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Section 22 provides that the Lord Chancellor may make regulations about section 20 directions and may prescribe conditions for eligibility for accreditation (subsection (1)(f)). The regulations are the Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971, as amended (including to reflect the 2000 Act).
The Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971, as amended
These Regulations set out the detailed changes that made it possible for bodily samples other than blood to be taken, and for scientific tests to be used to establish whether a person is a natural parent of the person whose parentage is to be determined. The Regulations also provided that the tests were to be carried out by an accredited body (rather than an individual, which was the case under the previous scheme).
Regulation 8A provides that a body shall not be eligible for accreditation for the purposes of section 20 of the 1969 Act unless it is accredited to ISO/IEC/17025 by an accreditation body which complies with the requirements of ISO Guide 58 (now replaced by ISO 17011).
The Regulations also deal with the procedures for taking bodily samples, despatch to a tester, testing and then reporting to the court. The Regulations require the completion of 2 statutory forms. Form 1 is called a Direction Form and is to be filled in by the court, the sampler and the tester. Form 2 is called Report by Tester and is to be filled in by the tester. All of this is designed to ensure that the right people actually provide samples, that the same samples reach the tester, and that the nominated tester does the testing and reports to the court.
Criteria for DCA accreditation prior to the recent review
The ISO accreditation is a statutory requirement for section 20 accreditation by the Department, as set out above. Bodies wishing to be added to the Departments accredited list were expected to produce evidence (either an original or a certified copy) of a valid and current ISO/IEC/17025 accreditation certificate, given by an accreditation body that complies with ISO/IEC Guide 58 (now ISO 17011).
A further non-statutory requirement was added, as a matter of policy. This was a requirement to give an undertaking to comply with the Department of Healths Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing Services. This Code sets out best practice and clear standards for organisations delivering paternity testing services generally.
These criteria were put in place in 2001, when the Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001 No. 773) came into effect.
More recent practice has been to require that written applications be made to be added to the DCA accredited list.
The particular International Standards Organisation (ISO) standards were chosen because they were considered to be the most appropriate standards for this area of activity. ISO/IEC/17025 is an accreditation given to testing and calibration laboratories that meet certain competence requirements. There was no formal or public consultation on the criteria chosen for accreditation, but the 2001 Regulations, as a statutory instrument, had the approval of Parliament. The Department of Healths Code was put together by an ad-hoc advisory group on genetic paternity testing services, whose membership included service providers, clinicians, academics and scientists.
Ensuring compliance with ISO/IEC 17025 standards
The accreditation bodies ensure compliance with ISO/IEC 17025 by undertaking regular reviews and re-accreditations. Because accreditation bodies are the technical experts, it is not necessary or appropriate for representatives of the Department themselves to visit any of the DCA-accredited laboratories, and no-one from the Department has ever done so. For the purposes of DCA accreditation, if an up to date and valid ISO 17025 certificate is produced (an original or certified copy) and the accreditation body is ISO Guide 58 (now ISIO 17011) compliant, then this is proof enough of the laboratorys competence.
Bodies accredited by DCA are not permitted to contract out parentage tests directed by the court under s20 to any other organisation.
How the courts ensure accredited bodies carry out parentage tests where a section 20 direction is given
Where the court is considering an application for a paternity test in the course of civil proceedings, and the parties do not agree to the testing, then section 20 of the 1969 Act is available. The court may give a formal direction (on Form 1, a statutory form, part of the Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971 (as amended)) which will include the name and address of the body that is to carry out the test. The body will be chosen from the list of accredited bodies. The tester (a person employed to carry out scientific tests by an accredited laboratory) will complete and sign Form 2, (the Report by the Tester) to certify the result of the test. As explained above, the Regulations, which include the two statutory forms, are designed to ensure the authenticity and integrity of the samples, and that the nominated tester carries out and reports on the test.
