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Annual report says FSI helped solve several murders but needs more funding 
Forensic science experts helped gardaí solve several murders last year as well as long-running missing persons cases and an attempted fatal poisoning using a substance that featured in an Agatha Christie novel, according to Forensic Science Ireland’s (FSI) annual report. 
But now significant investment was required to keep up with growing demand, FSI has said. 
“FSI significantly increased the number of cases reported on over the year – supporting crime investigations including murders and serious assaults, sexual assaults, drugs, possession of firearms and explosives,” its director Chris Enright has said. 
Over the past two years the number of cases being submitted for analysis had increased by 23 per cent. 
“While we have had a positive year in increasing capacity and reducing backlogs in many areas, a sustained increase in capacity will be required for FSI to achieve the level of service performance that our criminal justice system needs,” added Mr Enright. 
FSI offers a wide range of services producing scientific analysis linking suspects to crimes, identifying human remains and analysing samples of drugs required for the prosecution of criminal cases. 
As the economy had strongly recovered last year leading to higher levels of drug consumption and the number of sexual crimes reported to the Garda also reached record levels, the demands being placed on the State’s forensic service were now more significant than ever, its report said. 
Many of the record number of drug seizures being sent for analyse by the Garda were “complex” cases meaning several drug types were involved, which significantly added to the growing strain on the service. These included illicit drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin and also controlled medicines being smuggled into the Republic for sale on the black market. 
One such case in 2019, outlined in FSI’s annual report for 2019, underlined the dangers of buying prescription medicines on the black market. Less than half of a batch of 85,000 tablets packaged as Xanax, for treating anxiety disorders and seized with illicit drugs at a house in Co Meath, were found to contain alprazolam, the drug that should be in Xanax. The other tablets contained drugs intended to treat hay fever, Parkinson’s disease and even morning sickness. One substance, Diclazepam, found in some of the tablets is a benzodiazepine drug not approved for use in humans but which has grown in popularity as a designer recreational drug sold online. 
FSI last year analysed drugs for 9,319 Garda cases, up by a quarter of levels seen in 2018. Some 5,860 DNA samples were also analysed, including for sexual crime investigations; an increase of almost one third on the previous year. Some 916 chemistry or toxicology tests, which determined levels of alcohol or drugs in a person’s blood, were carried out. Staff at FSI were called to court as expert witnesses to give evidence 108 times last year, up by just over a quarter on 2018. 
While FSI was currently located in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, and new purpose facility was under construction at Backweston, Celbridge, which was expected to be completed in about two years. 
In 2019 the number of records on the DNA database grew by 10,000 profiles, to a total of 27,565 profiles. Some 780 hits, or matches to suspects and crimes, were recorded last year which assisted in the investigation of 1,011 cases; from burglaries and criminal damage cases to sexual crimes and homicides. 
For every 100 crime scene samples added to the database, 43 are linked to an identifiable person, though not always crime suspects. A total of 1,456 stains from crime scenes were added to the stains database, now numbering 6,782. Last year, when the Irish database was checked against the Austrian one under a European exchange, 17 crime stains from Irish crime scenes were matched to suspects and criminal offenders; including two sexual assault cases, a cluster of five burglaries, one fraud case and none further burglaries or thefts. Seven Austrian crime scene stains were matched to seven Irish people; one convicted criminal and six suspects. 
Case studies: Poison used Agatha Christie novel 
In one of its most unusual cases ever scientists from Forensic Science Ireland (FSI) last year detected the lethal poison thallium in a sample sent to them for analysis by gardaí investigating a bizarre conspiracy by a man to poison his colleague after a minor work place dispute. 
For full article click: The Irish Times 
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