Forensic Science Ireland chief ‘not impressed’ at building wait

The head of Forensic Science Ireland has said she is “not overly impressed” by the four-year wait for a much-promised new building.

Forensic Science Ireland chief ‘not impressed’ at building wait

Sheila Willis said the timetable needs to be brought forward given the poor state of her facility.

She said the workload of her office and her staff would “increase exponentially” with the DNA database, which went live last November after being first promised eight years ago.

She said the DNA database would give the FSI the “ability and authority” to store DNA profiles from suspects and those convicted of serious crimes.

This database will be searchable and will provide an “intelligence tool” to gardaí investigating serious crimes, from burglaries, to sexual assaults, to murders.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show she repeated concerns first expressed at the Oireachtas justice committee last March and extended in an interview with the Irish Examiner in November.

“Actually, at the launch of the DNA database, the minister acknowledged the need for a purpose-built laboratory was a matter of record,” said Dr Willis.

“I’m pleased money was allocated to provide such a facility. I’m not overly impressed by the timeframe, so hopefully there will be some success in bringing the timeframe forward from 2019.”

A new facility for the FSI, which is located in Garda Headquarters, has been mooted for more than 15 years, with the most recent plan collapsing in 2009 due to the recession.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald resurrected the new facility in Budget 2016 and described the FSI building as a “1970s office block” which was “outdated and in need of modernisation”.

However, the funding for it under the capital expenditure programme is not due to be available until 2019, after other capital projects in the justice area, including a new family courts complex, the construction of Garda stations and the provision of Garda vehicles.

Dr Willis previously told the Irish Examiner it was “not tenable” to wait for construction to begin in 2019.

She welcomed the fact that the budget had given the green light to hire 25 people, but said that would take time. FSI is sanctioned for 96 staff, but only has 77.

Dr Willis said there would be extra work for FSI with the DNA database: “The situation will be the same as any other country, with an exponential increase in the amount of work.”

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