the news a “cause for concern”.

He said: “Road safety is a key priority for many PCCs, and forensics play a key role in identifying drink and drug-driving offenders.

“That anyone who was driving under the influence of drink or drugs may have a conviction quashed, or that someone has been wrongfully convicted, is a cause for concern.

“Longer term, this episode has shone a light on the need to ensure the very highest standards of forensic science provision to the criminal justice system and that policing... must access efficient and reliable forensics services providers to ensure justice can be served.”

Additional reporting by PA

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in