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Chef who lost job after wrongful drug driving conviction sues forensics firm

Photo: PA

A chef who lost his job after he was wrongfully convicted of drug driving is suing the forensic firm where his sample was tested.

Billal Hartford, 21, was banned from driving for a year, despite him protesting his innocence, after a blood test indicated he had been smoking cannabis.

He challenged the conviction when he heard in the news about alleged manipulation of results at Randox Testing Services (RTS) in Manchester, and was successful after it emerged the centre had dealt with his case.

He had his sample re-tested and it came back clear.

Mr Hartford won back his licence after serving half the ban and he is now suing the firm.

The conviction cost him his job as he could not travel to work and left him isolated in the hamlet of Skutterskelfe, near Hutton Rudby, North Yorkshire.

He was stopped by police who were responding to reports of a similar car being driven erratically and officers found cannabis in his car.

He gave a saliva sample, was arrested for possession and was taken into custody.

He then gave a blood sample and declined the offer of having it independently tested, and was later charged and convicted at court because of the blood test result.

Mr Hartford said:

The forensic test was seen as gospel, and of course, being in possession simply meant that nobody believed me.

"I'd never drive having taken drugs though, just as I wouldn't drink alcohol and drive."

He is now suing RTS and Simon Wilson, his lawyer of Hudgell Solicitors, said: "There was clear duty of care on Randox Testing Services, given the high importance of the role they were entrusted to take up on behalf of police forces, to ensure the sample was properly tested and the right result reached.

"This did not happen."

"I'm taking legal action because I want something back for them ruining six months of my life.

"I was stuck in the house for most of the time. It was awful and it really affected me."

– Mr Hartford

A spokeswoman for the testing firm said two former employees remained on police bail.

She said:

RTS deeply regrets the distress that has been caused.

"It is committed to doing what it can to resolve the situation and continues to actively support the police investigation."

She said following re-testing, fewer than 10% of drug driving cases had been discontinued.

– A spokeswoman