More than 1,700 drug drivers could have convictions quashed after botched lab tests

Blood drug test
Blood drug test

More than 1,700 suspected drug drivers are likely to be cleared after a laboratory botched their test results.

The motorists were stopped by police between April 2019 and December 2020 and after providing a sample, tested positive for an illegal level of cannabis in their bloodstream.

But officials from Synlab Laboratory Service Limited (Synlab), the private company which carried out the analysis, raised the alarm after discovering a problem in the way the results had been calculated.

A major review of the data was carried out and a total of 1,778 positive results have now been declared as unsafe.

The figure is thought to include some motorists who have already been found guilty of driving while under the influence of cannabis and who are now likely to have their convictions quashed.

Others who were waiting for their cases to come to court are now expected to be informed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that proceedings have been dropped.

Licence withdrawn

All those caught up in the blunder, had traces of cannabis in their system, but Synlab were unable to say for certain whether they were above the two micrograms per litre of blood legal limit.

The mistake means some people who are caught driving while high on cannabis will not be punished.

Synlab, which carried out drug drive tests for 23 police forces in England and Wales, had its licence withdrawn when the mistake was discovered and it has not been reinstated.

The review of the test results was carried out by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and included representatives from the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners , the Forensic Science Regulator, the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

'It is hugely regrettable'

Chief Constable Nick Dean, the NPCC lead on forensics, said: “This has been a lengthy and in-depth review, which I know has been hugely challenging for those individuals who are impacted by the results.

“I would like to commend their patience while we have worked through the data. The reviews were done at such a detailed level because we are committed to ensuring evidence entering the courts is reliable.

“We take any issues seriously and wanted to ensure due diligence was taken to achieve the correct outcome.

“Synlab has been very forthcoming and open during the reviews, which we welcome. I want to thank all our partners who have spent many hours reviewing and working hard to try and get this right.

“It is hugely regrettable, whenever evidence that has been submitted to the courts in good faith has to be withdrawn. We know that this will have significant knock-on effects for people. The CPS has been or will be contacting all those whose samples have been rescinded.”

A CPS spokesman said: “Following the conclusion of the review into Synlab’s drug testing results between April 2019 and December 2020 we are contacting the defence in cases where there was a conviction.

“This process will take time and whether a conviction is set aside will be different in each case depending on all the available evidence.”