In this video we talk to Cellmark Paternity Testing, the biggest DNA testing in the UK, about paternity tests.
Catrina Skepper: Recent research suggests that, as many as one in 25 dads is unwittingly raising another's man child. with figures like these, its no wonder that more women are approaching DNA testing companies to make sure that their child really is their our flesh and blood. David Hartshorne is from Cellmark, one of the leading UK DNA testing companies and Vanessa Lloyd Platt is a family lawyer. Welcome to both of you. David, I wanted to start just by defining what exactly is a DNA paternity test, because we know all about DNA testing now from the lab things like that. What is paternity testing? David Hartshorne: Well, it is a conclusive way of finding out who the father of a child is. And that information is stored in a persons DNA, and if we take a sample from a mother, a child and the alleged father, we can look at the DNA in a child, because half of it is been inherited from either parents. Catrina Skepper: Fifty, fifty? David Hartshorne: Fifty, fifty. We can conclusively say that a man is or is not father of the child. Catrina Skepper: But if you any have one only the father's DNA, can you still? David Hartshorne: We still can do a DNA test and we still can demonstrate whether or not he is the father or not. But the most conclusive way of doing this sort of analysis is to make sure that they have all three parties tested. Catrina Skepper: Why don't we just look at the tests? It's very easy and simple to do. Its nothing too graphic, which you can actually demonstrate it right here. Can't you for...? David Hartshorne: Sure and what we are demonstrating here is that actual test, but we are taking a samples so that we can actually do it. Catrina Skepper: How do you take a sample? Now this would be done by yourself, by your doctor, what are the rules? David Hartshorne: Well, when we have a DNA test carried out, what's important is that we can certain when we produce the result, that we know who the samples have come from so that the report we produce is actually a legal document. And because of that, what we arrange is for the samples be sent to your local doctor. You would just go along and have a sample taken and what we are looking for, to get DNA is to collect a few cells from the inside of the your mouth, using a mouth sob such as this. I will do it. Catrina Skepper: So you are dipping yourself? David Hartshorne: -- the seconds here. It's wiped around inside of your mouth. It collects some cells and then what we do is, we have the doctor transfer those cells on to this collection card that you see here. Catrina Skepper: Yeah David Hartshorne: And this is designed so that the collection card turns white so... Catrina Skepper: This, this area here. David Hartshorne: That's right. This sob can then just get thrown away. But what you have there is a card which will protect the DNA and that card could be stored for 10, 20, 30 years. They can be stored to room temperature. Does not to be refrigerated. And when we come to analyze, that will take a whole punch out, that about the size of the end of this, about a millimeter for a single DNA test. So it means, from not sample there, we could test 10, 15, 20 times if you wanted to. Catrina Skepper: That's incredible. and obviously, is it the responsibility of the why you said, when you said you will tested by your GP or you go along, you can't just do this at home and send it on to you. David Hartshorne: It is possible for people to have the tests carried at home. but if you want a test that is of legal volume, that in the end, actually can be used in a court of law if necessary and although many people may start off a process, not thinking at last what's happen going to happen, there we often that's where it ends up. Then you need to have an independent medical practitioner taking those samples. Catrina Skepper: Who would also be able to certify that you are the person or the child is the person that you are taking the DNA sample from or that you are the person who is giving it presumably? David Hartshorne: Well, I mean you can see that it's a very easy process. It doesn't really require great medical experience to be able to do that. Really what the doctor is doing is, he is confirming your identity. and so the doctor will make a decoration to say that you are, you are need to go along, you'll take a couple of passport photographs of yourself and the doctor will say this is the person from who I will take samples. But we also, yeah exactly. And that same time there we need to gain consent from the people who are giving samples to make sure that we are okay if we going ahead and testing their samples and that it is okay to test sample from the child. Catrina Skepper: Now that's pre supposing. I want to bring Vanessa in here. That all parties are in agreement, but quiet a lot of the time, I would imagine what you are talking about mostly today is the fact that, perhaps a father suspects that he is not the genetic father of the child that he is taking care of. How does somebody like that approach the situation, perhaps not wanting to inform his partner wife, that he is going ahead with this test? Vanessa Lloyd Platt: Only if he has parental responsibility, then he can apply for the test but as long as its carried out under stringent detail, because what we can't have in a court of law is any suspicion that the example has be tampered with, or it hasn't come from the person concerned or the identity is something is wrong with it. So we have to be absolutely certain to rely on it that the samples have been independently and properly taken. and then, what will happen if someone suspects that their child is not theirs and they have a DNA carried out, and it proves in fact they are not the father of the child, they have two distinct choices and its terribly heart breaking. These cases, nobody should take them lightly they are terrible. And what the choices are, do I stay being the parent of this child even though I am not biologically the parent or do I reject the whole situation. And we have dealt with cases that have gone