Forensic Toxicology Specialists

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Forensic Toxicology Specialists's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Forensic Toxicology Specialists is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

www.fts-group.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
32 | FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY SPECIALISTS
Managing Director Paul Hunter
State-of-the-art forensic
laboratory, West Yorkshire
Forensic Toxicology Specialists work to provide evidence for
use by local authorities and the family legal sector in courts.
Managing Director Paul Hunter explains that in instances of
substance misuse, particularly those which impact the wellbeing
of children, they ensure that information is accurately and
efficiently obtained and processed. Paul tells
The Parliamentary
Review
more about how FTS serves courts in the UK, and why the
current system is in such serious need of reform.
Substance misuse has a devastating impact on our lives generally, but of particular
concern is the harm that it brings to children’s lives. It puts the lives of children of
all ages at risk, even before they are born and if they survive the traumas, their lives
are often damaged irreparably.
FTS now have the knowledge and capability to drive much needed reform that will
improve the safety of children affected by substance abuse. This is our clear mission and
what motivates our team and drives the innovation, delivery and growth of ourservice.
My previous work in substance abuse started in the mid-1990s and involved the
introduction of a new patented technology and unique service to reform the provision
of clinical and legal evidence for substance misuse street clinics, probation services
and crime reduction partnerships. This work introduced me to the legal process,
where I discovered that the family legal teams and courts had a very poor grasp of
the complex science behind forensic testing and were being misled by thisevidence.
In childcare proceedings there was a clear disconnect between what the court
required and what the industry provided. However, there were no drug testing
FACTS ABOUT
FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY
SPECIALISTS
»Managing Director:
PaulHunter
»Established in 2009
»Based in Mirfield, West
Yorkshire
»Services: Providing legally
defensible expert evidence for
courts in the UK
»No. of employees: 72
»Leading essential reform – the
first and only company to have
introduced the model of best
practice in the UK
Forensic Toxicology
Specialists
33FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY SPECIALISTS |
LAW & JUSTICE
laboratories providing a service
designed to help the court process. The
services available were clearly not fit for
purpose and so in 2009, FTS was born.
Reforming the system
Traditionally, a restricted drug or
alcohol screening test is instructed
by courts to deduce if individuals
are abusing drugs or alcohol over
extended histories of a few or several
months. The output from this testing
is a “positive”, concluding substances
have been abused, or “negative”,
concluding no substances have been
abused. However, when investigating
a case to establish an extended history,
a wide range of biomarkers need
to be tested from complex samples,
including hair, nails and blood, the
results from which, are not binary and
should not be reportedas such.
The court needs to know: does
substance abuse represent a risk to a
child? To answer this question requires
more than a simple drug or alcohol test
for the parent. Testing the child, which
is complex and rarely undertaken, is also
a crucial factor in many cases. The most
significant factor missing in the present
simple approach is a comprehensive
forensic investigation, essential to
provide the critical context needed to
interpret and understand test results.
Held up by court
The majority of local authorities and the
family legal sector remain unaware that
much of the “scientific” evidence from
this testing does not meet the standard
of proof required for legal proceedings.
This results in a false confidence and
overdependence on it to make decisions.
Using this binary approach to report
drug test results, in isolation of forensic
investigations, is leading to the gravest
miscarriages of justice imaginable; the
wrongful removal of a child from their
parents or leaving a child to likely harm
or suffering. This binary process is
designed for high volume commercial,
clinical and epidemiological
applications, but it is not appropriate
for legal proceedings.
In family courts, evidence must achieve
a standard of proof described as
“balance of probabilities”, but recent
high-profile court of appeal cases have
exposed that the incumbent process
does not achieve this in all cases.
Without reform, having black hair means
you’re more likely to lose your child
compared to having blonde or ginger
hair. FTS’s comprehensive database
of cases from the past ten years has
demonstrated these significant failings.
Using the existing process, up to 40 per
cent of regular drug users, would have
been falsely identified as not using drugs.
Around 20 per cent of non-users would
Without reform,
numerous factors,
including hair colour,
can influence a judge’s
decision on a child’s
custody
»CHALLENGES
Our biggest challenge for reform in this sector is getting an audience
with the judiciary and other decision-making stakeholders to educate
those who need to understand why change is required urgently. Most
of the work we do is paid through public funding where the budget
is controlled by the Legal Aid Agency or local authority.
