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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 16:17 GMT
Cot death evidence review call
Angela Cannings
Angela Cannings has always maintained her innocence
A scientific review of cot death evidence is needed to avoid cases like that of Angela Cannings, say Tories.

Ms Cannings' conviction for murdering her two baby sons was overturned by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

The prosecution case was based in part on the evidence of retired paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow.

Commons Leader Peter Hain said a new working group would consider if any cases involving doctors' evidence required a more in-depth review.

Ms Cannings, 40, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was sentenced to serve life in prison after her conviction in 2002.

Referring to cases of cot death, Tory Commons leader Oliver Heald said: "Isn't it time that the Health Department launched a proper scientific review of the evidence in this area and came to the House to tell us about it?"

He also called for Solicitor General Harriet Harman to make a Commons statement about the review and future prosecution procedures.

'Appalling'

The Attorney General had established the new working group to carry out the review, said Mr Hain.

The case had been "appalling", and the government must make sure there were no more like it in the future, he added.

He was speaking as the solicitor of another mother jailed for murdering her two babies said he hoped the clearing of Angela Cannings would give strength to his client's appeal.

Donna Anthony, of Southville, Yeovil, Somerset, was 25 when she was given two life sentences in 1998 for murdering her daughter and son.

Anthony always claimed both children were victims of cot death, but an appeal to overturn the convictions was rejected in June 2000.

Angela Cannings and her husband
Angela Cannings' husband, Terry, stood by her throughout

Ms Cannings always claimed her sons, seven-week-old Jason and 18-week-old Matthew, both died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1991 and 1999.

Anthony's solicitor, George Hawks, said the case against his client, like that against Ms Cannings, had been built around evidence from Sir Roy.

The solicitor claimed Sir Roy had advised the police on how to conduct the case against Anthony, and suggested who would back him up.

Though the case cannot go straight back to the Court of Appeal, the Criminal Case Review Commission could refer it back to be reconsidered.

Anthony's daughter, Jordan, died in Yeovil District Hospital aged 11 months in February 1996.

Doctors at first believed she was a victim of cot death.

A police investigation began after her second child, Michael, died in March the following year, aged just four months, and medical examination proved inconclusive.

Anthony has been in jail in Durham for five-and-a-half years.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"There are also hundreds of families who've had children taken away"



SEE ALSO:
Mother cleared of killing sons
10 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Babies 'had higher cot death risk'
09 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
'Genetic' cause for cot deaths
08 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Mother cleared of killing babies
11 Jun 03  |  Berkshire


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