Landmark Judgment Highlights Issues Surrounding The Use Of Alcohol Hair Strand Testing In Family Law

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Judgment has been handed down in a landmark ruling of the High Court highlighting the issues surrounding the use of alcohol hair strand testing in family proceedings.

Lorna Cservenka of Hanne & Co represented the mother in the proceedings. She recently took part in a live webcast discussing the issues raised by Alcohol hair strand testing in family proceedings.

Lorna joined Hanne & Co in 2005 and became a partner at the firm in 2010. Lorna is the head of the Public Law department at Hanne & Co and possesses invaluable experience in dealing with Local Authorities. Lorna can advise on care proceedings and complex issues of Public Law.

The Judgment in LB Richmond v B & W [2010] EWCA 2903 can be summarised as follows;

  1. An alcohol test can only tell the court whether there has been an excessive consumption of alcohol of more than 60 grams per day over a prolonged period of time. This amounts to approximately 7-8 units per day or just under a bottle of wine / 2-3 pints of lager.
  2. An alcohol test cannot be used to prove abstinence. Hair strand tests cannot differentiate between those who are abstinent and those who consume alcohol socially.
  3. An alcohol test cannot be used to determine the amount of alcohol consumed at a particular point in time.
  4. It is not scientifically sound to segment hair into monthly sections. This is because of the manner in which alcohol markers are secreted into the hair and only an average level can be taken from sections of hair which are 3 cm long. It is not possible to prove a chronology of alcohol consumption or a pattern of drinking. Hair strand tests which purport to determine monthly use are not approved by the Society of Hair Strand Testing.
  5. You must use both an EtG test and an FAEE test to reduce the possibilities of false positives and false negatives.

Hair strand testing is frequently used in family law proceedings to determine alcohol and drug use. Hair strand testing is often significant in both private and public law proceedings and therefore it is vital that the correct weight is attached to any results obtained.

The judgment in LB Richmond v B & W [2010] EWCA 2903 will no doubt have a significant impact on leading hair strand testing companies such as Trichotech and Trimega Laboratories.

Read the full judgment here: http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed71271

How can Hanne & Co help you?

Hanne & Co is one of London’s leading family law firms. Our specialist family law team have decades of experience in a wide range of family law disputes. It may be that you are currently involved in family law proceedings directing the use of hair strand testing. In light of the judgment in LB Richmond v B & W [2010] EWCA 2903, you may wish to seek legal advice as to the weight which can be attached to any results obtained. Our specialist Public Law team at Hanne & Co consisting of experienced lawyers; Lorna Cservenka, Jackie Pearce, Michael Brierley and Samantha Cook, and consultants, Caroline Little and Paulena Panayiotou, are here to help and advise you on any such issues.