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Review of drug driving samples analysed by Synlab Laboratory Services Limited

19 Aug 2021

In December 2020, forensic testing company Synlab Laboratory Services Limited identified issues with its analysis of drug driving samples, specifically Section 5A Road Traffic Act toxicology testing for controlled drugs.

The main issues related to quality control criteria used to verify analytical results. An investigation has found that these criteria were not always applied consistently.

Synlab raised its concerns with the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR), National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and then voluntarily suspended its accreditation. Suspension was subsequently confirmed by UKAS.

A review has been taking place to identify how many drug driving samples have been affected.

The data associated with all samples analysed by Synlab, a total of 4,255 samples have been reviewed.

Of these, 2,462 samples either remained negative, the case was discontinued prior to going to trial, or the trial resulted in a not guilty outcome.

709 samples, where the level of a drug was found to be above the prescribed limit have been through the court system and the review found no grounds to question the outcome.

831 samples have been identified, of which 588 relate to concluded cases, where the test result from Synlab can no longer be relied on. The CPS is informing the defence for these cases. However, there may have been other evidence in these cases which led to a conviction.

There are 253 samples relating to cases currently within the court system where the review of the data has confirmed the result as reliable.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for forensics James Vaughan, 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.

“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.”


Notes to Editors:

The numbers given may be subject to change due to a number of cases still going through the Criminal Justice system. Only once all cases have concluded will the final figures be known. These figures are accurate as of Friday, 30 July.