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Forensic Science Ireland. (2021) Forensic Science Ireland annual report 2020. Dublin: Forensic Science Ireland.

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FSI contributes to both the investigation of crime and the judiciary process within the Irish Justice System. In broad terms, forensic investigations involve the examination of items recovered from crime scenes and the use of various techniques to investigate links between suspects and victims, and between suspects and scenes. This is underpinned by an objective evaluation of context and scientific facts, frequently leading to the elimination of suspects from investigations. There are few major criminal trials that do not feature some contribution from FSI. 

The analysis of materials thought to contravene the Misuse of Drugs Acts constitute the highest number of submissions to FSI and are supported by the Chemical Analysis department. Case submissions vary widely in size, drug mix and complexity. These cases can involve new psychoactive substances that pose particular analytical challenges. The drugs team have influenced legislation through the identification and characterisation of drugs in the market place. This team also quantifies drug purity levels in the market and provides trend information to stakeholders in An Garda Siochana as well as the Department of Health. In addition to drugs submissions toxicology samples associated with sexual assault cases are analysed and evaluated. 

In addition to analysing samples in the laboratory, staff from FSI provide professional advice and training on the appropriate samples to be taken from crime scenes and individuals and, in some circumstances, attend crime scenes. We also operate an out-of-hours service for situations where investigating Gardai need access to time-critical analysis or when it is necessary to visit crime scenes, or suspected clandestine drug laboratories. 

P.9 Case Study 1 Costa Rica to Cork in a banana boat

On the 18th of February 2021 the Maersk Nimes completed its voyage from Costa Rica by docking in Cork Harbour. Known in Cork Harbour as ‘The Banana Boat’, the massive container ship filled with fruit is a regular feature in the port each week. An operation by An Garda Siochana, Customs and the Naval Service was in place based on information that controlled drugs may be present in the cargo. A sniffer dog, X-ray equipment and officers trained to search for contraband discovered multiple packets of compressed white powder. Upon analysis at FSI it was confirmed that the 172 kg of compressed white powder contained cocaine. The street value of such a haul is placed at approximately 12 million Euro making this one of the biggest single drug seizures in the Republic of Ireland for a number of years. 

P.10 Case Study 2 New synthetic cannabinoid linked to deaths and acute poisonings

Methyl 3,3-dimethyl-2-(1-(pent-4-en-1-yl)-1H-indazole-3-carboxamido)butanoate (MDMB 4en-PINACA) is a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist. Similar to other synthetic cannabinoids, it is sold as a replacement for cannabis. Because of their high potency, synthetic cannabinoids can pose a high risk of severe poisoning, which in some cases can be fatal. A total of 11 acute non-fatal poisonings with confirmed exposure to MDMB-4en-PINACA were reported by the United Kingdom in 2020. In 10 of the cases, the poisoning was considered life threatening and required hospitalisation of the patient. A total of 4 deaths with confirmed exposure to MDMB-4en-PINACA were reported by the United Kingdom (3) and Sweden (1). The cases occurred between 2019 and 2020….. 

P.16 For last year alone drugs & toxicology submissions increased by 26% and more specifically, complex case submissions (related to possession with intent to supply, or cultivation) increased by 34%. Drugs and toxicology cases 9,577 (2018) - 13,184 (2020), 38% growth. 

P.17 The number of cases reported by FSI increased by 36% compared to 2019 (including new services). FSI prioritised the more complex drug submissions and reported close to the same number of cases as 2019. We have also supported all urgent drugs case (typically custody cases) within the 24-hour timeframe, despite a significant increase in demand (31% vs 2019). Types of drug analysed in 2020 listed. 

P.18 Drug Quantification trends 2016-2019

Quantification data is produced for intelligence purposes for cocaine, diamorphine (heroin), and amphetamine - the second, third, and tenth most commonly seized drugs, respectively, in 2019. Commonly identified adulterants are also identified. Two distinct levels of seizure are analysed for quantification of cocaine and diamorphine: street level and importation level. Street level samples are defined as those submitted from seizures less than 30 g while importation level samples are defined as those submitted from seizures primarily over 500 g. For amphetamine, all seizures over 25 g were quantified…. 

[See report for further drug-related references.]

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