Wednesday 21 February 2018

Deputy pathologist resigns after conflict

Six murder cases hang in balance as offices swiftly locked

Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber
Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalid Jaber
State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

POTENTIAL prosecutions in up to six murder cases may be in difficulty following the shock resignation of Deputy State Pathologist Dr Khalib Jaber.

The Department of Justice said Dr Jaber's decision to quit, following disagreements with State Pathologist Prof Marie Cassidy, would not prevent the prosecution of criminal cases he was involved in.

However, this has been disputed by Dr Jaber (55), who said it was far from clear how a number of cases would now proceed.

In his resignation letter, Dr Jaber offered to continue working until May of next year, so he could finish his existing case files. But this offer was rejected and his resignation was accepted with immediate effect.

Dr Jaber said that while he had committed to attend all inquests and trials for outstanding cases, he had already been locked out of his office and no longer had access to his case files, at least six of which have yet to be fully completed.

They include the case of murdered drug dealer Christopher Gaffney, whose dismembered remains were found in Clonee, Co Meath, on November 1.

"There are several cases that need to be finished by me before they are officially filed with the Garda Siochana so that they can prepare the file to be forwarded to the DPP," Dr Jaber told the Sunday Independent.

"I have absolutely no idea what will happen to these cases now."

To compound matters further, Dr Jaber is considering legal action against the Department of Justice, which he has accused of "professionally isolating" him and allowing him to be exposed to bullying and harassment.

The Saudi-born doctor claimed the behaviour of some of the people he had encountered since taking the job was "upsetting and obscene".

Dr Jaber said he received abusive text messages after news of his resignation spread, and he had reported these to gardai.

The Department of Justice insisted last night that all necessary operational arrangements would be put in place to take account of his resignation. It said it was unaware Dr Jaber had been denied access to his office.

Dr Jaber was one of two deputy state pathologists working with Prof Cassidy.

His resignation was ultimately sparked by a disagreement with her over the circumstances surrounding the death of an alleged homicide victim.

The clash of opinions brought to a head tensions which had been simmering between the pair for several months.

Dr Jaber complained to the Director of Public Prosecutions about the disagreement in a strongly worded letter two weeks ago – revealed in yesterday's Irish Independent – and again in his resignation letter, which was sent to Justice Minister Alan Shatter last Thursday. The same letter was also copied to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

The details of the case cannot be revealed for legal reasons. However, it can be disclosed that Dr Jaber was deeply unhappy with the stance taken by Prof Cassidy in relation to the death.

Dr Jaber also complained about the way the department had reacted to disagreements between him and staff at three mortuaries, dating back to 2010.

As a result of these disagreements, bodies were no longer brought to the Dublin City Mortuary, Cork University Hospital or Our Lady's Hospital in Navan if Dr Jaber was the state pathologist on call.

He claims the issues were not investigated properly and he ended up being seen as a pariah as a result of this.

"I was being continually undermined. When something happened I was the one that people were ready to blame," he said.

In the letter Dr Jaber asked that protocols be changed so that state pathologists must have their reports co-signed by a colleague. He also requested that the Medical Council examine certain operational aspects of the State Pathologist's Office.

Other issues raised included the aborted plans for a new State Pathologist's Office in Marino, Dublin, which was abandoned after €3.3m was spent on the project.

It followed two previous letters, to the the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, in which Dr Jaber questioned Prof Cassidy's suitability to act as State Pathologist, suggesting she was not sufficiently qualified.

In both letters he complained that Scottish-born Prof Cassidy (54) did not have certification in forensic pathology, a sub-speciality of pathology that focuses on determining the cause of death by examining a corpse.

However, authorities have not seen this as a barrier to Prof Cassidy holding the job, given the experience she has built up during the years.

Dr Jaber denied he had been seeking to have Prof Cassidy fired so he could take over her job.

"It may come across like I was after her job. I never was, I never will be, and I never want to be. I never made an application to dislodge her or to replace her," he said.

"I voiced concerns about the operations of the services and the department's administration.

"I am critical of the way things are done. I am not critical of Marie the person."

Dr Jaber said that following these letters, Department of Justice secretary general Brian Purcell accused him of "undermining the credibility, standing and reputation of the Office of the State Pathologist".

Dr Jaber had been due to meet with Mr Purcell during the week to discuss his concerns. However, the meeting did not take place.

On Friday evening, he received a letter from Mr Purcell, accepting his offer of resignation with immediate effect.

Last night Prof Cassidy told the Sunday Independent she had no involvement in Dr Jaber's decision to resign.

"These things happen. I can't really make any comment on it at all. I know nothing about it, actually, to be fair. I wasn't involved in any of the process. I've no comment to make on it at all. There is nothing I want to say," she said.

Sunday Independent

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