Prosecutors told drug tests take resources from serious crime

A senior scientist at Ireland’s forensic science laboratory has told prosecutors its resources are being wasted on preliminary drugs tests for drugs possession cases.

Dr Tom Hannigan, director of chemical sciences at Forensic Science Ireland (FSI), said presumptive tests, which seek to confirm whether a substance that is already under suspicion is a controlled drug, are rarely needed because most offenders plead guilty.

He also said the sheer number of tests are taking resources away from “more serious cases”.

Dr Hannigan was addressing around 260 prosecutors at a conference in Dublin Castle, reports the Irish Times.

FSI, an associated office of the Department of Justice and Equality (DJE), provides scientific assistance to agencies involved in criminal investigation, mainly An Garda Síochána.

Dr Hannigan said: “The system was intended to deal with section 3 cases, personal possession cases, where people are pleading guilty. Most of these cases, 95 per cent of these cases, end up with guilty pleas.”

He added: “Typically what happens is defence solicitors will demand a certificate of analysis from the laboratory as a means of getting an adjournment.

“The certificate has to be produced and then when they’ve got the certificate, they plead guilty - which defeats the whole purpose of the scheme.

“If you’re admitting to the possession of a controlled drug, what’s the certificate of analysis needed for? Unfortunately, there are District Court judges that allow this to happen.”