The State Laboratory provides a forensic toxicology service to assist Coroners and the State Pathologist to investigate the causes of sudden death by analysing post mortem samples to confirm the presence or absence of ethanol, legal and illegal drugs and other toxic substances. The levels of substances detected are also quantified.
An Garda Síochána is assisted with criminal investigations (e.g. murder, death in custody and alleged rape) where there is a need for drug analysis on biological samples. This is an important aspect of the Laboratory's work and a fast and comprehensive analytical service is provided for a wide range of drugs and alcohol. When the results of analysis form part of the files for the prosecution, staff are available to attend and give evidence in legal proceedings.
Historically, there were significant delays in issuing results for some Coroners, primarily because of the number of laboratories involved in the analysis chain. Since March 2013 all testing has been centralised in the State Laboratory and this will result in a more comprehensive and timelier service overall for all Coroners.
To manage the >40% increase in sample numbers, the Laboratory introduced new high resolution liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC/MS) based drug screening methods. The development of these new test methods, in combination with connectivity of the LC/MS instruments to the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), has greatly improved the range and overall efficiency of the service.
State Laboratory staff are pro-active about using their wide network of contacts to keep abreast of the latest drugs of abuse in circulation and where possible they extend the scope of the methods of analysis to include these new compounds as soon as reference standards become available. The Laboratory is also represented on the Early Warning and Emerging Trends sub-committee of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol.