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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 18:11 GMT
Baby death concerns 'not new'
Angela Cannings and her husband Terry
Angela Cannings had her murder conviction overturned last year
The Criminal Cases Review Commission was worried about expert evidence in baby death cases before Angela Cannings and other mothers were cleared of murder, it has emerged.

Chairman Graham Zellick told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that concerns had been aired more than a year ago.

The Attorney General announced a review of up to 258 convictions of parents for killing their children last week.

Mrs Cannings was cleared on appeal in December of killing her two baby sons.

'Potential problem'

It was the latest in a string of similar cases. Last February, Sally Clark's conviction for murdering her two baby sons was overturned, and last June Trupti Patel's conviction for killing her three babies was quashed.

Everything possible is being done to reach justice in these cases
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith

Mr Zellick was giving evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

He said that between one and two years ago, one of the commission members met the then president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, to alert him to the "potential problem".

They discussed ways in which the Royal College might introduce training which would avoid "perils" to the criminal justice system, he said.

Mrs Cannings' 2002 conviction for smothering her sons was overturned in December last year.

Giving their reasons earlier this month, the appeal judges said medical science was "still at the frontiers of knowledge" about unexplained infant deaths.

"If the outcome of the trial depends exclusively, or almost exclusively, on a serious disagreement between distinguished and reputable experts, it will often be unwise, and therefore unsafe, to proceed," they said.

He was making all these assumptions that something criminal was going on
Angela Cannings

"Unless we are sure of guilt, the dreadful possibility always remains that a mother, already brutally scarred by the unexplained deaths of her babies, may find herself in prison for life for killing them when she should not be there at all."

Mrs Cannings has since criticised Professor Roy Meadow, an expert witness in her trial, for "assuming" she was a killer.

His evidence was also used in the Clark and Patel cases.

Under the review, where a miscarriage of justice is suspected, and an earlier appeal has failed, the commission will be asked to consider referring the case back to the Court of Appeal.

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