The LAA are not accessible to us and the majority of local authority
commissioners do not feel it’s appropriate to speak to us. Therefore,
they continue to be misinformed and continue to naively waste
public money, perpetuating the risk and suffering that children face
every day from substance misuse. There is infrastructure in place to
deliver this education very quickly through judicial training and the
local family justice boards. Although this education is essential, the
structure is not presently accessible to us at FTS.
In childcare
proceedings
there was a clear
disconnect
between what
the court
required and
what the industry
provided
BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
32 | FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY SPECIALISTS
Managing Director Paul Hunter
State-of-the-art forensic
laboratory, West Yorkshire
Forensic Toxicology Specialists work to provide evidence for
use by local authorities and the family legal sector in courts.
Managing Director Paul Hunter explains that in instances of
substance misuse, particularly those which impact the wellbeing
of children, they ensure that information is accurately and
efficiently obtained and processed. Paul tells
The Parliamentary
Review
more about how FTS serves courts in the UK, and why the
current system is in such serious need of reform.
Substance misuse has a devastating impact on our lives generally, but of particular
concern is the harm that it brings to children’s lives. It puts the lives of children of
all ages at risk, even before they are born and if they survive the traumas, their lives
are often damaged irreparably.
FTS now have the knowledge and capability to drive much needed reform that will
improve the safety of children affected by substance abuse. This is our clear mission and
what motivates our team and drives the innovation, delivery and growth of ourservice.
My previous work in substance abuse started in the mid-1990s and involved the
introduction of a new patented technology and unique service to reform the provision
of clinical and legal evidence for substance misuse street clinics, probation services
and crime reduction partnerships. This work introduced me to the legal process,
where I discovered that the family legal teams and courts had a very poor grasp of
the complex science behind forensic testing and were being misled by thisevidence.
In childcare proceedings there was a clear disconnect between what the court
required and what the industry provided. However, there were no drug testing
FACTS ABOUT
FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY
SPECIALISTS
»Managing Director:
PaulHunter
»Established in 2009
»Based in Mirfield, West
Yorkshire
»Services: Providing legally
defensible expert evidence for
courts in the UK
»No. of employees: 72
»Leading essential reform – the
first and only company to have
introduced the model of best
practice in the UK
Forensic Toxicology
Specialists
33FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY SPECIALISTS |
LAW & JUSTICE
laboratories providing a service
designed to help the court process. The
services available were clearly not fit for
purpose and so in 2009, FTS was born.
Reforming the system
Traditionally, a restricted drug or
alcohol screening test is instructed
by courts to deduce if individuals
are abusing drugs or alcohol over
extended histories of a few or several
months. The output from this testing
is a “positive”, concluding substances
have been abused, or “negative”,
concluding no substances have been
abused. However, when investigating
a case to establish an extended history,
a wide range of biomarkers need
to be tested from complex samples,
including hair, nails and blood, the
results from which, are not binary and
should not be reportedas such.
The court needs to know: does
substance abuse represent a risk to a
child? To answer this question requires
more than a simple drug or alcohol test
for the parent. Testing the child, which
is complex and rarely undertaken, is also
a crucial factor in many cases. The most
significant factor missing in the present
simple approach is a comprehensive
forensic investigation, essential to
provide the critical context needed to
interpret and understand test results.
Held up by court
The majority of local authorities and the
family legal sector remain unaware that
much of the “scientific” evidence from
this testing does not meet the standard
of proof required for legal proceedings.
This results in a false confidence and
overdependence on it to make decisions.
Using this binary approach to report
drug test results, in isolation of forensic
investigations, is leading to the gravest
miscarriages of justice imaginable; the
wrongful removal of a child from their
parents or leaving a child to likely harm
or suffering. This binary process is
designed for high volume commercial,
clinical and epidemiological
applications, but it is not appropriate
for legal proceedings.
In family courts, evidence must achieve
a standard of proof described as
“balance of probabilities”, but recent
high-profile court of appeal cases have
exposed that the incumbent process
does not achieve this in all cases.
