Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, today published the Office of the State Pathologist Annual Report for 2021 which provides a detailed account of the Office’s operations over the year.
The core work conducted by the State Pathologist Office is providing independent expert advice on matters relating to forensic pathology and performing post mortem examinations in criminal, suspicious or unusual deaths. State Pathologists are often required to attend and give evidence in coronial, criminal or civil courts.
The Office of State Pathologist also deals with a significant number of other types of cases such as skeletonised remains, which may require the expertise of a forensic anthropologist, cold case reviews and referred cases, which are cases that are referred for a further professional opinion, usually from outside the Irish jurisdiction.
Speaking on the publication of the Report the Minister said:
“I want to commend Dr. Linda Mulligan for her leadership since her appointment in early 2021. I welcome the addition of two new State Pathologists to the team in 2021 and also the successful completion of a Deputy State Pathologist competition, which resulted in two Deputy State Pathologists being appointed in 2022.
These appointments along with that of a new Shared Facilities Manager are essential in strengthening the Office’s capacity to carry out its vital functions. The additional resources will also support the State Pathologists in their important role in assisting families on the loss of their loved ones by helping to answer their questions, as well as playing a vital role developing autopsy practice in Ireland.”
The Office of the State Pathologist provides expert forensic advice to various groups and plays an important educational role by providing teaching to government bodies, An Garda Síochána, the Military Police and to medical schools in higher education institutions.
Speaking about the Report, Minister McEntee said:
“The Annual report for 2021 demonstrates the complex work undertaken daily by our forensic pathologists and also the additional challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Office of the State Pathologist continues to be the liaison between the Coroners, An Garda Síochána, the Faculty of Pathology in the Royal College of Physicians Ireland and mortuaries around the country. Through her work with the Faculty of Pathology and because of this unique position, the Chief State Pathologist is currently chairing a review group for the HSE Standards and Recommended Practices for Post Mortem Examination Services. The updated document will be available later this year.”
A copy of the report is available on the Department of Justice website here: Office of the State Pathologist Annual Report 2021 (justice.ie)
Notes for Editors
Key work undertaken by the Office of the State Pathologist in 2021.
- The Office of the State Pathologist dealt with 327 cases in 2021 (this figure was 345 in 2020, 335 in 2019, 286 in 2018 and 261 in 2017). The majority of these were state forensic cases (182) comprising 56% of the total caseload.
- Attendance at the scene of death was recorded in 30 of 182 cases (16.5%) in 2021.
- The Office of the State Pathologist carried out 95 adult non-suspicious post mortem examinations, at the direction of the Dublin District Coroner in 2021.
- There were 43 cases of skeletonised remains, 28 of which were documented as animal bones and 15 as human bones. This increase (11 in 2020/27 in 2019) was most likely due to increased public outdoor activity, and in part to new service level agreements with independent consultant forensic anthropologists.
- A Forensic Anthropologist was involved in 14 cases where the remains were found to be human and 12 of the cases where the bones were animal. Forensically relevant skeletonised remains (those deemed less than 70 years old) are treated as State cases.
- Cases continue to have a wide geographic distribution across Ireland. The numbers of post mortem evaluations carried out in each province during 2021 were as follows: 107 (59%) in Leinster, 46 (25%) in Munster, 15 (8%) in Connaught and 14 (8%) in Ulster.
- Out of office commitments, such as attendance at Inquests and the Criminal Courts of Justice to provide expert advice on causes of death, amounted to approximately 23 working days for the pathologists during 2021.
- As part of OSP teaching role, the pathologists also spent approximately 35½ hours lecturing in academic institutions as well as to An Garda Síochána and the Military Police.
- A further 145 hours for supervision of student research and elective attachments was facilitated by the Office of the State Pathologist as part of their academic commitments.