Publication of Forensic Science Ireland Annual Report for 2019
- DNA Database identified 780 hits in 2019, which assisted in 1,011 cases
- Exchange of DNA profiles saw 17 crime stains in Ireland matched to individuals on Austrian database from October to end December 2019, including 2 sexual assaults
9 September, 2020
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has today welcomed the publication of the Annual Report of Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) for 2019. It includes details of the operation of the DNA Database in 2019, in compliance with the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014. The report was submitted to the Minister by FSI and brought to Government by Minister McEntee.
Welcoming the annual report, Minister McEntee said:
“Forensic Science Ireland provides a critical service within Ireland’s criminal justice system. While An Garda Síochána are involved in the collection of evidence, be it physical or digital, FSI analyses and evaluates most of the physical evidence from crime scenes, and represent this in court. FSI has made an invaluable contribution since its establishment in 1975.”
FSI’s work supported crime investigations including murders and serious assaults, sexual assaults, drugs, possession of firearms and explosives.
Last year saw an increase in the number of DNA Database records, as well as an increase in the impact and effectiveness of the system. The reference index of persons on the database grew by close to 10,000 in 2019, to a total of 27,565 profiles. Overall the DNA Database identified 780 hits in 2019, which assisted in 1,011 cases. These crimes can range from burglary and criminal damage to crimes against the person, sexual assaults and suspicious deaths.
The crime solving capacity of the DNA database continues to grow and, at the end of 2019, had reached 43% - which means that 43 out of every 100 crime scene samples uploaded onto the database will be linked to a person. In addition, 1,456 crime stains were added to the crime stains index, bringing its total to 6,782 stains.
The DNA Database, which commenced operation on the 20 November 2015, is one of the most important crime fighting tools introduced within the State in recent times. It is providing Gardaí with investigative leads in previously unsolved serious crimes.
The database can replace more traditional and time consuming police investigative methods and provide more focus to a criminal investigation. It is now also possible to retain samples from relatives of missing persons to aid in the investigation of unknown remains.
Exchange of Profiles
During 2019, FSI began exchanging DNA profiles with other European countries through the Prüm Treaty, starting with Austria on 2 October. Over 3,500 unidentified crime stains from the Irish database were searched against the Austrian database of 239,000 reference profiles of suspects and convicted offenders. Austria also searched 40,300 unidentified crime stains against 25,350 reference profiles on the Irish national database. By the end of the year, 17 crime stains in Ireland were matched to individuals on the Austrian database. These included profiles from 2 sexual assaults, a cluster of 5 burglaries, a fraud case and 9 further burglaries or thefts. Similarly, 7 Austrian crime stains have matched reference profiles on the Irish database (1 convicted offender and 6 suspects). This provided invaluable intelligence to the respective policing authorities in their efforts to tackle organised crime. More work is planned in the coming years to allow for a full expansion with all Prüm participants.
Notes for Editors
The FSI Annual Report 2019 will shortly be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, as required by legislation and published on the website of the FSI https://forensicscience.ie/
The report is available to read in full on the Department of Justice and Equality website here - http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/FSI_2019_Annual_Report.pdf/Files/FSI_2019_Annual_Report.pdf.
Minister McEntee also commended the DNA Database Oversight Committee for their strong oversight of processes and systems to ensure compliance with the DNA Database Act. The Minister thanked The Hon. Mr. Justice Matthew Deery, who chaired the committee from 2016 until his retirement in November 2019, and welcomed the new Chairperson, Her Honour Judge Catherine A. Murphy, who took up her position the same month.
Forensic Science Ireland
Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) was established on a non-statutory basis to provide a scientific service to the criminal justice system by analysing samples from crime scenes and providing expert evidence in criminal trials. In 2014 the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act named the body as the custodian of the new DNA database. In March 2020, construction work began on a new forensic facility at the Backweston Laboratory Campus in County Kildare. Work will last approximately two years. As of 1 June 2020, there were 185 staff at FSI.
Highlights from Annual Report
The FSI Annual Report shows that the body managed 16,094 cases in 2019, including:
- 9,319 drugs cases, an increase of 25% on 2018
- 5,860 DNA cases (including sexual assaults), an increase of 30% on 2018
- 915 toxicology and chemistry cases
Staff from FSI attended court as expert witnesses on 108 occasions in 2019 (27% higher than 2018).