Without reform, having black hair means
you’re more likely to lose your child
compared to having blonde or ginger
hair. FTS’s comprehensive database
of cases from the past ten years has
demonstrated these significant failings.
Using the existing process, up to 40 per
cent of regular drug users, would have
been falsely identified as not using drugs.
Around 20 per cent of non-users would
Without reform,
numerous factors,
including hair colour,
can influence a judge’s
decision on a child’s
custody
»CHALLENGES
Our biggest challenge for reform in this sector is getting an audience
with the judiciary and other decision-making stakeholders to educate
those who need to understand why change is required urgently. Most
of the work we do is paid through public funding where the budget
is controlled by the Legal Aid Agency or local authority.
The LAA are not accessible to us and the majority of local authority
commissioners do not feel it’s appropriate to speak to us. Therefore,
they continue to be misinformed and continue to naively waste
public money, perpetuating the risk and suffering that children face
every day from substance misuse. There is infrastructure in place to
deliver this education very quickly through judicial training and the
local family justice boards. Although this education is essential, the
structure is not presently accessible to us at FTS.
In childcare
proceedings
there was a clear
disconnect
between what
the court
required and
what the industry
provided
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
34 | FORENSIC TOXICOLOGY SPECIALISTS
have been falsely accused of using drugs.
Given that the custody of a child often
rests on this evidence, this lottery has to
stop, these decisions must not be left to
chance and the process has tochange.
Systematic reform
Our unique model of best practice
incorporates a thorough forensic
investigation and appropriate analytical
work, to deliver the evidence that
answers the specific questions relating
to each case. Decisions can be made
earlier and with more confidence, to
assist the family courts achieve their
strict 26-week window to open and
close a case. It avoids the present
misleading evidence, confusion and
misinterpretation of scientific reports.
It reduces the waste of public funds
and significant cost to the child and
families when the wrong decisions are
made. The child’s interest is placed at
the centre of our work so the evidence
needed to make the right decision for
the child will continue to be the focus
of our efforts.
We have revolutionised the testing
process, so that much of the drug and
or alcohol abuse that presently goes
undetected, including the growing
number of new synthetic drugs such as
synthetic cannabinoids like ”spice”, can
now be detected and reported for all
cases. Our experts provide CPD training
to legal teams, judiciary and social
services allowing all to fully understand
what this evidence means and crucially,
why changing to instructing an expert
is vital to obtain reliable evidence.
We have developed a highly sophisticated
forensic laboratory in Mirfield, West
Yorkshire, UKAS accredited and Home
Office licensed, which holds certification
from the Society of Hair Testing and
Society of Toxicological and Forensic
Chemistry. Our laboratory has a
significant commitment to research and
development working closely with major
universities and laboratories in the UK
and Europe offering a comprehensive
and unique range of analytical services
in forensic toxicology and bioanalysis,
which we continue to expand. 
In partnership with universities, we
are investing heavily in IT to complete
the development and introduction
of a comprehensive data processing
and reporting system, supported by
the Leeds Enterprise Partnership and
Innovate UK. The system incorporates
decision trees, machine learning,
and explainable artificial intelligence
to fully optimise the strength and
consistency of the evidence produced.
These developments will facilitate
the opportunity to rapidly scale up
our services for all courts and local
authorities in the UK and legal services
in Europe. Courts can then feel
increasingly confident that they are
making the correct decisions and will
no longer have to rely on crude, costly
and confusing evidence.
Without
reform, having
black hair
means you’re
more likely to
lose your child
compared to
having blonde
or ginger hair
FTS are leading the
way in reforming drug
and alcohol toxicology
evidence for legal
proceedings
»FTS BEST PRACTICE MODEL
The FTS model of best practice delivers reliable evidence that achieves
“balance of probabilities” for each case. It is specifically designed to
assist the court in making the right decisions for the future of the
child. This service is the first of its kind in Europe for dealing with
cases involving substance misuse and is strongly supported by leading
experts, district family judges and guardians working for children. The
present process has been in place for over 30 years without reform,
despite its inherent risks, its associated costs and ever-growing
demands being placed on the legal sectors resources. If we value the
safety and future of children, then the present process must change.

www.fts-group.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Forensic Toxicology Specialists. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.



Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development