- Minister visits site of new FSI laboratory at Backweston campus, Co Kildare
- Over 22,000 cases processed by FSI in 2020
- More than 50,000 DNA profiles now on DNA Database
22 July 2021
The Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, has launched the 2020 Annual Report of Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) following a visit to the site of its new laboratory in Backweston campus, Co Kildare.
The new laboratory will be a world-class facility that will serve the operational needs of FSI for many decades to come. It will be equipped to a very high standard with Physical, Chemical and DNA analysis laboratories and related technical areas, with significantly more capacity than exists today.
Noting the very positive progress on the build, Minister Humphreys said:
“I was delighted to visit Backweston to view the significant progress of the construction of the new FSI laboratory, which remains on track for completion in summer 2022. This is a very significant capital investment in the future of forensic services in the State, and indeed in our criminal justice system as a whole, and is a practical demonstration of the Government’s commitment to investing in the fight against crime.”
A key feature of the 2020 Annual Report is the substantial increase in the demand for the services of FSI. This is largely due to the growth in drug submissions, the continued success of DNA Technology and the DNA Database in supporting the investigation of crime, as well as the transfer of fingerprints and documents and handwriting services from the Garda Technical Bureau, with 2020 being the first full year when such services were provided by FSI.
The Minister added,
“I would like to thank Director General Chris Enright and the team of Forensic Science Ireland for their tremendous work throughout a challenging 2020. FSI remained open through all stages of the COVID restrictions in 2020, processing over 22,000 cases. This included cases reported for the Fingerprints and Documents & Handwriting sections which were integrated into FSI for the first year in 2020.
“FSI is central to both the investigation and adjudication of crime. I believe the strong forensic processes which FSI are leading, allied to good policing, can create a climate of deterrence for potential criminals and increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system.”
The DNA Database remains a very effective tool for criminal investigative work, with more than 50,000 DNA profiles now on the database and is contributing significantly to solving crimes. Overall, the DNA Database identified 856 hits in 2020, which assisted 1,102 cases. The crime solving capacity of the Database is expected to further grow as the Database grows and during 2020, 47 out of every 100 crime scene samples uploaded onto the database were linked to a person. The database has also led to significant breakthroughs in identifying missing and unknown persons in recent years.
The Minister concluded,
“Since 2017, FSI have assisted in the identification of 48 human remains who had been unknown up to that point. In 2020 alone, DNA profiling and relationship testing was used to help in identifying nine people in partnership with the Missing Persons Unit of An Garda Síochána. I would like to encourage more family members to participate in DNA testing and database matching. My officials intend to develop a targeted outreach, in partnership with An Garda Síochána and FSI, to build on the success of National Missing Persons Day and encourage more anxious families to participate in this important process.”
Notes to Editors
Photo Attached: Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, with Director of Forensic Science Ireland, Chris Enright, at the FSI’s new labs in Backweston, Dublin
The FSI Annual Report 2020 can be downloaded from http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/FSI-Annual-Report-2020.pdf/Files/FSI-Annual-Report-2020.pdf
Highlights in the report include:
- FSI is custodian of the national DNA Database and the report outlines the operation of the Database during 2020. The Database is being populated with unidentified DNA profiles from crime scenes. These profiles can then be matched with DNA profiles uploaded from individuals under criminal investigation (convicted and former offenders). These crimes have ranged from burglary/criminal damage to crimes against the person, sexual assault/suspicious deaths;
- At the end of 2020 there were close to 50,000 DNA profiles on the database, including8,337 crime stain profiles on the National DNA Database. Overall, the DNA Database identified 856 hits in 2020, which assisted 1,102 cases;
- Aside from DNA, in the chemistry area many types of trace evidence were recovered in 2020 and compared with reference samples e.g. glass samples, fibres, paint residue, firearm residue and debris samples from suspicious fires to support criminal investigations;
- Following a transfer of functions from the Garda National Technical Bureau, 2020 marked the first full year where fingerprints, documents and handwriting services were provided by FSI. This along with the demand for Drug and DNA investigations has led to a 74% increase in case submissions when compared to 2018;
- Likewise the number of case reports by FSI have increased by 36% when compared to 2019;
- In relation to cross border cooperation in combating crime, FSI in 2020 expanded connectivity for PRUM DNA exchanges with eight countries, while also undergoing preparations for the Schengen Information System, whereby fingerprint exchange is enabled to allow law enforcement agencies to check and share data on banned, missing and wanted persons; and
- The construction of a new modern laboratory for FSI, incorporating up to date standards, commenced in March 2020 and notwithstanding the impact of the COVID restrictions is due to complete in mid- 2022.