New rules will require forensic labs to be accredited

Posted
November 3, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

The province has committed to new legislation that will require accreditation for forensic laboratories operating in Ontario in the wake of a Star investigation that revealed thousands of child protection cases across the country had relied on faulty evidence from the Hospital for Sick Children’s Motherisk lab.

The new Forensic Laboratories Act, announced Thursday as part of a broader government effort to modernize policing in Ontario, aims to create better oversight of forensic labs to ensure they meet mandated standards going forward and is the first legislation of its kind in Canada.

It's a move Toronto criminal defence lawyer Daniel Brown called a "really great step forward," but one that's "long overdue."

"There was certainly a need for forensic lab accreditation and better controls over the evidence that's being presented in criminal courts," he said. "Hundreds of people have been impacted by faulty scientific evidence in the court rooms."

As revealed by a Star investigation thousands of child protection cases and at least eight criminal cases across Canada relied on the results of Motherisk's discredited hair-strand drug and alcohol tests between the late 1990s and early 2015. At the same time, the lab was earning millions of dollars in revenue. The Hospital for Sick Children closed the Motherisk lab in 2015.

The revelations followed another Sick Kids scandal, which also highlighted the risks of faulty science, involving disgraced pathologist Charles Smith, whose mistakes tainted more than a dozen criminal cases.

Under the province's new accreditation framework forensic labs will be subject to proficiency testing, annual audits, performance reports and surveillance visits.

"Our government is committed to holding forensic laboratories in Ontario to a consistently high standard," said Yanni Dagonas, a spokesperson for Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde, in a statement.

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