Hair drug testing involves taking a sample of the individual’s hair and testing it for drug (or alcohol) abuse. Apart from being non-intrusive, hair testing has the advantage that it can provide a record of the individual’s drug usage (or not) over a period of months.
Hair is fed by a blood supply, so substances that are circulating in the bloodstream can become incorporated into the growing hair, and obviously a length of hair may have been growing for some months.
And so to the case, Z (A Child: committal proceeding). It concerned child arrangements proceedings between the parents in relation to their child, ‘Z’.
The parents’ relationship began in about January 2016 and the parents separated in September 2018. Z remained living with the mother.
In December 2018 the father applied for a child arrangements order, seeking contact with Z.
The mother alleged that the father abused cocaine, and had an addiction over a period of years.
The matter went before the court in February 2019, for a first hearing dispute resolution appointment and the court ordered that Z was to be made available for contact each Monday and alternative Saturdays. The contact was to be supported and there was to be a welfare report.
The report was completed and filed in June 2019. It recommended that Z lived with the mother, and that supported contact continuing, with the father, who had maintained that he had not taken drugs since September 2018.
At the dispute resolution appointment the father’s contact progressed from supported contact to contact in the community, with handovers taking place at a contact centre.
The court directed that the father should undergo hair strand testing for cocaine for a period of three months, with the test results to be filed by the 1st September 2019.
The direction was not complied with, and the mother suspected that the father had cut his hair.
The father did arrange a hair strand test himself, and the report from the testing service was filed by his solicitors on the 20th September 2019.
The report recorded that the father provided a sample of hair on the 6th September 2019, of 3.6cm in length, and the result of the test was that no substances were detected.
The length of the hair sample did not accord with observations by the mother in relation to the father’s hair length at contact handovers. The mother requested her solicitor to contact the testing service, to establish whether the report they received was legitimate.
It transpired that the report filed by the father was not the report prepared by the testing service.
The report they prepared was actually dated the 26th July 2019 and related to a sample taken on the 12th July 2019. The hair length was reported to be 1.5cm, and the report confirmed that the result was positive for cocaine, for the period covering the end of May 2019 to the end of June 2019. The father had clearly falsified the evidence.
Committal proceedings were instigated against the father, and these were the subject of the judgment, the father admitted what he had done, and showed true contrition.
Hearing the case, HHJ Hughes emphasised the seriousness of the matter, and that it would normally attract an immediate custodial sentence.
However, given the father’s response, he handed down a 12-month sentence of imprisonment, suspended for two years.
He also suggested that in future particular reports from drug test providers should be filed with the court directly, rather than through any other party.
You can find the full judgment on Z (A Child: committal proceeding) here