The Atkinson Lewis Story

This is how we work…and how it all began

This year, as 15,000 drug and alcohol cases pass through the Family Courts, we think every child deserves a diligent expert witness in their corner 

Key word: “diligent”. Leaving (literally) no stone unturned in the quest for truth. Because let’s remember, the court’s decision is going to change the child’s future for better or worse. 

We don’t think it’s right to gamble on something that important.  

So we’ve created a different kind of drug and alcohol testing service – not a lab that gives simplistic answers with high margins of error, but a “data-plus” system that looks beyond the surface detail of forensic tests, adding medical interpretation by a drug and alcohol specialist.  

With this extra scrutiny, we can treat lab results as they should be treated: not as the final word, but as the first piece of an evidential picture – contextualised by the parent’s history and recent behaviour, so courts can better understand the risk to the child.  

Are we fighting a losing battle? 

We’re under no illusions. Ever since austerity measures cut Legal Aid to the bone back in 2012, Local Authorities have faced constant pressure to deliver more results with ever-shrinking budgets. So of course, there’ll always be those who claim this level of detail is non-essential.  

But we’ve stood firm on this point throughout – as have the councils who work with us to ensure closer scrutiny. And we’ve done so with good reason. 

During this era of factory-like assessments, we’ve seen landmark cases where drug or alcohol abuse has slipped through the net, with disastrous results. 

It’s easy to be wise after such events. But the lesson is clear: assessing a parent or guardian is a complex process that goes beyond the simple reporting that comes back from a lab. 

This needn’t be cost-prohibitive. Sometimes – when multiple tests point to the same conclusions – we can make our assessment remotely. It’s simply a case of working through medical notes and other observations, and flagging anything that sheds a new light on the lab results.  

But other times – when multiple tests conflict or the parent is hard to fathom – there’s a strong case for a full psychiatric review. That takes longer, and time is reflected in cost, but sometimes there’s no alternative.  

All we can say at the outset is, we’ll take each case on its merits – and together, make sure your budget is spent in the most appropriate way.  

How it all began 

Dr Rosemary Atkinson
Our co-founder
Dr Rosemary Atkinson

This considered, nuanced approach was pioneered in the 1990s by Dr Rosemary Atkinson: a highly respected psychiatrist who worked for many years in drug and alcohol related roles for the NHS and voluntary sector.  

In that time, she developed a rigorous testing and reporting procedure to help Family Courts measure the impact of substance misuse.  

After many successful cases, and with demand for reports increasing sharply, Dr. Atkinson co-founded Atkinson Lewis in 2009. The company set out with a simple aim, to bring about safer decisions in the Family Courts through an end-to-end service: sample collection, accurate testing and medical review.  

Since then, thousands of child custody cases have relied on expert testimony provided through this well-established method. 

Now retired, Dr Atkinson has passed the baton to our new Medical Director Dr Catherine Pyves – an experienced psychiatrist with an extensive track record in childcare cases that involve alcohol and drugs. 

Today, Dr Pyves’ team follow the same meticulous system that began three decades ago. So looking to the future, we’re still making sure that every case gets the full consideration it deserves. 

No case should come to court with incomplete evidence

If you share this belief, please get in touch – whether it’s a public law case brought by a Local Authority or a private case like a divorce or separation hearing. We have sample collectors working at strategic locations around the UK, especially in Wales, the Midlands and the North of England. 

Cansford Laboratories: our trusted partners in every investigation 

Since its inception in 2011, Cansford has been our sole hair testing partner. In that time, we’ve collaborated on thousands of safeguarding cases from across the UK. 

Find out why we trust this laboratory above all others. 

Medical Experts: can we work together? 

Our business is expanding. So we’re always looking out for talented people who’ll fit straight into our team, regardless of location.  

We’re especially keen to hear from psychiatrists and other expert witnesses, as well as sample collectors with a clinical background.

How Can We Help You Today? 

We’re here to assist with private and public law cases in the Family Courts. If you’ve got a question, need a cost or you’re ready with an instruction, give us some details and we’ll get back to you quickly.