Forensic pathology is the branch of pathology that specialises in the medicolegal investigation of deaths, and particularly the causation and consequences of wounds and injuries. In the United Kingdom, the work of the forensic pathologist is based almost exclusively on autopsies. This is in contrast to Continental Europe, where in many countries forensic medicine specialists are trained both in pathology and clinical forensic medicine involving the living.
In England and Wales, the Home Office maintains a restricted list (“The Home Office List”) of pathologists who perform autopsies in cases which might result in criminal proceedings for homicide, for example. Only pathologists with approved training and special qualifications in forensic pathology are eligible for inclusion on the Home Office List. In Northern Ireland, the forensic pathology service is provided through the State Pathologist’s department. In Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service directly funds forensic pathology departments within the major universities.
Forensic pathologists work with a wide range of other professional groups, often under circumstances that are not nearly as glamorous as portrayed in the media. In many cases of homicide or deaths that are thought to be suspicious, the forensic pathologist will visit the scene and examine the body in conjunction with police and forensic scientists before it is moved to a mortuary for autopsy. The role of the forensic pathologist extends from the autopsy to advising the police, forensic scientists and lawyers, and giving evidence in the Coroners and criminal courts. The ability to work as part of a team, good communication skills and common sense are essential.
Forensic Pathology Committee
Dr M Lyall – Chair
Dr P Lumb – Vice Chair
Dr R Bouhaidar
Dr P N Cooper (Postgraduate Education representative)
Dr S Collis
Dr J Medcalf
Dr C Randall
Trainee members’ representative
Dr T McNamee
Dr J Burton