The annual report of the Office of the State Pathologist (OSP) says that there was greater demand for in-person appearances by its pathologists at courts and inquests after COVID-19 restrictions were eased last year.
This was due to the reopening of the criminal and coroners’ courts.
Writing in the OSP’s annual report, Chief State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan (pictured) said that this trend would continue into 2022.
Although the appointment of two new pathologists last year would mitigate the impact of this increased demand, Dr Mulligan warned that it was likely to require more time spent travelling, and “decreased consultant availability on occasion”.
Slight drop in cases
She also said that the pandemic had highlighted the importance of autopsy, and its ability to answer questions from families and relatives, as well as coroners.
The OSP provides a national forensic-pathology service, which determines the cause of death for legal purposes.
During 2021, the office dealt with 327 cases – down from 345 in 2020. State forensic cases – where pathologists perform post-mortem examinations in criminal, suspicious or unusual deaths – accounted for more than half of the caseload.
The OSP also dealt with 43 cases of skeletonised remains – of which 28 were documented as animal bones, and 15 as human bones.
The office attributed the increase – from 11 in 2020, and 27 in 2019 – to increased public outdoor activity.
Seven cases were referred to the OSP for an expert opinion. These cases are usually referred from outside the jurisdiction.