Coroners nationwide facing backlog of inquests due to Covid-19 restrictions

Additional court sittings also put pressure on premises used for inquests

Pat O’Connor said it is “not likely” that virtual inquests will be held nationwide to ease the backlog. Zoom sittings have been taking place for the Dublin Coroner’s Court at Store Street. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Pat O’Connor said it is “not likely” that virtual inquests will be held nationwide to ease the backlog. Zoom sittings have been taking place for the Dublin Coroner’s Court at Store Street. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Coroners nationwide are facing a backlog of inquests due to Covid-19 restrictions as well as the fact that additional court sittings are being facilitated outside of Dublin.

Half of the country’s 34 coroners are now under pressure to meet the demand of hearing inquests due to many being postponed over the past nine months. This will result in dozens of inquests piling up well into next year.

The coroners’ primary function is to investigate sudden and unexplained deaths so that a certificate can be issued.

Pat O’Connor, the county coroner for Mayo and spokesperson for the Coroner’s Society of Ireland said that inquests requiring juries and witnesses have not taken place since pandemic restrictions last March.

“Additionally many inquests have been impacted by the court services moving cases normally held in Dublin around the country such as the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork, Kilkenny and Castlebar in Mayo. Thankfully the coroner’s court in Mayo has been able to be facilitated in Ballina.”

Mr O’Connor pointed out that while inquests do not have to be held in court settings it is viewed by the society as “best practice”.

Mr O’Connor said it is “not likely” that virtual inquests will be held nationwide to ease the backlog. Zoom sittings have been taking place for the Dublin Coroner’s Court at Store Street.

Kilkenny’s county coroner Tim Kiely, said several inquests have been doubly impacted due the restrictions and have because of the Central Criminal Court sitting in the city.