Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

PSNI seeking Scottish help over forensic tests backlog

The PSNI is looking to Scottish police for forensic help to speed up crime investigations and court cases, it can be revealed.

Talks are being held between the two forces about a possible working agreement that would see evidence in criminal cases being analysed at laboratories in Scotland when Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) is overloaded.

FSNI has been working under immense pressure recently with an increase in drugs cases.

The majority of FSNI’s day-to-day work involves the recovery, analysis and evaluation of evidence submitted in connection with a range of crimes, including murders, sex offences, firearms, explosives, assault, burglaries and car crimes.

A growth in drug use and continued development in “designer” drugs has meant a substantial growth in the demand for FSNI’s analytical services in both drugs and toxicology.

In its annual report last year the FSNI said that drugs submissions ran throughout the year at approximately twice the agency’s capacity.

“More analyses, coupled with much more complexity in the analyses, have inevitably meant backlogs in the provision of what is often a pivotal piece of information in relation to prosecutorial decisions,” the report added.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said a working agreement with the Scottish Police Authority — which has the use of four forensic service centres, supported by a number of satellite laboratories — would help speed up criminal cases.

“Sometimes it is taking too long to get forensic tests back. In some drugs cases it can be six months before the PSNI can be told that the white powder seized by officers is an illegal drug. This delays police investigations and court cases,” the DUP man said.

It is understood the Scottish Police Authority is also keen to provide forensic services to the Garda.

Story so far

Approximately 93% of the work carried out by Forensic Science Northern Ireland originates from the PSNI and reflects crime trends and policing priorities, such as national security, serious harm and community confidence. Cases involving national security or serious harm constitute 80% of FSNI’s casework. FSNI also provides a service to the State Pathologist’s Department and the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

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