either way. We have some parents, some fathers who were devastated initially, but say, I have accepted treated this child as my child. I now have responsibility for this child in law in any event. I want that to continue. I need it to know now, I know. And then may be issues of how they deal with their wife or their partner, because of the trust that's gone, but they might continue on. But the worst case is to deal with is of those where they say, that's it, you know, god no, I don't want to know you any more. Now there is a child of the end of this that is suddenly rejected. They don't know why they are rejected. But they are suddenly being rejected and their whole world is turned upside down. When this report initially came out, a lots of practitioners like myself were very worried about it, because it's a very harmful report, because it makes every father say, oh I wonder if he doesn't really look like me. Also such suspicions and suspicions that can pester. So we did find a lot of people coming in and saying, could you please apply to Cellmark To get the DNA testing sorted out, so that we can be sure. The mere fact of raising a suspicion in a family unit can ruin their relationship anyway. And if you happily married and your husband suddenly comes along and says, I don't think Freddy is mine. Do you mind if we go out and have him tested. Its devastating anyway to the relationship. so as lawyers, we have to deal with all of these issues in a very sensible, very calm way to deal with it, because the court's attitude to this is, its the right of a child to know who their parent is. And with the advent of the human rights act coming into play more and more, we have more and more courts saying, well its their right to know and it will be. Catrina Skepper: Some how that sort of excuses everything else. Vanessa Lloyd Platt: And it excuses everything and also it is moving towards, actually its parents' right to know. And that's how, it is moving in that direction now. So, we have all of these issues folding around all over the place and we have to sort it out at the end of the day. What people should understand, even if its not your child, if you have accepted and treated them as your child and paid for everything and their school fee for many years. Catrina Skepper: And the child could be 10,15 years old. Vanessa Lloyd Platt: Precisely, older in the cases we have dealt with, 14,5. You have to continue to be responsible for them even though... Catrina Skepper: Legally? Vanessa Lloyd Platt: Legally, even though the actual... Catrina Skepper: Where does that kick in, where does this legal responsibility kick in? Vanessa Lloyd Platt: After you've accepted and treated them as your child. Now what happened last year or couple of years ago, a man said, who found out that it wasn't his child. He applied to the court, for every penny to be paid back to him. Of everything he had ever paid out for this poor child and what the court actually did in that case, it was a strange case. They said okay, we are going to give you some of your money back, because of the deceit by your... Catrina Skepper: As you said, obviously, you know, we have to take a side of a father who feels incredibly let down with all the emotional baggage that he carries and whatever his motivation and his reason, it might seem very cold hearted. But if he does do this, he has a right to presume legally to reclaim some of that. Vanessa Lloyd Platt: Absolutely right. Now, what the courts have made very clear, is that we would look at each individual case and if we think that it's appropriate to give some money back, without the child being affected. So they couldn't give all the money back, because the child would have been prejudiced and affected. But they penalize the wife, by saying, you did wrong and you have to be punished for that. And so that, they, there is some kind of redress for the father in those circumstances. But the whole issue of DNA testing has changed its format. As you rightly could see. Its started off that fathers had the DNA testing or moms, mothers were the ones. Catrina Skepper: David, you were saying... David Hartshorne: Yeah absolutely. Vanessa Lloyd Platt: Because, they wanted to prove that this was the father of a child, so they could get maintenance and be supported. Now its turned the other way. So, what we have is, fathers trying to show they are not the fathers. To try and avoid payment or indeed, that this child isn't their child. So there's a whole new emphasis on this. Catrina Skepper: Because if he changes that really come into play as far as you.. David Hartshorne: I think it is fair to say that, there are lots of reasons why people want to DNA testing carried out and historically, absolutely when we first started testing and we have been testing, DNA testing for 18 years in the UK. Originally, very much, it was mothers coming to us needing to demonstrate that someone was the father of a child, so they get maintenance or whatever. Catrina Skepper: And it is very high profile cases in the press, that's obviously drawn attention to. David Hartshorne: Indeed. And those issues haven't gone away and certainly they end up at the child's support agency and that is precisely what the child support agency do, is they go through a DNA process to be able to demonstrate that some one is the father of a child, so that appropriate maintenance can be collected. But we have seen an emergence of an increasing number of cases, where men are coming to us wanting to have testing, because they want, for whatever reason to be able to demonstrate paternity. Catrina Skepper: That to reverse the person. But, obviously they are very highly, emotionally, sensitive cases that you do with. How do you, do you deal with that kind of side of the testing as well or is yours purely a laboratory? Right, here is your result, good bye, thank you for coming to us and taking, you know using our company. How do you deal with the --? David Hartshorne: And it's a good point of fact that all we do, as far as the testing is concerned this prove who the biological father of a child is. It's not very separate from the other emotional