29. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the assistance being given to Forensic Science Ireland to enable it to overcome a large backlog in the testing of illegal drug seizures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32891/17]


Deputy Charles Flanagan: Forensic Science Ireland, FSI, provides the Garda Síochána with up-to-date services in forensic science, including in the area of drugs and DNA analysis. I recognise the very significant part Forensic Science Ireland plays within the criminal justice system, including its vital role in providing evidence to the courts. There is no doubt this work has been invaluable to the successful detection and prosecution of many serious offences over recent decades and will continue to be so.
While the establishment of the DNA database has impacted on the work of the Forensic Science Ireland, several steps have been taken to increase resources and improve processes to ensure that Forensic Science Ireland continues to deliver a high-quality service to An Garda Síochána.
I am informed by Forensic Science Ireland that the backlog of unanalysed drug cases with it currently stands at approximately 2,800. I assure the Deputy there has not been any impact on the Garda's efforts to enforce the law and there have not been any prosecutions lost on foot of this backlog. In the first six months of 2017, 4,099 drugs cases were submitted to Forensic Science Ireland for analysis. A total of 4,444 drugs cases were analysed and reports generated by Forensic Science Ireland in that period. Additional staff have been assigned to the drugs area in Forensic Science Ireland and it is planned to assign ten additional scientists to the area later in 2017 as they are recruited. These measures are expected to lead to a progressive reduction in the backlog.
In terms of processing cases, the Deputy may wish to note that Forensic Science Ireland prioritises drugs cases requested for court purposes by An Garda Síochána. Forensic Science Ireland is working closely with An Garda Síochána and the Office of the DPP to improve the effectiveness of the presumptive drug testing scheme. This scheme is available for personal possession cases under section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Acts. The testing is carried out by members of the Garda Síochána who have been trained by Forensic Science Ireland using test kits validated by it. The purpose of presumptive testing is to allow a large number of section 3 cases to be dealt with effectively and expeditiously at local level and to free up the resources in Forensic Science Ireland.