The importance of challenging forensic evidence in drug driving cases
In 2015, a new offence was created making it unlawful to drive whilst over a specified drug limit.
One of the most important pieces of evidence in any drug driving case is the Streamlined Forensic Toxicology Report, also known as the SFR1. This four page document will contain;
- The result of the analysis
- The location and name of the laboratory
- The name of the Forensic Analyst
- The date of analysis
Streamlined forensic reports were first introduced in 2012. The idea behind this was to reduce costs for the prosecution by avoiding unnecessary 15 page forensic reports in all cases. The streamlined forensic reporting process has two stages.
- First, the CPS will present the SFR1 (the ‘basic’ report). This is not a witness statement nor it is an expert report. It will not contain a declaration from the expert and it cannot be relied upon at trial. The information contained within this report is limited and often useless.
- If the SFR1 report is not accepted by the defence, stage 2 comes into play. By rejecting the SFR1, the CPS are forced to produce a secondary report containing valuable and detailed information (which is often far more useful to the defence!). This report is known as the SFR2. The defence will still have the option to reject the SFR2 and require the expert to attend trial (causing even more problems for the CPS!).
Should you trust an SFR1?
Many people, when charged with a drug driving offence, will take this document at ‘face value’. They assume that this has come from a laboratory and must, therefore, be correct. This is very risky.
As a general rule, you should not accept the SFR1. The analyst who signs-off the report in most cases won’t have seen your blood sample. The work is normally conducted by lab assistants and then simply signed off by one of the more senior lab analysts. It is common practice for senior lab analysts to approve reports without even looking at them. This happened recently with Randox Testing Services.
There are very strict procedures that should be followed from the point the blood is drawn from your arm, to the point of analysis. As specialist defence solicitors, we are able to outline specific reasons for rejecting the report.
There are a five key reasons why you need to see SFR2 (full evaluative report);
- Method of analysis – There are two common types of commercial sample preparation techniques (LCMS & GCMS). Some drug metabolites are better suited to certain analytical techniques.
- Standard Deviation Deduction – By law, laboratories must deduct a required amount from the measured result to allow for ‘normal analytical variation’. This can range from 20 – 30%. If the laboratory fails to do this, you could be unfairly charged.
- Date of analysis – Guidance released recently by the HM Inspectorate requires all police forces to process forensic samples to laboratories within one week. M.A.J. Law has found that many forces will wait until the month-end to arrange collection by courier. This reduces costs for police forces but can affect sample reliability.
- CPS difficulties – If the SFR1 is not agreed, the CPS must produce a detailed SFR2. They should also provide a ‘data pack’ containing specialist analytical information relating to the sampling of your specimen. In approximately 90% of cases M.A.J. Law defend, the CPS will fail to provide the correct evidence. This can directly result in the case collapsing.
Analytical Data Pack
It is also important that we ask the CPS to provide the full blood analytical data pack. This provides roughly 100 pages of raw data detailing technical analytical information (such as calibration graphs & plots, standard deviation checks, quality control measures etc…). Only once we have seen this information can we truly accept the result of any drug driving analysis. If the CPS fail to service, there is no evidence to prove an accurate analysis.
The concerns that we have are well justified. Only recently, one of the laboratories used by police forces nationwide lost its accreditation to analyse blood samples in drug drive cases when 2 of its analysts were arrested for ‘perverting the course of justice’. More information on this story can be found here or here.
If you are facing a charge of drug driving, it is always advisable to speak to a specialist solicitor to find out the best way to proceed. If you would like to speak to one of our specialists, call us on 0151 422 8020 or make an enquiry through our contact form.