Judges given power to order DNA Testing in Family Courts

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The story of drawn out courtroom battles, where parties are unable to afford DNA testing and establish paternity, has been commonplace in courtrooms across the country.

From September 2015 that will all change as Judges will have the power and funding to order DNA Testing. Justice Minister Simon Hughes said “Unambiguous and conclusive DNA Tests will prove parentage and help to end acrimonious and embarrassing court battles."

The decision follows a pilot scheme involving the Ministry of Justice, HMTCS, Cafcass, OFM and DNA Legal. Since June 2014 DNA Legal has been providing DNA Testing in all private family court cases involving children where the evidence was considered as essential to help the case more forward.

David Nicholson, Director of DNA Legal advised “The opportunity to support families at a time when they are deeply afraid, a time when they do not know what the future holds is the reason that DNA Legal was established”.

The pilot project operated in two south west regions and proved a resounding success. It was apparent that a simple testing process and education to the courts helped ensure confidence in test results and meant that there were no court delays as a result.

The other alternative is the Judge listening to witnesses giving their own views about a person's likelihood of paternity, drinking or drug habits. This is quite clearly a risky, time consuming option but one that has clogged up the court system.

The need is apparent as without testing court orders were less likely to be followed as the underlying issue had not been dealt with.

Mr Nicholson also advised; “We’ve seen that nearly all individuals were very willing to participate in the testing and they understood the importance of their test.”

Review; A copy of the evaluation report by the Ministry of Justice with more in depth analysis here

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