By Jack Hudson, Trainee Legal Executive at Donoghue Solicitors
Recently the National Police Chiefs’ Council forensics lead updated the public on the Randox toxicology report situation. Randox Testing Services provided forensic science reports to most of the UK’s police forces. It says that rogue employees created inaccurate drug test reports. Some of these reports were used to secure convictions or harsher sentences. Where possible, the authorities are re-testing suspect samples, but things are moving slowly. Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan confirmed that fewer than 4,000 of more than 10,500 cases have been submitted for re-testing so far.
As my colleague Kevin Donoghue explained, the effects of this toxicology report issue are wide-ranging and, for many, devastating.
We act for many victims who allege that they were wrongly convicted, or had their sentences increased, using flawed toxicology reports. Donoghue Solicitors is helping these innocent victims claim compensation as a result of this miscarriage of justice.
Some people, like our client “John”, have already been contacted by the Crown Prosecution Service with confirmation that his conviction was unsafe. His case is not unusual, in that the Magistrates agreed to re-open it, rather than deal with it by way of formal appeal. Most courts are dealing with these cases in a similarly low-key way. Having dealt with his criminal conviction, John is free to pursue a compensation claim to put him in the pre-incident position.
But what can you do if you think you were convicted, or suffered a harsher punishment, based on an incorrect toxicology report? What if you are still waiting to hear from the authorities? Here are three options to consider:
1. Wait and See
Thousands of people may have been affected by the Randox Testing Services (and Trimega Laboratories) scandals. You are not alone. Two big problems for the police and courts are
- the sheer volume of drug-sample tests they need to do
- the lack of trusted forensic experts who can do them.
Quite rightly, the police and courts are prioritising cases. About 900 “high priority” matters include cases
- in or nearing trial where suspects are in custody
- where individuals have been convicted but not yet sentenced
- where people have been bailed in advance of trial or sentence
- where convicted people are in jail.
The police expect the toxicology samples in these urgent cases to be re-tested by April 2019. But, as the NPCC lead said,
“Unfortunately, the retesting process has been slower than we had either hoped or anticipated…”
Despite this, he estimates that all relevant sample re-testing will be done by December 2019.
If you take the police at their word, you might have to wait at least a year to find out if your Randox toxicology report was wrong. I expect that the authorities will only contact those whose reports are flawed. The NPCC lead said that 2,300 of the total number of cases were removed from the retesting process because they were “deemed unlikely to result in a change to the criminal justice outcome.” Don’t expect to hear from the police if your case was one of those.
If it wasn’t, you could wait for a formal notice that your drug test report was wrong. So far about 90 of the 800 samples tested were flagged, so your odds of hearing are not great.
If you do get notified, you will need to wait for your case to be processed in the criminal justice system. Court time is precious and limited. Expect to wait until well into 2020 to get your conviction set aside.
Despite the delay and uncertainty, this option is free of charge to you, unless you seek legal representation at court. It is attractive if you do not have the money to pay a solicitor yourself.
2. Contact Your Criminal Solicitor (if you used one)
Many, but not all, Randox Testing Services cases involved criminal law. About 7,700 of these matters related to Road Traffic Offences. Other cases involved prosecutions for
- suspicious death
- violent assault
- road deaths.
Some involved matters unrelated to the criminal law, such as
- local authorities dealing with child protection decisions
- private employers’ drug and alcohol testing.
If you used a solicitor to deal with your criminal defence, you could contact them for help. Ask them to check if the Crown Prosecution Service used a Randox Testing Services or Trimega Laboratories forensic report to secure your conviction or extend your sentence.
If they did, your criminal solicitor should be able to find out if your toxicology sample is available for retesting. They could arrange for a private test and, if supportive, use it to set your conviction aside or reduce your sentence.
Please note that legal aid is not available for this service. You will have to pay privately. Costs vary depending on a number of factors, including how much work is involved.
But you may be able to recover some of the costs of the private retest and legal representation in your civil compensation claim.
3. Ask Us For a Recommendation of a Criminal Solicitor Who Specialises in Randox Testing Services Cases
Get in touch with us if you did not use a criminal solicitor, or if you would prefer to use someone different, to help with your Randox drug test case.
We can put you in touch with an expert solicitor who can make enquiries on your behalf. We will not charge a fee for doing this or receive a commission and provide no guarantee or indemnity. Depending on your circumstances, they will work with your previous lawyers, the CPS, and others, to find out where you stand. As above, you will have to pay privately for this work and any sample test.
Beware of Time Limits and Lack of Evidence
Whichever option you choose, please be aware of the time limits that apply in these cases. Dates vary depending on your circumstances. You may be “statute-barred” if you try to bring a compensation claim out of time, even if you get your criminal conviction set aside or reduced.
If your lawyer’s case file and/or toxicology sample have been destroyed it will be harder, if not impossible, to prove your innocence. Many solicitors destroy their files after six years. Trimega tests date back to 2010. Randox tests started in 2013. Samples can degrade over time, even if they were not destroyed by testing or disposal.
What to Do if You Have Already Been Notified About Your Randox Toxicology Report Case
Contact us if you have already heard from the court, police, your criminal solicitor, or CPS about your case if it involved Randox Testing Services or Trimega Laboratories. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at, so long as you know your conviction or extended sentence was based on flawed evidence. We can help you with a compensation claim for things like
- Loss of freedom, and any psychological effects
- Financial losses, including lost earnings.
I hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or my colleagues if you have any questions.