FSNI firearms section carries out work for a variety of customers. The main customer is the PSNI. However we also carry out examinations for:
- the Police Ombudsman
- Royal Military Police
- HM Revenue and Customs
- the Crown Solicitor
- other legal firms
Firearms and ammunition submitted to FSNI are routinely examined and classified with reference to the appropriate legislation. This Includes
- The Firearms (Northern Ireland) Order 2004
- The Firearms Act 1968 (as amended)
- The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006
An assessment of mechanical condition is also vital before any attempt is made to test fire it.
The Firearms examined can be a variety of models from many different manufacturers dating from "antique" muzzle loading pistols to the most modern Military and Police issue guns. The types examined can range from airguns, shotguns and hunting rifles to self loading pistols and revolvers, up to sub machine guns and assault rifles.
As part of these examinations the opportunity to recover trace evidence types such as Fingerprints and DNA is maximised by sequential examination which enables each type of evidence to be recovered without compromising the recovery of another.
Examination of the mechanical condition of different types of guns is undertaken to help determine if a shooting could have been accidental or a deliberate act.
Test fired bullets and spent cartridge cases are compared microscopically with others held by FSNI to link shooting incidents or help reconstruct events at shooting incidents.
Examination and reconstruction of events at shooting scenes is carried out and utilises knowledge of firearm type, method of use, the ejection patterns of spent cartridge cases, measurement of trajectories and chemical tests of strike marks. These help to give an investigator a sequence of events and an indication of weapon type used at an early stage and when combined with further laboratory tests can give indications of shooting positions, sequence of shots and range of shooting.
Finally the case types are reported and the results of examinations and expert opinion presented in Court as required. The courts range from Magistrates Courts to High Courts, Coroners Inquests, Court Martial and Civil Courts.