233. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the waiting times for examination of items of possible evidence by trained forensic technicians; if there is a fast-tracking of items in specific cases, that is, cases of rape and other serious offences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20736/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): As the Deputy is aware Forensic Science Ireland provides a comprehensive scientific service to An Garda Síochána and the Irish Justice system in the investigation of crime and adjudication of criminal cases. The service provided covers a wide variety of evidence types e.g. DNA and biological fluids, impression evidence (e.g. footwear impressions, tyre tracks), trace evidence (e.g. gunshot residue, textile fibres, paint, glass), analysis of suspect materials (e.g. drugs, explosives, offensive sprays). FSI is also the custodian of the National DNA Database which plays an important role in the investigation of sexual offences, as well as many other offence types.
I am advised that FSI prioritises cases submitted to it in accordance with criteria agreed with An Garda Síochána in a Service Level Agreement. These criteria include seriousness of the offence, urgency, and the extent to which forensic analysis will advance an investigation. The most urgent work will often have verbal reports issued back to An Garda Síochána within 24 hours. FSI also has an on-call system in place whereby critical work is supported outside of normal office hours, including weekends.
FSI attaches a high priority to sexual assault cases, particularly cases involving minors. A batching system is in place whereby the sexual assault examination kits taken at the sexual assault treatment units (SATU) are processed as a priority on receipt. This has the advantage that interim results are available for all sexual assault cases when requested. For the most urgent sexual assault cases, where for example (a) Gardaí are concerned that the victim is in danger or the rapist could attack again or ( b) murders where FSI can help in the investigation by checking for semen on the victim and /or eliminating suspects, a verbal report is issued within two working days and a written report within seven working days.