independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Pathologists Dr Khalid Jaber and Professor Marie Cassidy at centre of clash may now face off as court experts

Dr Khalid Jaber and Professor Marie Cassidy

THE former Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber is poised for further clashes with his old boss Professor Marie Cassidy, after announcing his intention to work as an expert witness for defence teams.

Dr Jaber (55) resigned last month following a disagreement with the State Pathologist over the circumstances surrounding the death of an alleged homicide victim.

It had been thought he would seek employment abroad, as he had previously worked in the UK and his native Saudi Arabia, and recently applied for a position in the US.

However, the Irish Independent has learnt Dr Jaber intends to stay in Ireland and has written to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and coroners around the country advising that he will be offering his services as a defence pathologist.

The move is likely to see him giving evidence on behalf of defence teams in cases where Prof Cassidy (54) acts as a witness for the prosecution.

In cases involving a suspicious death, a defendant is allowed to request a second independent autopsy and the findings are often used in evidence by defence teams, particularly if they contradict those of the State Pathologist.

CLASH

Dr Jaber circulated the letters in the past week, offering his services for second and third autopsies for defence teams.

He also said he was available for prosecution autopsies, coroners' autopsies, qualitative reviews and garda cold cases reviews. Prior to his resignation, Dr Jaber sent a series of letters to the Department of Justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland criticising Prof Cassidy.

He suggested she was not sufficiently qualified to act as State Pathologist as she did not have certification in forensic pathology, a sub-speciality that focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse.

In the letter to the DPP, he also made reference to a clash of opinion between him and Prof Cassidy in a homicide case.

Dr Jaber said he stepped down after being accused by Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell of "undermining the credibility, standing and reputation of the Office of the State Pathologist" by sending the letters. The department gave its full backing to Prof Cassidy and said there was no question over her suitability for the job, which she has held since 2004.

Since his resignation, Dr Jaber has been making himself available to give evidence in court cases and coroners inquests where he performed autopsies.

However, six unfinished cases which Dr Jaber had been working on at the time of his resignation have now been taken over by the Office of the State Pathologist.

These include the dismembered drug dealer Christopher Gaffney, whose remains were found in Clonee, Co Meath, last month. Dr Jaber had offered to stay on to complete his reports on these cases but the offer was rejected.

"I think for the sake of the proper application of justice I should have been given the right to complete these cases," he told the Irish Independent.

He voiced his concerns that defences teams could raise questions about how these cases were handled should they come to trial.

"The defence doesn't have to prove you are wrong. They only have to prove there is doubt. That is all, and the case would simply collapse. That is what the tactic would be," he said.

He said the situation had created "a potential room for headache" and "it was not correct professional practice to simply sever the primary pathologist from the case where the cases are about to be completed."

The Department of Justice has said all necessary operational arrangements have been put in place to take account of Dr Jaber's resignation.

Dr Jaber had previously been involved in rows with staff at three mortuaries, dating back to 2010, and as a result bodies were not brought to those mortuaries when he was the state pathologist on call.

He claims the issues involved were not investigated properly and he ended up being regarded as a pariah as a result.

Irish Independent

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