Drugs - Evidential Drug Identification Testing in Police Stations

Legal Guidance, Drug offences

New guidance added August 09

Evidential Drug Identification Testing (EDIT)

1. This is a process which involves performing a basic test within a police station which will identify certain controlled drugs such as morphine, heroin, amphetamines and cocaine. An appropriately experienced officers identification can also be used in cannabis cases without using the Drug Testing Kits (DTKs).


2. The purpose of EDIT is to extend the use of the DTKs into the police station environment and allow suitably trained police staff and police officers to test for the above drugs in cases of simple possession. This process will then allow a charge of possession of a controlled drug.

3. If the detainee contests the conclusions of the results of the test on first hearing at magistrates court, the drug must be submitted to a forensic science service provider for independent testing.

The Test

4. The Test using the DTK must be completed by a trained tester in a controlled environment in the police station to address any cross-contamination issues. The tester will complete an MG11 recording the EDIT result. The arrested person will then be informed of the EDIT result. They will also receive a copy of the completed MG11 and a notice regarding the EDIT process and disputed test procedure.

5. A positive result using EDIT and evidence of possession is needed to prove an offence. If there is no admission in the arresting officers notes then an interview is required.

6. It must be noted that all cases of possession with intent to supply, conspiracy to supply etc. must be sent to an independent forensic science service provider from the outset.


7. The Home Office approved kits are:

  • Morphine, herion and amphetamine
  • BDH Marquis test kit
  • MMC Opiate/Amphetamine test kit
  • NIK Marquis reagent kit

8. A very small amount of the suspected drug is placed in these kits with the Marquis reagent. If the colour is orange it shows a positive test for amphetamines. If the colour is purple it is a positive test for opiates. The following colours are a negative result: blue/black, green or red.

9. The approved kits for Cocaine:

  • Cozart cocaine test kit
  • Drug-ID cocaine test kit

10. These contain a small bottle in which is placed the powder or rock. This bottle contains a liquid and then two drops are placed on the Cozart test kit. It is similar to some pregnancy kits in that the testing kit is hydrophilic. If one red line appears in the control line position then the test is positive.

11. Criteria for kits:

  • Suitability for use by non-scientific staff
  • Clarity of instruction
  • Specificity of results
  • Avoidance of contamination
  • Labelling and packaging
  • Health and safety

Further Background Information

12. DTKs have been around for a number of years. They were initially approved by the Home Office in April 1991. These kits were initially used in uncontested cases and by officers in the field primarily on covert operations. Home Office Circulars Circular 10/2005 and Circular 40/1998 state the criteria for the drug testing kits and the criteria for training providers.

13. The EDIT process has recently been piloted in three police force areas: Merseyside, Metropolitan Police Service, and Nottinghamshire, with the support of the respective CPS Areas and has proved very successful.Out of 3000 cases in the Metropolitan Police Service area, only two have had to be submitted for independent forensic examination.

14. All police forces have been contacted regarding implementing the EDIT process and are eager to do so.

15. For further information on EDIT, please see attached the Guidance for EDIT in Police Stations by the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) (Annex B) and the Directors Guidance on Charging.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Who has approved the EDIT Process to date?

A. Following a full pilot process, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) and CPS.

Q. Who has approved the Drug Testing Kits (DTKs)?

A. Historically the Home Office Scientific Development Branch (HOSDB) has approved the DTK and will continue to do so, on behalf of the NPIA for any new kits. All existing kits have been approved by HOSDB. All future kits will have to be submitted to HOSDB for approval. Once new kits are approved the police service and CPS will be informed.

Q. How can the test results be used?

A. The test results can be used for charging purposes in all simple possession cases only.

Q. Can this be used as evidence in court?

A. Yes, on guilty pleas only. It is suggested that a s.10 admission confirming acceptance should be sought (see Annex A below).

Q. Do the kits ever show a false positive reaction?

A. Yes, it is possible for the kits to show a false/positive reaction. However, no such reaction was found in the pilots and forensic service providers concede that statistically it is an extremely small proportion. This point is covered in the training of police personnel by the approved trainers.

Q. Who trains the police officers or police staff?

A. The training will be provided by two separate approved independent forensic service providers including refresher training.

Q. Can the EDIT process be used on juveniles?

A. Yes.

Q. Can EDIT be used in the caution, reprimand etc process?

A. Yes subject to the usual admission requirements or conditional caution criteria.

Annex A




Dear Defence Solicitor

R v.  ........................

I am writing to inform you that the Prosecution propose to rely on the following forensic evidence in this case (Fill in /delete as appropriate):

Level 1 Fingerprint evidence set out in Match Report attached
Level 1 DNA evidence as set out in Match Report attached
EDIT Drug Testing Kit evidence as set out in Match Report attached

Contained in the advance information is the forensic information.  The purpose of this letter is to ask you, as the defence representative in the case, to assess the forensic evidence, along with the other evidence served on you, and inform the Crown Prosecution Service within the next 7 days, whether:

a) your client is likely to challenge the nature of the forensic evidence

i. if so, please specify what those challenges are

b) alternatively, confirm that the forensic evidence in this case is not going to be challenged and identify;

i. evidence you are content is read out, s 9 CJA 1967, and
ii. facts and issues that you would be prepared to make a S.10 admission to that effect, in due course.

The reason we are asking for this early indication is so that both sides are ready to deal with issues in good time and to avoid trials collapsing at the last moment.

As you know, the Criminal Procedure Rules 2005, as amended, require the defence to engage more proactively with the prosecution and the court to ensure that all trials are ready to be heard on the day that they are listed.There is a duty imposed on each of the agencies within the criminal justice system to proactively manage this process. The early identification of issues in cases involving forensic evidence will enable the case to be disposed of without unnecessary delay, and assist defendants in having their cases heard expeditiously but fairly.

I hope you are able to assist in this process by complying with our request. If for some reason you are not able to do so, then please let the CPS know the reason. The case may then have to be listed for mention for the court to give appropriate directions.

Yours faithfully,

Officer in the case.

Annex B

NPIA Guidance on Evidential Drug Testing Kits in Police Stations

Further reading