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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 14:06 GMT
Q&A: Cot death trials review
Sally Clark with her husband Geoff
Sally Clark's conviction was ruled unsafe
BBC News Online looks at the implications of the decision to conduct an urgent review of all criminal cases involving cot deaths over the past decade.

Why has the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith called for this urgent review?

The review comes after a number of high profile cases in which women have been accused of killing their children and doubt has been cast on expert witness evidence.

Angela Cannings was cleared last month of murdering her two sons.

Appeal Court judges in her case said that where experts disagreed about a decision to prosecute a parent for killing their child, the case against them should continue only when there was extra evidence available.

Her appeal had centred on the argument the jury had had to weigh up conflicting expert evidence given by paediatricians who disagreed about the cause of death.

This case came after solicitor Sally Clark had her conviction for murdering her two sons overturned earlier last year.

And in June pharmacist Trupti Patel was found not guilty by a jury of killing her three babies.

Paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow was an expert witness in all three cases.

He had said during Mrs Clark's trial that the likelihood of two children in the same family suffering cot death was 73 million to one against.

What will happen next with this review?

Hundreds of cases involving parents convicted of killing their babies will now be reviewed.

It has been announced that 258 convictions of parents for killing children under two years old will be studied.

If the cases relied on expert evidence they will be fast-tracked to the Court of Appeal.

Priority will be given to at least 54 cases where the parents are still in prison.

What will happen next?

Attorney General Lord Goldsmith will meet the head of the new Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

The cases could then be referred to the CCRC or the Court of Appeal.

What are the wider implications of this review?

This decision will have implications for cases that never reached the criminal courts.

Thousands of families have had their children taken away from them in the family courts.

Those cases remain unresolved.

But on Tuesday it was announced that those cases would be looked at again as part of a review of cot death convictions.

Solicitor General Harriet Harman told the Commons the criminal review would be extended to civil proceedings.




SEE ALSO:
Cot death evidence review call
11 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Mother cleared of killing sons
10 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Babies 'had higher cot death risk'
09 Dec 03  |  Wiltshire
Baby deaths mother to appeal
16 Apr 02  |  England
Baby deaths mother found guilty
16 Apr 02  |  England


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