Despite the wide use of drug and hair alcohol tests in the family courts, there remains a lack of regulation in this area of testing.

The regulation of DNA testing was introduced over ten years ago and laboratories providing this service must prove their technical competence by gaining UKAS ISO 17025 to become accredited by the MoJ. However, this is not the case for drug and hair alcohol tests which are in greater demand and has resulted in Mr Justice Moylan issuing guidance on the use of hair strand alcohol testing following the failure of the case in LB Richmond v B & W & B & CB [2010] EWHC 2903 (Fam).

Mr Justice Moylan said in his judgement that hair strand tests were not necessarily accurate in determining lower levels of alcohol use and could not distinguish between abstainers and social drinkers. However it remains that the tests are a reliable indicator of excessive and frequent consumption of alcohol.

Mr Justice Moylan reminded experts of their duty under the Practice Direction ‘Experts in Family Proceedings Relating to Children’ (2009) 2 FLR 1383. He said that any experts’ report should highlight whether the expert’s opinion is qualified and whether there is a consensus within the scientific community. He added; “As I have said, this judgment deals with the testing of hair for the purposes of expert evidence being provided to the court on the consumption of alcoholic beverages. While hair analysis for the use of drugs other than alcohol has been used for many years, hair testing specifically for alcohol use is a relatively recent and developing science, at least in the field of forensic toxicology. It is clearly particularly important when new scientific tests are being used for forensic purposes that they have a sound basis which makes it appropriate for the results to be used in court proceedings and which is sufficiently explained so that the court and the parties have a full understanding of the evidential basis both of the tests themselves and of any opinions based on the interpretation of the results of such tests.”

The Richmond case highlighted the shortcomings of hair stand tests and raised the question of whether such tests should be regulated to the same standards as DNA tests. North West based AlphaBiolabs are one of the UKs leading providers of drug, alcohol and DNA tests. Established seven years ago, AlphaBiolabs is a laboratory that is accredited to the ISO 17025 standard which means that the both its management systems and technical competency has been assessed and shown to be in compliance with the standard’s requirements. More importantly the accreditation is an indication that the testing it provides to its customers is accurate.