Hair Strand Drug Testing
Lawyers and social care professionals alike will be familiar with the deployment of “hair strand testing” for analysis of a suspected illicit substance consumption. These reports are often commissioned within public law child protection proceedings to provide evidence to the Court as to what drugs – if any – have been used by the parents of children deemed at risk, and when.
Concerns have been expressed in previous cases as to the validity of these forms of testing, particularly in respect of hair strand testing for the presence of alcohol misuse.
The in the recent case of Re H (A Child: Hair Strand Testing)  EWFC 64, Mr Justice Peter Jackson – in one of his final judgments before his elevation to Lord Justice of Appeal – assessed evidence from a number of different tests on the Mother, undertaken by three major testing organisations (Alere, Lextox and DNA Legal) over a significant period of time. The interpretation of the test results (being that the Mother had used cocaine covertly throughout the testing period) was called into question by a trichologist, Dr Hugh Rushton, and commented upon by an independent toxicologist, Dr Andrew McKinnon.
Jackson J undertook a thorough assessment of the evidence and commented upon the tests’ reliability. He also gave helpful pointers for the accredited testing agencies to follow in order to assist the Court in cases when the levels of substances detected are low or where there is suggestion of external contamination.
The judgment can be read here.