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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Tristan Kirk

Hundreds of drug-driving convictions could be thrown out after mass errors at testing lab

A general image of laboratory drug testing

(Picture: PA)

Hundreds of drug-driving convictions have been thrown into doubt after more than 1,700 lab tests conducted over 21 months had to be withdrawn.

Problems with tests carried out by Synlab Laboratory Services Limited were identified by the company in December 2020, sparking a mass review by police and the forensic science regulator into the scale of the problem.

On Monday the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) announced that all drug-driving tests produced by Synlab between April 2019 and December 2020 where levels were found to be above the prescribed limit must be withdrawn.

This included 1,778 positive drug samples which were deployed in prosecutions.

The Crown Prosecution Service is now contacting defendants who are affected, with the previously-incriminating evidence now being withdrawn.

“This has been a lengthy and in-depth review, which I know has been hugely challenging for those individuals who are impacted by the results”, said Chief Constable Nick Dean, NPCC lead for forensics.

“I would like to commend their patience while we have worked through the data. The reviews were done at such a detailed level because we are committed to ensuring evidence entering the courts is reliable.

“We take any issues seriously and wanted to ensure due diligence was taken to achieve the correct outcome.

“Synlab have been very forthcoming and open during the reviews, which we welcome.

“I want to thank all our partners who have spent many hours reviewing and working hard to try and get this right.

“It is hugely regrettable whenever evidence that has been submitted to the courts in good faith has to be withdrawn. We know that this will have significant knock-on effects for people.”

Over the affected period, Synlab analysed 4,255 samples including 2,181 where no drugs were found to be present or the levels were below the prescribed limit.

There were 296 samples from cases which were discontinued or there was no conviction at court.

Reacting to the news, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Forensic Lead Darryl Preston said: “We are disappointed that cases have been rescinded and the implications this has on justice, but we welcome the Forensic Science Regulator’s review of these cases.”

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