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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 June 2005, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Baby death theories controversy
Prof Sir Roy Meadow
Prof Sir Roy Meadow has enjoyed a long career as a paediatrician
The name Professor Sir Roy Meadow entered the public consciousness when solicitor Sally Clark appealed her conviction for killing her two babies.

As an expert witness, Prof Meadow told her trial the chance of two cot deaths in the same family was 73m to one.

The appeal judge said in 2000 there was "no statistical basis" for the claim, but rejected the appeal.

At the second Clark appeal in 2003, the professor's claim was discredited further and the solicitor was freed.

Prof Meadow also had a key role in the wrongful conviction in 1999 of Wiltshire mother Angela Cannings for the murder of her two babies.

'Cause for concern'

He told her trial he believed the babies were not cot death victims but that they had been smothered.

In 2003 the conviction was ruled unsafe, when the judge said there was too much disagreement among experts.

Where the outcome of a case depends almost exclusively on such disagreement it would be unwise to proceed, he said.

A huge review of baby-death cases was ordered by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith after the release of the wrongly convicted Mrs Cannings.

Questions raised in the Cannings case over expert testimony related to 297 murder cases - many of which involved Prof Meadow.

An expert is not there as a hired gun, as advocate for one cause or another, but to help the court reach a verdict
Lord Goldsmith

In 2004 Lord Goldsmith said there was "cause for concern" in just 28 cases.

There was to be no further action in 180 cases, while the remaining 89 were identified as Shaken Baby Syndrome.

It was Prof Meadow's theory on Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy that earned the expert in child paediatrics a place in so many court rooms.

In a 1977 Lancet article he argued parents sometimes harmed their children to win attention for themselves.

Although initially regarded with scepticism, the theory won recognition among medics and social workers.

Kite flying

In 1993 he told a court nurse Beverley Allitt, who killed babies in her care, was suffering from the syndrome.

As well as his Munchausen's theory, Prof Meadow is renowned for his theory known as Meadow's Law.

This states that "one infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder, unless otherwise proven".

Prof Meadow arrives at his GMC hearing with a member of his legal team
Prof Meadow was knighted in 1998 for services to child health

The theory was used at the trial of Berkshire mother Trupti Patel who was cleared by a jury of killing her three children in 2003.

He told the jury there was a theoretical possibility that an as-yet-unidentified illness or medical condition could have caused the deaths but argued that it was extremely unlikely.

Delivering his review of baby-death cases, Lord Goldsmith said unfair accusations and wrongful convictions "increase the tragedy of what is already a devastating event".

"An expert is not there as a hired gun, as advocate for one cause or another, but to help the court reach a verdict," the attorney general said.

A report by child health experts said courts should not be a "place used by doctors to fly their personal kites".

Prof Meadow's detractors would argue that this is exactly what he did.

But those who remember other aspects of his work argue that he has massively advanced the field of child protection.




SEE ALSO:
Paediatrician faces GMC hearing
21 Jun 05 |  Health
Profile: Sir Roy Meadow
11 Apr 05 |  Health


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