Sally Clark

Sally Clark 1964-2007





 
 
Sally Clark
To Richard Horton Esq
The Editor
The Lancet
26 July, 2005

Ever since we proved my wife's innocence two and a half years ago, we have deliberately avoided publicity. We have refused the many requests for interviews and tried to ignore the large number of untrue and hurtful articles and comments published about us, because we simply wish to get on with our lives. However, Richard Horton's two articles, published in such a highly respected and influential a journal, contained so many inaccuracies and one-sided opinions that I feared that, without correction, they might prejudice independent observers. Hence this letter which I write with the greatest of reluctance.

I hope that the following points may provide some balance to help Horton's readers better understand the nature of Professor Meadow's GMC disciplinary hearing, his true role in the miscarriage of justice suffered by my wife, why he was found guilty of serious professional misconduct (SPM) and the real culprits responsible for the apparent reluctance of doctors to become involved in child protection matters. Horton argues 'Meadow's referral to the GMC should not have taken place' and that their verdict was variously 'bad', 'unjust', 'grievously erroneous' and lamentable'. He says Meadow 'did not fail in his duty as an expert' and that he was 'not guily of SPM'. I am not an apologist for the GMC. Indeed, I feel that it has failed my family in a number of ways over the years. However, it is the current self-regulatory body for doctors and I do not understand how Horton can treat its findings in such a dismissive way. It is incredibly difficult to persuade the GMC to investigate a doctor, and only the most powerful complaints survive its brutal screening processes. The GMC's Fitness to Practise Panel is a quasi-judicial body which operates like a court of law. Meadow's Panel comprised 3 doctors and 3 other intelligent and experienced lay members. The legal assesor was a judge. Meadow was represented by a very able QC who defended him robustly. The hearing took place over many days and detailed evidence was brought by both sides. The Panel listened carefully to that evidence (including several days of evidence by Meadow, himself) and took its time to reach its considered judgment. This was not some kind of kangaroo court, and it afforded Meadow a rather fairer hearing than Sally received at trial as a result of his 'misleading and erroneous' evidence. The Panel found virtually all of the charges proved beyond reasonable doubt (including that Meadow did, indeed, breach his duty as an expert witness) and that he was, indeed, guilty of SPM. Its reasoned and detailed judgment is damning, and its resultant decision to strike Meadow off the medical register is rather more 'proportionate' than the life sentence my wife received.

Horton claims 'Meadow is a scapegoat', but he is not the only professional involved in our case whose conduct has been called into doubt- two other doctors who gave false evidence have already been found guilty of SPM by the GMC (our MP's complaint against another was screened out), the Police Complaints Authority has investigated the DI in charge and the Bar Council has charged the prosecuting counsel with SPM.

Horton says that 'Meadow simply reported a sentence from the draft CESDI Report sent to him by a colleague', but even he acknowledges that Meadow did far more than this. When giving evidence at my wife's committal proceedings, Meadow used a '1 in a milion' double Sudden Infant Deaths (SIDS) statistic to persuade the magistrate to send the case to trial, even though we had never claimed that our babies were SIDS. (He had also used it in his earlier evidence in R v. Donna Anthony.) When asked at the GMC hearing for the source of that figure, Meadow said he did not know but thought that it might have come from a member of the audience at a lecture he had given. Three days before my wife's trial, he introduced the "1 in 73 million" statistic from the CESDI Report but, when giving evidence, went on to embellish it with his Grand National and 'jackpot'analogies. He also made a further statement that 2 SIDS only occur in the same family once every 100 years, but failed to disclose to the court data also contained in the Report which stated that there had been 5 same-family double SIDS in the 3 years during which the Report had been conducted, in part of the UK alone.

Horton argues 'The crucial error was legal not medical', but Sally's false prosecution was commenced by the CPS only after doctors made false diagnoses. Whilst the lawyers and the system are not without blame for the miscarriage of justice, she then spent three and a half years incarcerated in prison as a 'child murderer' due to incorrect evidence given by doctors, not lawyers. Readers may recall that Dr.Williams, the pathologist, was found guilty of SPM last month, among other things, because of his incompetent post mortems and his failure to disclose critical test results. Virtually all of his initial autopsy findings of 'injuries' 'crumbled to dust' when critical examination by paediatric experts found them either to be non-existent or to have been misinterpreted/caused by Williams, himself. Even after Meadow's statistics were exposed as being false, he continued to choose to appear in court as a prosecution expert witness and to give evidence as to the rarity of multiple SIDS in one family- R v. Cannings and R v.Patel. The second court of appeal in our case held that Meadow's statistics were 'grossly misleading' and sufficient on their own to make Sally's convictions unsafe.

Horton says that Meadow 'gave his opinion that the babies were unlikely to have died natural deaths and presented supporting evidence'. But, when our legal team asked Meadow to provide details of a crucial part of that supporting evidence, he said that he was unable to do so because he secretary had 'shredded it'. Its destruction meant that his testimony could not subjected to critical scrutiny and challenge. Of the 10 experts at trial, only the discredited Williams was prepared to support Meadow's 'unnatural deaths' theory, and no fewer that 12 leading national and international medical experts made statements for the second appeal, with varying degrees of certainty, but all to the effect that Harry had died from bacterial meningitis. Professor Morris said 'No other cause of death is sustainable'.

Horton says that Meadow 'capitulated to lawyerly pressure' and that his error was due to the 'broken expert witness system'. Anyone who has seen Meadow give evidence, will know that he is the least likely of men to 'capitulate' to lawyers. He is an experienced and accomplished performer in the witness box, he has lectured to judges about how they should treat experts and, in his book "The ABC of Child Abuse", he advises doctors how to give evidence in court and how to resist pressure from barristers. The expert witness system is not perfect, but is only being broken by those experts, like Meadow, who breach their duties.

Horton argues that the verdict will 'profoundly damage the future of child protection services in Britain' and that the real danger of the judgment is that 'children will be put at greater risk of abuse and murder'. Despite this emotive language, references to Victoria Climbie and recent scaremongering from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Panel's decision in the Meadow hearing has not suddenly changed the rules of good medical practice and the duties of expert witnesses in child protection cases. It has simply reaffirmed them, and no doctor who gives honest, impartial and balanced evidence within his field of expertise has anything whatsoever to fear. Readers should not be misled into thinking that Meadow was found guilty of SPM simply because he made a one-off mistake. He was found guilty because he gave 'misleading and erroneous evidence' outside his expertise which he 'compounded by repetition over a considerable period of time'. He went on to embellish it and failed to disclose evidence which provided balance. The Panel rejected his arguments that he was not an expert and that everyone except him was to blame. They found, in particular that he made 'selective use of statistics without placing them in context', failed 'to adhere to strict scientific principles', 'failed to provide a fair context for the limited (if any) relevance of SIDs deaths' and maintained a 'disturbing and serious' 'misguided belief in the truth' of his arguments throughout the entire case and the hearing. They found also that he had 'abused' his position as a doctor and 'may have seriously undermined the authority of doctors giving evidence'. He has refused to apologise and apparently stands by his misconduct.

Thus, in my view, at least part of the responsibility for children who may be abused or murdered in the future rests with those in the medical establisment who frighten away colleagues from child protection work by implying that Meadow has been persecuted for simply making a single mistake, when this is demonstrably not the case.

Your faithfully,

Stephen Clark




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