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Suspected drug drivers may escape justice because police forced to ration forensic toxicology

by Charles Hymas, HOME AFFAIRS EDITOR The Telegraph, posted 16 02 2021

Forensic science regulator says those suspected of drug driving 'tolerated and allowed to present continuing threat to communities'

Suspected drug drivers may be escaping justice because police forces are having to ration forensic toxicology work, the outgoing forensic science regulator has warned.

Dr Gillian Tully, who steps down from her post on Wednesday after six years, said there was not enough capacity in the system to handle the volume of work. She said the service needed to be treated as critical national infrastructure and given the funding and regulatory powers necessary to maintain the integrity of the criminal justice system.

Dr Tully warned that police forces were having to ration certain types of tests, which led to backlogs in cases, and parts of the sector remained in a precarious position due to the shortfalls.

"Essentially, road traffic toxicology work is having to be rationed because there isn't enough capacity for every police force to submit every sample that they'd like to submit," she said. 

"The inescapable conclusion is that offenders who are suspected of driving while under the influence of drugs are tolerated and allowed to present a continuing threat to communities."

Dr Tully said the high workload of staff working in these laboratories also risked undermining the quality of their analysis and warned that, alongside toxicology labs, there were similar capacity problems existing in digital labs, such as those recovering data from computer hard drives and mobile phones, resulting in a backlog of devices to be processed.

"It means some cases will just be waiting and the investigations won’t be proceeding until those devices eventually are reached," she said, adding that although these capacity problems had been known about for several years, little had been done to rectify the situation.

Dr Tully took up her post in November 2014, having worked in forensic science for more than 25 years, specialising in DNA.

She has previously warned of the risks to the criminal justice system posed by there being too few providers who meet the quality standards that are meant to prevent errors and has criticised the Government for failing to give the regulator the necessary powers to enforce standards, despite committing to do so in 2016.

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