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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Five baby death verdicts 'unsafe'
A total of 298 cases are being reviewed
Five people convicted of killing babies look set to have their cases re-opened.

The attorney general ordered a review of cases where discredited paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow had given evidence after the convictions of two women were quashed, and a third woman was acquitted.

In a statement, Lord Goldsmith said officials had so far reviewed 97 out of a total of 298 cases.

He said five may be unsafe and should be referred to the Court of Appeal.

Campaigners had expected scores of women to be freed and acquitted.

Grounds for appeal

The five cases include two people who were sentenced to life imprisonment and two others who have previously failed in their attempt to have their convictions overturned.

Lord Goldsmith said he had written to their lawyers to tell them they may have grounds for an appeal.

I am determined that the review should be completed as soon as possible
Lord Goldsmith
However, he warned that the move does not mean that these people were wrongly convicted.

"The fact that a case has been referred to legal representatives of the convicted person does not amount to a positive determination that their conviction is unsafe.

"Should any appeals result from this review, it will be for the Crown Prosecution Service to independently decide whether to contest the appeal."

Lord Goldsmith ordered the review in January after Angela Cannings was cleared of murdering her two sons on appeal.

Mrs Cannings, 40, was convicted by a Winchester Crown Court jury in April 2002 of smothering seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999.

She was convicted following evidence of Sir Roy Meadow, who has claimed "one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless proven otherwise".

That theory has now been discredited and Sir Roy is being investigated by the General Medical Council.

Major review

The attorney general's review originally involved 258 cases. However, it has now emerged that another 40 cases involving carers are also being reviewed.

Lord Goldsmith said the review of the remaining 201 cases would be completed as soon as possible.

"I am determined that the review should be completed as soon as possible, to bring to an end this period of uncertainty for all those involved," he said.

Lord Goldsmith revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service had identified 16 live cases that may have been affected by the Cannings judgement.

Two of these cases have now been dropped - one before trial and one before a planned retrial.

Lord Goldsmith said it would not be appropriate to name the people involved in any of these cases.

"This will be a decision for them," he said.

Professor Alan Craft of the Royal College of Paediatrics welcomed the attorney general's statement.

"It is quite clear everything is not wrong with what we are doing," he told the BBC.

"Hopefully, we can begin to restore some faith with the public."

Solicitor Bill Bache, who represents Angela Canning, said her case was already having an impact in the courts.

"Experts now are being very more disciplined on the areas they are prepared to comment," he told the BBC.

The NSPCC called for a review of how child deaths are investigated.

"We have to learn from this review," said its spokesman Christopher Cloke.

"The NSPCC is calling for a system where every child death is systematically reviewed - without stigmatising those involved - by teams made up of health experts, police and social care professionals."

He added: "The government must lay out a national strategy for reducing the number of child deaths from abuse and neglect."

The BBC's Mark Easton
"Juries will increasingly be asked to judge which expert they trust most"

Baby death trials to be reviewed
19 Jan 04  |  Wiltshire
The science behind cot deaths
10 Dec 03  |  Health
Profile: Sir Roy Meadow
10 Dec 03  |  Health

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