February 28 2023
The Forensic Capability Network (FCN) has recently updated their best practice guidelines for identifying drugs in possession only cases in a document called “Evidential Drug Identification Testing (EDIT) Good Practice Guide – 2023” available on the FCN website. This is a guidance document and is not statutory.
EDIT – what’s it all about?
EDIT uses CPS and Home Office-approved drug testing kits (DTK) in cases where possession of controlled drugs for personal use is suspected. These are screening tests. They are relatively inexpensive and rapid tests to indicate the presence of a particular drug but can give a false positive for other non-drug substances. The purpose is to expedite the criminal justice process through removing the requirement for confirmatory laboratory analysis from a Forensic Service Provider (FSP).
What should you know?
EDIT can be used whether or not the suspect admits possession of a suspected controlled drug (SCD). As a result, the EDIT officer has the power to use a DTK on an SCD without the suspect's consent. If the suspect does not admit possession, an interview should take place.
Individuals trained to use a DTK can become EDIT officers, including police officers, police staff, and non-police personnel. The test must be conducted in a controlled environment to minimise contamination, and continuity of any EDIT-tested exhibit must be documented with an SFR1 report which must be provided to the suspect.
A positive EDIT may assist in the prosecution of possession-only cases to support an immediate charge, even when the suspect disputes the identification of the substance.
A negative EDIT may still prompt an investigation into the accused’s suspected drug possession and a confirmatory laboratory test may be requested.
When a suspected drug offence involving possession with intent to supply (PWITS) or actual supply is downgraded to possession only, EDIT may be used to assist identification. This typically occurs when there is insufficient evidence to support a charge of intent to supply or supply. However, if a supply element remains, the Defendant should be granted bail until confirmatory laboratory results are received.
Which drugs are approved for EDIT?
*Cannabis in the form of intact female flowering heads (FFH, also called skunk) and cannabis resin only. EDIT is not approved for any other type of cannabis e.g. fragmented herbal material, cannabis plants, cannabis preparations or THC extracts. No chemical test needs to be conducted, as the sight/smell is sufficient for “an experienced Police Officer” to determine the identity of cannabis resin or FFHs only.
The Disputed Test Procedure
A suspect in a possession-only case may challenge the EDIT result by using the Disputed Test Procedure Form. This needs to be highlighted to the CPS at the first court hearing. The court and/or CPS may require the suspected controlled drug (SCD) to be sent to an FSP. The CPS should then request an adjournment whilst the SCD is sent to an FSP. The result of this laboratory analysis will then supersede that of the original DTK result.
If the laboratory test proves the EDIT result to be correct and the Defendant is found guilty, costs may be awarded against the Defence.
What can Keith Borer Consultants do for you?
We have a team of experienced forensic scientists and drugs experts who can:
If you have a drugs case please feel free to contact one of our experts Richard Brown, Sarah Morley, Julian Dunnill or Alex Bretherton to discuss your options – call our Durham Office on 0191 332 4999 or e-mail email@example.com.