CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Launch - FSI Strategic Plan 2019-2021
Auditorium Backweston Laboratory Campus
17th of April 2019
Speech by Charlie Flanagan T.D.
Minister for Justice and Equality
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Minister for Justice and Equality, I am very pleased to be here in the Backweston campus with you this morning to launch this Strategic Plan for Forensic Science Ireland (FSI). I wish to congratulate FSI for the hard work and the immense effort that they have put into producing this excellent Strategic Plan for 2019-2021.
As you will no doubt be aware, FSI plays a vital role in our Criminal Justice system in Ireland. Since the establishment of FSI, there have been many developments in service provision, not least of which, is the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014. This enabled a new state-of-the-art DNA Database System to be established, which has provided significant assistance to An Garda Síochána in the investigation of crime. The Database is a vital weapon in law enforcement which has already helped to detect thousands of repeat criminals. At the end of 2018 there were 26,649 DNA profiles on the National DNA Database (persons and crime stains) and it is contributing significantly to solving crimes. Indeed, during 2018, 38 out of every 100 crime scene samples uploaded onto the Database were linked to a person.
The period covered by this Strategic Plan of 2019 to 2022 will also see great changes within FSI. This is a crucial time for FSI as it is on the cusp of considerable organisational and operational change, with the building of a new Forensic Science laboratory here at Backweston and the merger of FSI with the Garda Technical Bureau.
The need for a new purpose built forensic science laboratory appropriate to the State's requirements is long-standing. Taking account of the progression in forensic science capabilities, the current facility at Garda HQ is unsuitable for modern laboratory functions and completely inadequate to meet the current and anticipated operational needs of FSI and the wider criminal justice system. Moreover, the rapid growth of the DNA Database and the need to fulfil EU obligations on information-sharing, underline the critical need of new purpose-built laboratory facilities in order to meet the increasing needs of a modern forensic service.
I, as Minister and the Government remain fully committed to the delivery of the new Forensic Science Laboratory Project here at the Backweston Campus and the multi-annual budget required for it is included in the Government's Ten Year Capital Programme. In light of the importance of this project, my Department advanced the start date of the build of the new Forensic Science Laboratory. The construction is being managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW) on behalf of my Department. In the region of €3 million has been spent to date on a package of enabling works at the Backweston site. There will be substantial construction work carried out over the next two years and I would expect the new laboratory to be ready in late 2021. The new custom-built facilities, when completed, will allow FSI to make full use of the huge potential offered by DNA technology, including the new DNA Database and will future-proof the needs of the service for decades to come.
Also, part of reshaping the current landscape towards a modern forensic science service, is the merger of the Garda Technical Bureau with the FSI, enabling the processing of crime samples under one world class forensic science body. The new laboratory construction will accommodate this planned merger. The merger is one of the key reforms identified in the Garda Inspectorate’s Report, Changing Policing in Ireland 2015. This merger will bring together the expertise of the Garda Technical Bureau (GTB) into the FSI organisation and enhance the operation of FSI into the future.
All of these changes provide challenges and learning opportunities for FSI and together with this Strategic Plan, will inform how it proceeds over the next three years. I have no doubt that FSI will respond well to these challenges. The 2019-2022 Strategy sets out a vision to further grow scientific excellence to continue to prevent, detect and investigate crime and will build on the current strengths of FSI driving greater value to support the Irish Criminal Justice System.
I believe that Ireland is fortunate to have, in FSI, some of the best forensic scientists in the world whether in the area of DNA, Chemical or Physical analysis and their role is essential to the Irish criminal justice system. These scientists continue to make a vital contribution, not only to the criminal justice system in Ireland but also to academic research in their respective fields. I am proud that FSI continues to make a significant contribution to the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes and has developed excellent relationships with other national service providers.
I would like to express my gratitude to Chris and to all those who have contributed to the development of this strategic plan and to FSI staff who will remain at the heart of its ability to deliver forensics services and the strategic outcomes it has set. I want to thank them for their ongoing commitment to the effective use of forensic science in the criminal justice system and I look forward to working with them in the future.
It remains only for me to formally launch this Strategic Plan. This is a fine document that does credit to FSI and I wish you every success in its implementation.