The list the Department maintains relates only to bodies which may carry out court-directed scientific tests for parentage in accordance with a direction made by a court pursuant to section 20 of the Family Law Act 1969. Where the court has not directed the test, parties to a case may submit DNA evidence by agreement and in accordance with case management directions of the court. It is not essential for the testing body to be chosen from the accredited list. As with other evidence, it is for the court to consider questions of admissibility and weight.
Starting in October last year, a number of Questions were tabled in Parliament and the Department received a number of press enquires about DNA Bioscience and the accredited list generally. This prompted an investigation as to the eligibility of each of the bodies on the accredited list, and the work also extended to a review of the processes and procedures associated with adding bodies to the list and the maintenance of it.
The review did not extend to any examination of the financial accounts of the bodies on the DCA accredited list. DCA has no responsibility in this area. The bodies on the accredited list do
not provide services to the Department. The accredited list simply exists to provide the civil courts with the names of bodies that reach a certain standard for use when the court directs a test under section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969.
The courts dealing with civil proceedings (including family proceedings) were informed about the review, and of the details of the laboratories to which referrals for court-directed tests should be made until the accredited list was re-issued. The laboratories concerned had provided the Department with up to date evidence they had the requisite ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation and with up to date undertakings that they complied with the Department of Healths Code.
The Department undertook to remove ineligible bodies from the accredited list. There were six bodies that were found to be ineligible, including DNA Diagnostics Center and DNA Bioscience, three public sector laboratories (one of which no longer carries out paternity testing) and one body, not itself a testing body, which works in conjunction with another public sector laboratory. These bodies can no longer carry out section 20 tests and the civil courts have been informed. However, the Department has found no evidence that any individual or organisation has supplied misleading or incorrect information during the accreditation process and so further action taken against any individual or company would not be appropriate.
DNA Diagnostics Center and DNA Bioscience
DNA Bioscience was not, itself, accredited by the DCA to carry out court-directed tests under s20. It was not a testing facility, so had no ISO 17025 accreditation and therefore was not eligible. Following an application from DNA Bioscience, DCA agreed in October 2003 that DNA Diagnostics Center (the laboratory DNA Bioscience used to conduct DNA tests) could be added to the accredited list. DNA Diagnostics Center is a US laboratory with ISO/IEC/17025 accreditation, accredited by Forensic Quality Services - a US accreditation body. DNA Diagnostics Center was shown on the accredited list with a Chelmsford address then belonging to DNA Bioscience. The Department was aware that DNA Bioscience was acting as an intermediary for DNA Diagnostics Center.
The Department agreed orally in December 2004 that DNA Biosciences details could be added to the accredited list, but DNA Bioscience did not make an application to be added to the accredited list on its own account. The intention was to add those details as a referral route to the accredited body (DNA Diagnostics Center).
The Department is not aware of anything to suggest that reliable evidence was not produced for the courts in relation to court-directed tests.
No DCA Minister, current or past, has had any communication, conversation, or correspondence with David Blunkett about DNA Bioscience.
Applications turned down and laboratories closed down
From the Departmental records available, it appears that one application was received in 2003 from a laboratory that had no ISO 17025 accreditation. The laboratory in question indicated that they intended to apply for ISO 17025 accreditation, but nothing further was heard from them.
Nothing has been found in the Departments records that are now available to indicate that any laboratory accredited by DCA to carry our court-directed parentage tests has closed down in the past five years.
Bodies currently accredited
The following laboratories, all based in the UK, have submitted evidence of valid and up to date accreditation to the relevant ISO standard. They have recently given signed undertakings to comply with revised criteria (see New criteria). They were all bodies on the previous list.
Cellmark Diagnostics (now Orchid Cellmark),
LGC Diagnostics, and
The Forensic Science Service
No laboratories outside the UK are currently accredited, but there is no statutory bar on the accreditation of overseas laboratories. The Department will continue to consider application from laboratories, wherever situated (see New criteria below).
