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Friday, 19 July, 2002, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Profile: Dame Janet Smith
Dame Janet Smith at the Shipman inquiry
Dame Janet is well liked and respected by peers
The High Court judge who heads the Shipman inquiry said she was especially aware of the horror the GP caused because of her close ties to the Manchester area.

Dame Janet Smith, 61, was born in Stockport and worked as a barrister in Manchester for 20 years.

She has a reputation for having a firm grasp of complex legal matters.

But Dame Janet is also known to have a soft and sympathetic manner which probably helped in dealing with the bereaved relatives.

There will be several hundred deaths in which I can say 'Yes' or 'No' and hopefully that will bring a sense of closure to families

Dame Janet Smith

While at Bolton School, she turned down a place to read science at Girton College, Cambridge.

She married her first husband Edward Smith and had two sons and a daughter.

She joined chambers in Manchester in 1972 and became a QC 14 years later.

In 1988, she was appointed a recorder, or part-time judge and then a High Court judge four years later.

'Colossal job'

Her speciality in medical negligence and industrial disease cases gave her an expertise that made her an ideal choice for the Shipman inquiry.

As a judge she approved the landmark 500m settlement for 30,000 miners suffering from "white finger" syndrome.

In 1991 she chaired the investigation into the ill-treatment of autistic children at Scotforth House, a local authority home in Lancaster.

When appointed to chair the Shipman inquiry in 2000, she described the task - which has already meant examining thousands of documents - as a "colossal" job.
Dame Janet Smith
Dame Janet has chaired a child abuse inquiry

She added: "I live in the North West so I am particularly aware of the horror that the Shipman case has aroused and the anguish that the families continue to suffer."

And she told the start of the hearings: "I shall do my utmost to bring to an end the uncertainty which has prevailed for so long and which has caused such distress.

"There will be several hundred deaths in which I can say 'Yes' or 'No' and hopefully that will bring a sense of closure to families."

Dame Janet is married to her second husband Robin Mathieson, a retired head of economics at her old school.

She is a grandmother of three and enjoys music and gardening.


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See also:

19 Jul 02 | Health
18 Jul 02 | Health
29 Feb 00 | UK
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