Sunday 17 December 2017

Drugs linked to over one third of homicide cases

Deputy State Patholigist Michael Curtis
Deputy State Patholigist Michael Curtis

Georgina O'Halloran

MORE than one third of homicide victims had drugs or medication in their system at the time of death, a study has found.

And almost half of these died due to gunshot wounds, in a chilling reminder of the connection between drugs and gangland crime.

A study of records from the State Pathologists' Office found there were 288 homicides between 2008 and 2012 - comprising murders and manslaughters.

It found that some 109 of the 288 homicide victims had drugs or medication in their system at the time of death. Of those 109 victims, 87pc were male and 13pc were female.

Across all years, drug associated homicidal deaths were most highly linked with firearms, with gun wounds being the cause of death.

Some 48pc of victims who had drugs or medication in their system died due to gunshot wounds. This reached a high of 56.3pc in 2008.

Deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said: "This study shows, in certain instances like gangland shootings, that there is a link between violent deaths and the drug sub-culture.

"With regard to stabbings, shootings and other violent deaths, there is an association between the drugs sub-culture and the risk of being murdered."

Meanwhile, 25pc of such victims died from stab wounds, while blunt force trauma was the cause of death in 18pc of the 109 cases.

The new study, entitled Drug Associated Homicidal Deaths, was carried out by a medical student at University College Cork (UCC), Roisin Greaney.

Ms Greaney, who is from Douglas, Cork, said that in some cases the drugs or medication and alcohol may have played a contributory role in the death.

Some 38pc of victims of homicide had illicit drugs or medication in their system at the time of death

In 75pc of these 109 cases, the victims had more than one drug in their system and in 32pc of cases they had more than two substances in their system.

In 12pc of cases there were more than three substances present.

The presence of benzodiazapines (sedative drugs) or barbiturates were detected in 53pc of post-mortem toxicology screenings.

Alcohol was found in 39pc of cases, while opiates were detected in 37pc.

However, alcohol was only taken into account if it was used in combination with other drugs or medication.

The study did not look at cases where the only substance consumed was alcohol.

The presence of cannabis was detected in 29pc of cases, cocaine was detected in 22pc of cases and methadone was detected in 17pc.

Just 22 of the 109 victims had previously documented abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Just 20pc of the victims had been noted as having serious addictions to drugs.

The figures indicate an average of 57.6 homicides each year over the five-year period, with homicides accounting for 0.2pc of all overall deaths.

The greatest number of homicides took place in 2010, with 66, while the lowest number was in 2011 when there were 47.

Irish Independent

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