Michelle Underwood oversees all DNA Legal operations, ensuring procedures are followed and we maintain the highest levels of result accuracy. She has a strong background in forensics, and here she explains her pivotal role in more detail.
What's your background, and how did you come to specialise in DNA testing?
I achieved a First Class BSc (Hons) in Clinical Applied Biomedical Science, but decided that working in an NHS lab wasn’t for me. My degree has helped me understand and explain the processes behind DNA testing, and why we test for certain markers. This helps a lot when clients want to know more about the results, and why we choose the markers we test for.
What does your role as Head of Compliance entail?
I ensure that the day-to-day running of the company meets our high standards. I deal with most of the enquiries, as well as any compliments and complaints that may come in. If there has been an error, then I investigate why it has happened, and look at how we can ensure it isn’t repeated. This could mean re-drafting training notes, meeting with team leaders to alert them of staff errors, whilst also implementing new procedures.
How important is it to follow procedures and get the right result at the first time of asking?
This is essential. It prevents further issues down the line, saves time, money, and potentially, miscarriages of justice. If the guidelines and training manuals are followed and adhered to in the beginning, it saves me and the caseworker's time, investigating mistakes.
Can you give examples of cases you've worked on where previous testing had failed, and DNA Legal were called in to help?
We are routinely asked to verify results from other laboratories, where there has been some doubt over either the sample collection or how the results were obtained. Recently, we recovered a lot of samples from a lab that had closed down, producing results for clients that previously lost hope.
What advice would you give to lawyers and solicitors looking for a DNA testing service? What questions should they ask the testing provider?
We always advise that they call us to have a chat as our Sales team are amazing. There is no question they wouldn't answer, and if they didn't have the answer, we all help to ensure that the client gets the correct test that they need. We offer clinics all over the world, and we are able to arrange appointments quickly. The most basic information we need is: What is the DNA test for? Immigration or Passport or Legal Paternity, and where are each of the clients located? Once we have this information, we're able to draft quotes within minutes.
With the Drug and Alcohol testing, rather than just assume the classes of drugs, we discuss exactly what they would like tested, and explain the testing options with them, which helps prevent any problems further down the line. We also ensure that all clients are aware that the old phrase "Hair Strand Test" doesn’t mean we only need one strand of hair – we actually require roughly 200 hairs, in order to even begin testing.
In short, we’re always happy to answer any questions, and we take great care to ensure each client fully understands the whole testing process, every step of the way.
If your client requires DNA testing, contact DNA Legal for expert advice and peace of mind. Call us today on 020 3199 7397.