Susan Miner, RCNI services support co-ordinator, said sexual assault treatment units (SATUs) around the country were seeing more clients and there was an increased need to maintain evidence even in cases where the victim may not want to make a report to gardaí.
She said anecdotal evidence was that SATUs had seen an increase in visits in 2010 and again in 2011, although figures for both years have not been finalised.
However, while SATU staff ensure that women are treated with sensitivity, issues can arise when women are effectively asked to make a quick decision as to whether or not they intend to make a report to gardaí and therefore have evidence maintained.
Ms Miner said it would be better if it was standard practice that evidence be maintained through the SATUs so a woman who initially might not wish to report the matter could subsequently change her mind and gardaí would still have access to relevant samples.
“If the forensic evidence is not collected immediately you might lose the chance whereas if you take it, it allows people to think about it,” she said.
She said a multi-agency group was discussing ways of increasing storage capacity and means.
The group comprises of SATU medical directors as well as nurses, members of the Forensic Science Labor-atory, representatives of the Garda Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault unit, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“From the RCNI’s perspective it is something we have been saying needs to happen,” Ms Miner said of the capacity issue.
“We are finishing up protocol bits now and then we do the begging letters to freezer manufacturers.”
She said the numbers of women attending SATUs in 2010 increased “significantly”, although this reflected units opening in Galway and Mullingar in 2009.
Figures for previous years show almost 90% of clients attending SATUs did so regarding an incident which had taken place during the previous seven days. Almost 95% of clients were female.