The number of cases submitted to Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) for analysis last year jumped by 74% to almost 29,000, according to its annual report for 2020.
FSI provides a scientific service to the criminal justice system by analysing samples from crime scenes, and providing expert evidence in criminal trials.
Last year’s cases included 6,000 related to fingerprints, documents and handwriting, after these services were transferred to the FSI from the Garda Technical Bureau.
Big increase in drugs submissions
There was particularly strong growth in demand for drugs analysis and DNA investigations. Case submissions involving drugs and toxicology increased by 26% last year. DNA submissions, which include cases of sexual assault, rose by 30%.
The increase in submissions led to a 36% increase in the number of cases reported by FSI in 2020.
The organisation said it had prioritised the more complex drug submissions, and had supported all urgent drugs case within the 24-hour timeframe, despite a significant increase in demand.
“Given the sustained increase in drug submissions, it is clear that further increases in the capacity of our drugs analysis service is needed this year,” the report said.
The report showed that DNA profiling was used to assist in the identification of nine unidentified human remains in 2020, in partnership with the Missing Person Unit of an Garda Síochána.
In one of those cases, the remains of Stephen Corrigan, who had been missing since November 2011, were identified. There had been no prior indication of who the skeletal remains were from when they were located in Rathmines in April 2020.
DNA database grows
The FSI operates the National DNA Database, under the Criminal Justice (Forensic Evidence and DNA Database System) Act 2014. The database grew to almost 50,000 by the end of 2020, while just over 1,500 profiles from crime scenes were added.
FSI says 47 out of every 100 samples uploaded onto the database will now be linked to a person, up from 43 in 2019.