Forensic Toxicology

Forensic Toxicology at the University of Glasgow is recognised nationally and internationally as a long-standing centre of excellence. The 50th anniversary of forensic toxicology in Glasgow was celebrated in 2009 with an internationally attended conference. The laboratory is also UKAS accreditated to the ISO/IEC 17025 quality standard. Details of the scope of our accreditation can be found here.

Forensic Toxicology was awarded a contract in 2006 by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) for Scotland, to provide a forensic toxicology service for post-mortem cases in the West of Scotland. This involved approximately 1700 cases each year. In 2013 this was expanded to include the East of Scotland and part of the North of Scotland. The current caseload is around 3200 cases a year.

The work for the COPFS (the public prosecution service for Scotland) represents the majority of the toxicology caseload. However, the five consultant forensic toxicologists maintain professional independence and provide services to other clients, including defendants seeking independent toxicological analyses. The toxicologists also provide expert witness testimony in court.

The service is located in modern laboratories equipped with up-to-date GC-MS and LC-MS/MS instrumentation. Many different types of biological materials are analysed, including conventional blood and urine specimens but also “alternative” samples such as hair and oral fluid. Interest in these alternatives has increased over recent years because of the additional information they can provide for medico-legal investigations.

The range of substances analysed is extensive, as anything is capable of acting as a poison. Routine analysis includes the detection of alcohol, prescribed drugs and drugs of abuse. Patterns of poisoning change with time and the toxicology service constantly adapts to the arrival of new drugs and other substances in the region.

The service provides valuable case study material that underpins undergraduate and graduate teaching. Service work also initiates many research projects and benefits from the new methods and data that are obtained.