Northern Ireland finally has a new State Pathologist following an extensive three year search.
Justice Minister Claire Sugden yesterday announced the appointment of Dr James Lyness, who will officially take up the role of State Pathologist for Northern Ireland on April 1.
Dr Lyness was appointed on a designate basis last year and will formally take up the post from Acting State Pathologist Professor Jack Crane.
Prof Crane officially retired from the post in January 2014 but, after it proved impossible to immediately replace him, he agreed to stay on.
"I congratulate Dr Lyness on his appointment into the important role of State Pathologist for Northern Ireland," Ms Sugden said. "The post represents a vital element within our justice system and delivers essential safeguards and protection for the public."
The State Pathologist department conducts over 1,000 post mortem examinations a year, of which around 200 are classified as suspicious.
Prior to the appointment of Dr Lyness, the vacancy had been dubbed the six figure salary that nobody wants. The position was originally advertised in the internationally accessed British Medical Journal, in a bid to cast the net as wide as possible.
The worldwide search failed to attract applicants for the top role despite the lucrative salary which has an upper pay band in excess of £100,000 with additional premium remuneration for weekends, out of hours and public holidays.
Ms Sugden thanked Prof Crane for his valuable contribution while in the role.
The former State Pathologist's work had seen him deal with some of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.
"After decades of public service, he takes with him the best wishes and gratitude of everyone in the department," she said.
Dr Lyness joined the State Pathologist department in 2007 as a Specialist Registrar in Histopathology before successfully obtaining a Certificate of Completion of Training in Histopathology (Forensic Pathology) in September 2010.
He became a Consultant Forensic Pathologist in October 2010, taking up one of three roles supporting the State Pathologist.
When he takes up his new role, there will be a new vacancy for a Forensic Pathologist.