The total number of cases submitted to Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) for analysis last year fell back after an increase of almost 75% in 2020, according to its annual report.
It said the fall was mainly due to “some of the unique circumstances” of the initial COVID-19 restrictions.
FSI provides a scientific service to the criminal-justice system by analysing samples from crime scenes, and providing expert evidence in criminal trials.
The body’s figures show that 25,676 cases were submitted to it last year – down 11% from 2020. FSI points out, however, that case numbers have jumped by 55% since 2018, driven mainly by increased demand for drug analysis and DNA services.
Cocaine 'street' content drop
Despite the drop in submissions, the FSI reported on almost 24,000 cases last year – up almost 30% compared with 2020.
This was led by a 29% increase in drugs and toxicology cases, though the organisation says that it missed a target for more complex drugs cases due to a delay in completing new laboratory space.
FSI says that the “complexity and variety” of case requests across all areas continue to grow, citing the example of the presentation of suspected drugs in jellies, gels, and sweets.
Figures from 2015-2020 contained in the report show that 35% of all drugs cases analysed by FSI in 2020 contained cocaine. FSI also noted that the average cocaine content at street level dropped in 2020 for the first time in the five-year period.
The organisation reported on 102 cases linked to missing persons or body identification last year – up from 80 in 2020.
Writing in the report, Director General Chris Enright described progress in the construction of FSI’s new purpose-built facility at the Backweston Science Campus as “very encouraging”.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that the building was planned for completion “in the coming months”.