New criteria and policy
As a result of the review, the Department will now require applications to be made on a form prescribed by it, signed and submitted in hard copy.
As before, bodies wishing to be added to the accredited list must have a current and valid ISO/IEC 17025 certificate that has been issued by an accreditation body which complies with ISO/IEC 17011 (formerly ISO Guide 58) An original certificate or a certified copy must be submitted with the application form. There is a new requirement that the accreditation body must also be a full member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). The Department considers that this is needed to demonstrate independent evidence of ISO/IES 17011 compliance. The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the UK body that complies with this new requirement.
Bodies wishing to be added to the accredited list must undertake to comply with the Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing Services, published by the Department of Health, or any revised version thereof.
With regard to the Code, although the undertaking applies to parentage tests directed by the court pursuant to s20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969, the Government strongly encourages providers of genetic paternity testing services to adhere to the Code for all tests. Applicants will be made aware of that view and will be informed that when section 45 of the Human Tissue Act comes into force later this year, it will be a criminal offence to take DNA, with the intention of having it tested, without consent.
Bodies wishing to be added to the accredited list must undertake to comply, or ensure compliance with, the procedures as set out in the Blood Test (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971 (SI 1971/1861) (as amended).
Bodies wishing to be added to the accredited list must undertake to limit any statement regarding DCA accredited status on any promotional material, advertising, or web-site information to the following:
[Name of Organisation] has been accredited by the Department for Constitutional Affairs as a body that may carry out parentage tests directed by the civil courts in England and Wales under section 20 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969.
Applicants will be advised that the Department regards phrases such as Government approved, Lord Chancellor approved or DCA approved as misleading and therefore not acceptable.
All organisations on the DCA accredited list will be expected to be subject to an annual review to confirm eligibility, including compliance with the accreditation criteria to remain on the list. This will include giving renewed undertakings as set out above and ensuring compliance with any revised criteria.
In future, the Department will not accept applications from intermediaries. The Department will continue to consider applications from laboratories outside the UK, but if any should meet the (revised) criteria and are added to the list, they will be shown with their overseas addresses and other contact details. If an overseas laboratory makes an application proposing to use an intermediary in the UK, the laboratory will be asked to explain how its proposed use of an intermediary would conform with the relevant legislation (The Blood Tests (Evidence of Paternity) Regulations 1971 (as amended)).
This information and guidance will be published on the Departments web-site.
The Department currently has seven applications or enquiries about how to apply which the Department will now pursue and consider against the revised list of criteria. A revised list will then be issued.
Bridget Prentice: A number of local authorities use telephone registration to register electors. As electoral services are delivered at local level the information sought would be held by individual local authorities and is not collected by central Government.
Bridget Prentice: Section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 requires electoral registration officers (EROs) to use a form when carrying out an annual canvass for the purpose of compiling the electoral register. When doing this there is no bar in current electoral legislation to EROs using telephone systems to enable households to report no change to the information given during the previous annual canvass. There are no plans to change these rules.
Mr. Ruffley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how many court orders have been issued for the repossession of homes in (a) Bury St. Edmunds constituency and (b) the Suffolk county council area in each year since 1997. 
The civil procedure rules provide that all claims for the repossession of land must be commenced in the district in which the land is situated. However, these county courts cover areas that are not necessarily consistent with other administrative boundaries, and therefore there may be possession actions entered in these courts that relate to homes located outside Suffolk.
|Number of mortgage( 1 ) possession orders made at Bury St. Edmunds county court and other Suffolk county courts, 1997 to 2005|
|Possession orders made( 2)|
|Bury St. Edmunds||Ipswich||Lowestoft||Suffolk|
|(1) Local Authority and Private.|
(2) The court, following a judicial hearing, may grant an order for possession immediately. This entitles the claimant to apply for a warrant to have the defendant evicted. However, even where a warrant for possession is issued, the parties can still negotiate a compromise to prevent eviction.
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