FTS’s unique service ensures you get a reliable answer to this question, not just test results

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Test results from hair analysis can be very misleading unless the correct test profile is applied to each case, the results are considered in context of all influencing factors and all these factors and the test data are investigated thoroughly by experts with the necessary skills and experience in the application of testing in child care proceedings.

All this data must then be considered to produce an opinion on the balance of probabilities as to whether drugs or alcohol are a factor in the case and if so, how significant this is likely to be. The opinion presented should assist the court in making the decision with regards to whether drugs or alcohol could compromise the parent’s ability to provide a safe environment for the child.

Producing reliable and useful evidence represents a significant challenge to the experts in this field and understandably, is outside the skill and expertise of the LAA, courts, barristers, solicitors and social services. This issue was highlighted in a letter from Her Honour Judge Annabel Carr QC at the Sheffield Combined Court, distributed through the South Yorkshire LFJB:


“The costs to be incurred in the preparation of the testing and reports are wholly necessary i.e. the expertise required is outside the skill and expertise of the court and those already involved as witnesses by reference to the published and accepted research upon which they can rely and of which the court has knowledge”.
“Guidance on the use of testing is therefore crucial and in the best interests of the family justice system. Not engaging with experts for advice on the most appropriate testing may result in inappropriate or misleading evidence, which may lead to the gravest miscarriage of justice imaginable – the wrongful removal of children from their families”.

Case study

Instruction issued to request an overview for the last 3 months to establish if the client was using Cocaine.

An alternative laboratory

A hair sample was collected and sent to the laboratory that carried out a hair strand test to cover a 3 month history. The hair sample was cut to a single section of 3cm in length (non-segmented) and tested for cocaine.

Result – Cocaine and cocaine metabolites were not found above the cut-off.

Interpretation - Negative

The laboratory concluded:

“The Negative result indicates that none of the substances for which testing was performed were detected at concentrations equal to or greater than their cut-off levels. The results did not provide evidence of controlled substance use on multiple occasions by client during this approximate 90 day time period”

In fact this testing assessed cocaine use only, not “controlled substances generally” and is therefore misleading. All parties and the court therefore assumed that Drugs were not a factor in this case and would therefore not compromise the parent’s ability to provide a safe environment for the child. This result was to be the determining factor in the decision making process with regards to the child’s residence.

Forensic Testing Service

The matched hair sample and also a urine sample were tested by FTS who carried out a hair strand test and urine test for cocaine and were also instructed to report if any other compounds were identified in the hair that had not been declared. The court order specified this requirement so client consent was obtained.

(FTS do not make a charge for notifying the presence of other compounds, however the specific identity and level of drug found cannot be reported without additional investigations, the cost of which is specified in the report)

The hair sample was cut to 4cm and segmented into 4 x 1cm sections and tested for cocaine.

FTS completed the testing and investigated all factors that could influence the outcome of the test results. No cocaine or any cocaine metabolites were detected in the hair or the urine.

FTS concluded:

“These results do not provide any evidence to indicate that client has used cocaine during the 3 to 5 months prior to sampling. However, three other compounds were detected in the hair. Two compounds were present in all four hair segments and one compound was detected in the two recent hair segments. FTS can investigate and report these compounds if instructed to do so and the cost of this work is specified in section 3.01 Recommendations for future testing.”

On further analysis and investigation the presence of Mephedrone and Methylone (Mcat’s) were established at progressively increasing levels in all sections, representing increasing frequency of use over this period. These Mcat’s are powerful stimulants and part of a group of drugs that are closely related to amphetamines. They are sometimes contaminated with other potent and sometimes fatal compounds. Ketamine was also present in the recent two sections, also at increasing levels representing regular use in the recent section. Ketamine is a powerful general anaesthetic, which creates an apparent detachment of the mind from the body and is a widely abused drug.

Clearly both test profiles answered the very specific question; “has the client used cocaine in the last 3 months”.

However, FTS answered the all-important question necessary to make the right decision in this case.

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