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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 21:15 GMT
Three baby deaths to be reviewed
Angela Cannings

Just three convictions over deaths involving "shaken baby syndrome" need to be reconsidered by the courts, the attorney general has told the Lords.

Lord Goldsmith had ordered a review of all infant death convictions since 1994 after the Appeal Court overturned the verdicts on Angela Cannings in 2003.

It led to the review of 297 cases, including 88 involving SBS.

Lord Goldsmith also set out new advice for expert witnesses after concern over testimony in Mrs Cannings' case.

He said he believed the vast majority of the convictions did not give rise to concern, but it was open to people to appeal.

'Careful consideration'

Shaken baby syndrome, or SBS, broadly refers to non-accidental injury to an infant resulting from violent shaking.

There are only a very small number [of cases] which actually give rise to concern
Lord Goldsmith

The review announced in December 2004 examined all convictions since 1994 for murder, manslaughter or infanticide of a child under two years old by a parent or carer.

But the review of 88 cases where cause of death was attributed to SBS was delayed until July 2005 because the High Court was considering four appeals involving the syndrome.

The court quashed two convictions, reduced one sentence and dismissed a fourth appeal entirely, concluding not all SBS convictions were unsafe.

Lord Goldsmith told the BBC the Court of Appeal "looked very carefully" at the issue of SBS.

A man convicted of murder in 2001, serving a life sentence
A man convicted of manslaughter in 2001, sentenced to three years
A woman convicted of manslaughter in 1994, sentenced to seven years

He said the judges had considered the importance of the three injuries synonymous with the syndrome: bleeding beneath the top layer of the brain; bleeding behind the eyes; shearing or severing of the brain's nerve fibres.

He said the judges concluded that the three injuries were a "strong pointer" to SBS, but the facts of each case must be considered.

Lord Goldsmith said: "My team has reviewed each of the remaining cases, looked at them very carefully and reached the conclusion there are only a very small number which actually give rise to concern."

Struck off

Angela Cannings was freed from jail in 2003, having been sentenced to life in April 2002 for murdering two of her children.

Professor Sir Roy Meadow, a paediatrician, gave expert testimony in Mrs Cannings' case and several other child death hearings that was later found to be flawed.

He was struck off the medical register - a decision he is appealing against at the High Court.

Under Lord Goldsmith's new regime, every expert witness from outside the police force would receive a booklet outlining the requirements expected of them.

He said such witnesses would have to certify that they have revealed any information that would affect their credibility.

They would also need to disclose all material they have created while working on the case, and would be told not to give opinions beyond the realm of their expertise.


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