issues. But we have always recognized, that there is a huge amount of complicated issues go around having this sort of testing carried out. And actually we have a very large customer services group who spend lot of time with people before testing is carried out because people. Catrina Skepper: And you really want to do this? David Hartshorne: Well indeed for some people, it may well not be the right thing for them to do. But having an opportunity to talk through the various issues and to understand the implications and to understand the process is something that's very important. And people want to talk to us at the beginning, through the process and afterwards as well once they have got heir results. Now, we stop short of providing a counseling services as such, but and we will refer people on, if people do require some additional assistance. Catrina Skepper: Who is the results sent to, because that's obviously quite key too. David Hartshorne: The results were sent to all adult parties who you have taken part. But very often, some of these cases come through the courts and so the courts will have an appropriate copies as well. Catrina Skepper: Is it expensive? David Hartshorne: Its a few hundred pounds and... Catrina Skepper: Few meaning, sort of under five hundred? David Hartshorne: Under five hundred pounds absolutely. And at the end of that time, you get a conclusive result. There is a lot of science that goes behind. There is a lot of laboratory analysis. But it will -- Catrina Skepper: It doesn't take very long, does it? David Hartshorne: Now a days, very quick. I mean you have seen how easy it is to take the sample. When the samples get to our laboratory we'll provide a report in about three to five days. All the testing is carried out in our laboratories, Cellmark in Oxford, which means that we can take samples any were in the UK. They are sent through to out lab and because it -- Catrina Skepper: You store peoples' DNA. Do you have a right to do that? By the way is that something? David Hartshorne: What we actually do is, we store samples for three months after testing and that's mainly because some people inevitably will come back and say, really you know that wasn't result I was expecting. Are you sure. And I have shown you on the sample that we looked at earlier on, that I actually, we have got plenty of samples. We have to go out back and have another go with me be to able to demonstrate to people that absolutely I'm afraid that. That's the most important. Vanessa Lloyd Platt: One of the things that I must emphasize is many people who read the high profile cases, thought that you can just go around and sort of take the child's hair out with the brush. You cannot do that and next year, there is going to be a new act, the tissue act is coming. The human tissue act is coming in, in April. And that will make it a criminal offense to steal someone's DNA and have it tested. So, not only will you be guilty for criminal offense, so will you guys, as you go and do it -- Catrina Skepper: So how do you protect yourself at the moment against that kind of perhaps forge that, you know any one could perhaps sample it, a doctor's letter and say, you know I certify this is the person who relates. how do you protect yourself? David Hartshorne: Well I mean, some of the procedures that we described already are there to try and ensure that, we aren't approached in a fraudulent way. Having said that, you cant guard against every thing and we do, because of the importance of this sort of testing, we do see cases of people trying to -- Catrina Skepper: Obviously this act is going to help to you, because if it comes in criminal act and it's another? David Hartshorne: Well, it becomes a criminal offence for somebody to actually having that procession of DNA sample with the intension of going ahead and having DNA testing carried out on it without appropriate concern. Catrina Skepper: And if you would talking to parents now, who have thinking about this, people watching who may have course for doubt or may be wanting to do. So, what advice would you give? Vanessa Lloyd Platt: My advice would be, what difference will this fundamentally make to your life, but more importantly to the life of the child, before you even sink about doing it. If it is going to tear your child's life apart and indeed yours, sink very carefully what you are doing. if on the other hand, you feel you cannot live your life and feel this is your right or your human right to know whether this is your child or not, then seek advice from a sensible lawyer, who will take you right route through the right testing to find out the procedures, so that you do it correctly and in a responsible way. But you have to say as a father, what will you reaction be if the result comes back that you are not the father and you have to think that's true before you under go the testing. Catrina Skepper: And Dave what advice would you give, obviously, from perhaps more commercial stand point. David Hartshorne: From a commercial sense, I would echo what makes the same there, that this is a serious decision to go ahead have the DNA test carried out. Having made that decision, and some of that may be influenced by having a talk with people who are involved whom you understand. I would certainly encourage people to make sure they consider using a DNA testing company that is going to act responsibly and is going to have the right. Catrina Skepper: Are there any covered organizations that have? Vanessa Lloyd Platt: There certainly are. David Hartshorne: And to make sure, that the laboratory that you are dealing with has in placed the right quality creditations they are doing the right things, so that in the end, you can be certain of the result that you get. Catrina Skepper: Perhaps wish you should give your website. What is your website? David Hartshorne: If people visit www.cellmark.co.uk Catrina Skepper: Okay that's a reliable site and Vanessa, thank you very much most of your advice as a lawyer. I'm sure you probably seeing more of these sadly. But thank you for coming in today and giving us your valuable advice. David Hartshorne: Thanks very much.