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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 18:07 GMT
Baby death review welcomed
Scales of justice
More than 250 criminal cases will be reviewed
A review of all criminal cases involving cot death over the past decade has been welcomed by charities and supporters of Angela Cannings.

The review was announced after Appeal Court judges explained their reasons for clearing Mrs Cannings of killing two of her children.

Almost 260 cases will be reviewed, including 54 parents in prison.

Children's charity NSPCC said the Cannings case showed a need for greater research into cot death.

The head of child protection awareness, Chris Cloke, told News24: "All child abuse deaths should be thoroughly investigated - that is in the interests of children and in the interests of parents.

"We need to bring together people who are properly trained and have expert knowledge from the different disciplines, who can work together and eliminate those cases where there is a natural cause for a child's death, and then ensure that the cases are properly investigated."

Angela Cannings

However, he did say there was a concern that the pendulum could swing too far the other way and murderers could get off.

BBC journalist John Sweeney, who helped uncover evidence central to Angela Cannings' appeal, said justice had been done for Mrs Cannings.

"From now on a cot death mother who suffers more than one death will, like everyone else, be innocent until found guilty."

Referring to cot death expert Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who gave evidence at the Cannings trial, Mr Sweeney said "Meadow's Law" - where one cot death is a tragedy, two suspicious and three is murder - had been reversed.

However, he emphasised that the attorney general's review was concentrating on criminal cases, and not cases in the family court which had led to children being removed from their parents' care.

"They are doing something about the very, very visible criminal cases in public. The Appeal Court judge said it was abhorrent to lock up a mother if she couldn't prove why her baby had died.

She felt from the beginning that in the climate that prevailed at the time the prosecution was brought, effectively she had to prove her innocence.
Bill Bache
Angela Cannings' lawyer

"If it's abhorrent in the criminal cases, then why isn't it abhorrent in the family court cases?"

Angela Cannings' lawyer, Bill Bache, said his client was "profoundly relieved" at the judgement and felt vindicated.

"She felt from the beginning that in the climate that prevailed at the time the prosecution was brought, effectively she had to prove her innocence.

"The proper balance has been restored by the judgement," Mr Bache told BBC News24.

Despite his involvement in the case, he was unaware of the 258 other cases that are to be reviewed.

"I am absolutely appalled at it, as I am equally appalled at the vast number of cases that seem to involve the cases in the family court."

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.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Of course there are parents, very few of them, who do kill their own infants"

Cot death evidence review call
11 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
The science behind cot deaths
10 Dec 03  |  Health
Mother cleared of killing sons
10 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire

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