Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 384 - Laboratory facilities drug testing [7402/22].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 384 - Laboratory facilities drug testing [7402/22]. (10 Feb 2022)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022...

  1. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Justice if her attention has been drawn to the fact that delays in the testing of drugs at the State Laboratory is jeopardising court cases; her plans to address these delays; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7402/22]


Helen McEntee: As the Deputy will be aware, Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) provides comprehensive scientific analysis, independent expert opinion, advice and training to support the Irish Criminal Justice system.


FSI analyses submissions from a wide variety of cases including murders, significant drug seizures, aggravated assaults, suspected explosive devices and sexual assaults, and presents findings as expert witnesses in court. Specifically for drugs offences, FSI conducts laboratory testing and issues scientific reports for cases prosecuted under the Misuse of Drugs Act. This service is provided for Section 15 (possession with intent to supply), Section 17 (cultivation) and Section 3 (simple possession) cases as defined within the Misuse of Drugs Act.


The Deputy will appreciate that, as with forensic Institutes in other jurisdictions, case submissions have increased in FSI over several years. Between 2018 and 2021, case submissions for Drugs and Toxicology increased by 23%. Drug submissions in 2020 were particularly high. This flows from the focused efforts of An Garda Síochána around the country to disrupt the supply and distribution of controlled substances.


To manage this demand, I am advised that FSI and An Garda Síochána have established an agreed prioritisation system for forensic work and this is represented in a comprehensive Service Level Agreement. This calls on FSI to focus on the most important cases and prioritise resources accordingly. This practice is common across forensic organisations in Europe. Cases are prioritised on the basis of when the Court Date for the drugs offence is scheduled. For urgent cases (for example, where a suspect is in custody) FSI provides a verbal report within 24 hours.


FSI has increased its drug testing capacity over the past 6 months after refurbishment of laboratory spaces and recruitment of additional staff and is systematically reducing its backlog of drugs cases based on agreed prioritisation criteria with An Garda Síochána.


To support its work the current funding allocated to the FSI increased by €9.6m between 2019 and 2021, representing a very significant 79% increase in its resources.


In addition, FSI plans to transition to a new purpose-built facility at the Backweston Science Campus in the second half of this year. This is a major capital investment, with a project cost of €99.5m. The new facility will provide best practice standards for evidence processing, analysis and storage, and will enable growth in the capability and capacity of forensic services in Ireland. The move to the new facility is further supported by the provision of additional current funding of €6.6m in 2022 allocation much of which is focused on assisting the transition process and procuring new equipment.

Repository Staff Only: item control page