Law ‘stops’ coroner recording suicides

A coroner said he has never officially recorded a “suicide” verdict because of the outdated law coroners work under despite the fact that suicide in his West Limerick area is now at “contagion levels”.

Law ‘stops’ coroner recording suicides

Brendan Nix, a leading criminal barrister who has been a coroner for 12 years, said: “To record a verdict of suicide it does require a change of law. While these figures in West Limerick are not recorded as suicide, everybody knows they are suicide. But I have not recorded a verdict of suicide.

“Is that an Irish solution to an Irish problem? I don’t know. I direct a jury to find a verdict as best they can and, if they agree with the medical evidence, would they record a verdict in accordance with the evidence, and inevitably they do.

“I have yet to see a pathologist’s medical report saying a person took their own life by suicide.”

Mr Nix said there is no verdict of suicide at present, and the classic definition of a person who may have been found hanging, is that this person died from asphyxiation due to a ligature tied about the neck.

“A person who hangs himself, that’s how it is described. Whether they define that officially in recorded figures is another day’s work. I can’t see why it can’t be defined in a pathologist’s report as suicide, since it has been decriminalised.

“But I have never seen the word ‘suicide’ in a pathologist’s report. What is recorded is a verdict in line with the medical evidence.

“Whose feelings are we sparing here, the families who are grieving? They all know what happened. We don’t have to publish the names of people but we can say officially, this is suicide.

“I certainly think going public on the prevalence of suicide in West Limerick won’t do any harm. It is not going away. It is as if it is a taboo subject. It is out there, it is almost at contagion levels in West Limerick.

“I am now finding an increasing number of women of all ages are dying by suicide in West Limerick. It is pathetic, it is appalling.”

Mr Nix said emergency phones should be placed at a ‘suicide black spot’’ by the River Shannon in Limerick.

He has organised the first of a series of public meetings on suicide at Limerick County Council HQ in Dooradoyle on Saturday, starting at 9am.

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