Frequently Asked Questions
Before you talk to us, you’ll have a list of questions. If you don’t see the answers on our service pages, we hope you’ll find them here…
What types of case do you support?
We assist Family Courts in child custody cases, by assessing claims of drug or alcohol misuse among parents. Often, that means a public case, like an intervention brought by Social Services. But equally, it could be a private case – a divorce or separation hearing that hinges more on competence than criminal neglect.
Who collects the hair and blood samples?
All our sample collectors are highly trained in hair and blood collection, with experience of taking blood in a clinical environment. But we don’t just recruit for skills – attitude is key. Our collectors are friendly and courteous, treating every client with the utmost respect.
Where are samples taken?
Usually in the client’s home, but there are other options too. Subject to pandemic restrictions, we can collect at a solicitor’s office, a local authority contact centre or at our own secure facility here in Swansea.
What protocols do you follow?
We ask that a witness is there when the sample is taken, to confirm the client’s identity and attest that we’ve followed the steps as detailed in our report. A solicitor or social worker would be an ideal witness.
We will also need some form of photo ID, such as a passport or driving licence. And we’ll ask the client (or a designated adult) to sign a consent form before proceeding.
Upon collection, samples are sent in a tamper-proof package to our lab partners. The sample is also logged on our secure app, so the court will see a documented chain of custody.
Will the hair sample leave a bald patch?
We’ll be cutting a 6cm sample from close to the scalp, so some difference may be visible, especially with shorter or thinner hair. However, our collectors are well trained in this area, so they’ll do everything possible to minimise the impact on the client’s appearance.
Do you have a collector near me?
We have collectors working at strategic points around the UK, with excellent coverage in Wales, the Midlands and North West England. The team is expanding all the time, so it’s best to contact us for the latest on availability.
What drugs do you test for?
As standard, we run a 9-Panel Drug Test that searches the hair sample for traces of Cocaine, Opiates, Methadone, Amphetamine, Methamphetamines, Cannabinoids, Mephedrone, Benzodiazepines and Tramadol. By arrangement, we can also test for PCP, Ketamine, Buprenorphine, Barbiturates, Ritalin, Steroids, Pregabalin, Quetiapine and more.
What’s the turnaround for testing?
For a standard test, we will deliver the results within 5 working days, including medical interpretation by a psychiatrist with specialist knowledge of drug and alcohol problems.
Do you carry out your own testing?
As an expert witness service, we don’t operate as a laboratory. We manage the sample collections process and place 100% of tests with our UKAS-accredited associates Cansford Laboratories.
In an industry where many tests are outsourced to overseas labs (too often selected on price), we feel this transparency is important.
Can you prove a client has been abstinent?
Technically, it’s impossible to prove abstinence, because drug and alcohol markers are not present 100% of the time. This is why we carry out multiple tests, using hair and blood to search for a range of markers – then cast a medical eye over the data to make sense of any contradictions and identify potential mitigating factors.
In other words, we’re not producing a single “silver bullet” – we’re building an evidential picture that will establish a balance of probability, and allow us to report on the probable and possible effects of any substance misuse.
How detailed is your medical review?
Every case is different. If multiple hair and blood tests point to the same conclusions, it’s possible that our psychiatrist can review the case remotely – reviewing the client’s medical notes and the observations of sample collectors to see if anything should be flagged to the court, perhaps as a mitigating factor or contextual risk.
However, when a case is more complex – because of the client’s history or conflicting lab results – we’d typically recommend a full psychiatric review. Naturally, this process takes longer than our standard 5-day service, and comes at an additional cost. So if we feel it’s an essential step, we’ll provide our reasons and recommendations for your approval.
Do you offer split billing?
Yes. Most of our cases are paid by two or more parties – usually a Local Authority and at least one solicitor acting for a parent. So we can split the invoice to your specification, with each party’s share itemised to comply with the rules of the Legal Aid Agency.
How do I issue an instruction?
Click to get in touch via our contact form. To begin, just give us some basic details about the case, and one of our team will contact you to discuss the next steps.
How Can We Help You Today?
We’re here to assist with private and public 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.