Saturday, June 18, 2005

Parents challenge shaken baby convictions

The jury in each of the so-called shaken baby cases had been asked to infer from the expert evidence that the three men and one woman had violently mishandled their child victims in a momentary fit of temper, said Michael Mansfield QC.

However, there was no other evidence about what had happened to the four dead and injured children and no evidence of earlier ill-treatment, the barrister told three judges.

He said: "There is no suggestion that any of these carers were child abusers. It is not a child abuse case. The evidence was the reverse: that they did care, and were loving and supportive."

Research since 2001 had led to a reappraisal of the "triad" of features involved in shaken baby syndrome - swelling of the brain, bleeding between the brain and the skull and bleeding in the retina of the eyes - Mr Mansfield added.

The court will hear that such injuries can be caused by various factors including a fall from a relatively low height, vaccinations or medications that decrease oxygen supply to the brain, a difficult birth or even genetics.

The appeals cite new research by a pathologist who helped convict one of the four parents but who now questions whether shaken baby syndrome can be diagnosed as a form of child abuse.

If the convictions of Alan Cherry, Lorraine Harris, Raymond Rock and Michael Faulder are quashed, the appeal court could re-examine those of more than 90 other parents and carers who have been convicted for killing their babies by shaking them.

The test cases could also trigger legal action by parents who have had their children taken away in the family courts.

The appeals will focus on work carried out by Professor Helen Whitwell, a forensic pathologist in Birmingham, and Dr Jennian Geddes, a consultant neuropathologist.

Their research challenges the diagnostic test paediatricians use to determine whether a baby has been abused by shaking, saying this is no longer safe.

Mr Mansfield said each trial in the four cases brought to appeal had been dominated by expert evidence. In Rock's case, for instance, no fewer than seven key prosecution witnesses had given opinions about what must have happened to the child.

Their evidence had included the phrases "I have never seen such severe injuries", "shaken as hard as you can", "nothing short of full-force shaking" and "equivalent to a high-velocity road traffic accident", he said.

Mr Mansfield said the juries had been left with little alternative but to convict, yet none of the evidence established an indisputable or objective medical foundation for inferring violent treatment.

The appeals stem from a review that was ordered after Angela Cannings' successful appeal against her convictions for murdering her two baby sons.

Mrs Cannings was cleared after judges ruled that no one should be prosecuted solely on the basis of a medical opinion that was disputed by experts.

The review, ordered by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, involved some 300 infant death convictions, of which more than 90 raised the issue of shaken baby syndrome.

The test cases will be heard by Lord Justice Gage, Mr Justice Gross and Mr Justice McFarlane, and are scheduled to last for two weeks.

By David Batty posted 18 June 05


Clark case pathologist banned
UK: A Home Office pathologist who failed to disclose evidence that could have helped to clear Sally Clark of the murder of her two sons has been found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council.

Baby deaths doctor'breached duty to be fair'
UK: A Home Office pathologist who claimed there was "overwhelming evidence" of a double murder in the Sally Clark baby case undertook "serious and repeated departures" from expected medical standards, a disciplinary panel heard.

Mother's conviction quashed for killing her children
LONDON - The conviction of a mother convicted six years ago of killing her two children has been quashed by London's Appeal Court.

Experts in child abuse cases face inquiry
UK: The government launched an official inquiry into the quality of expert medical evidence in child abuse cases last Thursday, as the implications of the miscarriage of justice in the Angela Cannings case continued to perplex ministers.

Cot deaths and justice
Did you kill your babies?' A whisper came from the crumpled figure in the dock: 'No.' The whisper grew louder: 'No, no.' It was as if we were witnessing torture in Reading Crown Court. It is hard to imagine a crueller inquisition than that which faced Trupti Patel: a mother loses three babies in cot death and then goes through the hell of being accused of murdering them.

Accused of abuse, but never tried

Mothers Sally Clark and Trupti Patel found themselves in the dock accused of murdering their babies partly on the strength of expert testimony by Sir Roy Meadows. But other families have been forcibly separated thanks to Sir Roy's testimony without police charges ever being brought.

Cot Death Mothers: The Witch Hunt
John Sweeney investigates when mothers, grieving the loss of a child after cot death, are wrongly accused of murder.


Appeals court told woman's sentence barbaric!

Appeal: Folbigg's lawyers argue her sentence is barbaric.But is she guilty? When she has maintains her innocence? And what about "Meadows law"?

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome! & The Kathleen Folbigg Case
Kathleen Megan Folbigg, 37, is either Australia's worst female serial killer or her case is a serious miscarriage of justice in which an innocent mother has been wrongfully convicted of infanticide.

Folbigg, convicted until proven innocent
Convicted August 2003 for the manslaughter of her eldest child Caleb, and the murder of her next three children, Patrick, Sarah and Laura. Disturbing similarities between the case of Kathleen Folbigg and that of Sally Clark (nb. Other Meadows cases Trupti Patel, Angela Cannings, Donna Anthony, Margaret Smith, Julie Ferris, Maxine Robinson) using "Meadows law" one cot death is tragic, two suspicious, three murder." The Attorney-General in England is reviewing more than 250 cases where a parent may have been wrongly convicted. In other words, Professor Meadows evidence has been totally discredited. There is a furore in England, but no mention in Australian press?

Folbigg may have been innocent
On the other hand, some people simply lied or got it wrong because the system failed, The prosecution is not equal to the defence, professional opinions can be flawed and juries can determine the wrong evidence.

Family tragedy in police spotlight
JOSEPHINE CAFAGNA, REPORTER: Next week the last chapter will be played out in a case that shocked the nation, the case of Kathleen Folbigg, found guilty of killing her four babies in NSW, at first thought to have died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Next week Kathleen Folbigg will know the sentence for her crime. In May this year, following the Folbigg conviction, Stateline made inquiries here in Victoria about any cases of multiple SIDS deaths in the one family. Stateline asked the Homicide Squad, the Coroners Court, Human Services Victoria and the SIDS Foundation if any cases were being re-examined in light of the Folbigg case. The answer was no.