Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Children and Social Care
The UK Government has been advised that there are concerns regarding the reliability of toxicology tests for drugs and alcohol. These results may have been relied on in court proceedings. It is also possible that such results were relied on by local authorities when making child protection decisions outside the court process or by private employers.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is leading a criminal investigation into the practices at Trimega Laboratories Limited (Trimega), which was based in the Manchester area, between 2010 and 2014. Trimega went into liquidation in April 2014. Results from all tests carried out by Trimega between these dates are currently being treated as potentially unreliable.
Randox Testing Services (RTS), Trimega’s successor organisation is still operating and is also subject to the criminal investigation. RTS is co-operating with the police investigation. The police are making an announcement about its criminal investigation today.
The Welsh Government recognises the seriousness of this issue and the potential impact on public confidence in the use of forensic science in the justice system. As the judicial system is non-devolved, my officials are working closely with UK Government departments (the Ministry of Justice and Department for Education) who are in contact with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR), and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to understand and manage the impact on the family justice system. UK Government officials are working with the police to monitor the scale of the issue, given emerging information.
The number of Trimega’s customers (such as local authorities, individuals, legal representatives and employers) affected is unknown and it may never be possible to identify them all, due to the company’s poor record keeping practices. Samples from Trimega cannot be retested, because of the extremely limited chain of custody records and natural degradation over time of any remaining original samples. Not all samples tested by Trimega will have been subjected to manipulation by these individuals.
The Social Services and Integration Directorate at Welsh Government has asked all local authorities in Wales to review their case files to identify any cases where a test result by Trimega may have impacted on child protection decisions made outside the court process. Using this information, local authorities will be asked to review the case file to ensure children in their area are safe from harm. The Department for Education has similarly asked all local authorities in England to review their case files.
We understand that people who had a case heard in the family courts may have concerns. Form C650 – ‘Application notice to vary or set aside an order in relation to children’ has been created (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 Citizen’s Advice before making any application to the court Further information about the court process is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/forensic-toxicology-tests
This is a very difficult, sensitive and serious issue which goes to the heart of public confidence in the justice system. I have spoken to my Ministerial counterparts at the UK Government and emphasised the need for continued collaboration between our Governments on this matter and the importance of sharing information that impacts on Wales as soon as it emerges.