Scientific Support Branch is part of the Legacy and Justice Department. It provides specialist and technical support to the entire Police Service across a range of disciplines, which include:

  • Crime Scene Investigation, management and coordination
  • Fingerprint bureau – fingerprint enhancement, comparison and database management
  • DNA management
  • Footwear screening
  • Specialist Photography
  • CCTV recovery and image production
  • Facial ID production
  • Mapping/survey services
  • Forensic services management, performance and advice

Scientific Support Branch has around 150 staff and is responsible for managing an annual budget close to £15 million.

Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs)

CSIs attend and examine crime scenes to recover evidence, at the request of investigating officers. They can be called to any crime scene where there is the potential for evidence to be recovered. Scenes can range from domestic burglaries to murders. Our 45 CSIs, based in offices across Northern Ireland, attended 17,000 incidents last year.  

On arriving at a scene the first job a CSI undertakes is assess what is required and what information is available – a forensic assessment is completed. Throughout the examination the CSI will make notes and take photographs.  Potential evidence is carefully and systemically identified, recorded, recovered and packaged. This evidence can be used in court cases to secure convictions.

CSIs rely on Locard's principle that "every contact leaves a trace". This means that every time a person comes into contact with an object, they leave something on that object and part of that object could be transferred to them. The range of potential evidence can be vast but typically includes fingerprints, DNA, footwear marks, fibres, instrument marks and paint samples.

CSI Montage

Fingerprint Bureau

The Fingerprint Bureau provides expert and technical support to investigating officers by enhancing, recording, comparing and identifying individuals by means of finger & palm prints. This includes:

Receipt of finger and palm imprints recovered from a scene of crime
Management of finger/palm print from detained persons
Identification of unknown individuals
Comparison of recovered finger and palm imprints with finger and palm impressions of a known identity
Input into the national database of finger and palm impressions and unidentified crime scene imprints
Chemical examination of exhibits recovered from crime scenes, photography and processing of resulting imprints
Preparation of information or evidence for use in legal processes.
Part of the Bureau now manages the use of DNA profiles.
A small team provides a footwear screening service for shoes and crime scene footwear marks.

Our teams search and compare scene of crime marks, from scene locations and retrieved articles, with fingerprints held on the database, to identify offenders and eliminate individuals with legitimate access to crime scenes.

The Fingerprint bureau typically makes around 2,500 identifications annually for use by investigating police officers.  

Imaging Branch

Our Imaging Branch provides support and expertise to serious crime investigations in the form of scenes of crime photography and video, specialist photographic techniques, Facial Id production, CCTV recovery and enhancement and injury photography. 

Imaging officers also provide photographic, video and surveying services to serious road traffic collision investigations, public order evidence gathering teams, the State Pathologist, the PSNI College at Garnerville and, resources permitting, volume crime investigations.

Imaging branch has a small section that provides scene/incident survey capabilities – this includes map/survey production, 3D laser scanning and digital presentation services.  

CSI Mapping

The Way Forward

Scientific Support holds ISO9001 quality management certification for CSI and Fingerprint Bureau.  The Fingerprint Bureau also holds ISO17025 quality accreditation for its fingerprint enhancement laboratory and footwear screening service.   The Branch strives to provide victims, the public and criminal justice system partners with quality and timely responses to criminal investigations and serious incidents. 

Science is moving on. Scientific support staff are getting fingerprints and DNA from items which would not have been possible before and they’re working to get the results processed faster and back to the investigators, all working together to make Northern Ireland safer for everyone.

Forensic Facts:

  • Last year, 216 people were identified by checking fingerprints against the Historic Crime Scene Marks database.
  • Forensic Science NI analyse about 80,000 pieces of evidence per year.
  • In 2015, CSIs recovered footwear marks at 2,389 crime scenes.
  • Last year, 23,446 sets of fingerprints were taken at Police Stations.