Statement by Stephen Clark, August 2004
'It is a sad day when a doctor is dragged before his professional body, is
found guilty of serious professional misconduct and has sanctions imposed
As a professional, myself, I take no satisfaction from it.
However, as a father, the sole purpose of bringing my complaint, four long
years ago, was to try to ensure that no other innocent parent is ever again
falsely accused of harming their children.
I hope that the Committee's finding of serious professional misconduct
against Professor Southall, and the imposition of conditions preventing him
from working in the child protection field for 3 years will send a strong
message to him (and to any other, like-minded doctors) that irresponsible
and reckless allegations of child abuse against innocent parents are simply
not acceptable and will no longer be tolerated. I am also, of course,
relieved that at last my complaints have been upheld and I have been fully
exonerated from any blame.
There are seven more complaints of serious professional misconduct against
Professor Southall pending before the Professional Conduct Committee. They
all relate to worse behaviour by him than in my case, and I hope that the
parents who made these complaints receive the justice which they deserve
from the GMC.'
Please note that neither Sally, nor I, will be granting any interviews in
connection with the GMC's investigation into Professor Southall, but that
we remain grateful for the support of the media, who were vital in
overturning Sally's convictions.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
In April, 2000 Steve Clark appeared in a Channel 4 Despatches programme,
which expressed doubts about the safety of his wife, Sally's, convictions 5
months earlier for murdering their two eldest children.
Professor Southall watched the programme, and then contacted the police,
saying that he believed that it was Steve, not Sally, who was responsible
for the deaths of their babies. At the time he made these false allegations
against Steve, Southall was suspended by his Trust, and had agreed with
them not to carry out any child protection work without permission.
Even though he had not sought the Trust's permission to contact the police
in the Clark's case, he proceeded to prepare a report in which he stated
that it was extremely likely, if not certain, that Steve had suffocated his
first son, that his surviving son was unsafe in his father's care and
implied that Steve was responsible for the deaths of his two eldest
He reached these remarkable conclusions without having any involvement in
the case, without having met Steve and without having seen any of the
medical or other evidence which was produced at trial. He based his
conclusions upon a theory of his about nosebleeds in babies which he
wrongly presented as fact, and which flew in the face of the reality that
Steve was not even at home on the night that his first son died.
His report contained no caveats to this effect, and contained a declaration
that its contents were true, whereas it contained matters of truth of which
he could not have known, or did not know. He subsequently wrote to a
colleague, Professor David, who had been asked by social services to
investigate his concerns, that it was "beyond reasonable doubt" that Steve
had murdered both of his children.
Professor Southall's intervention came at a time when, after difficult
proceedings in the Family Court, Steve had only just regained custody of
his surviving child from Care, and was trying to bring him up on his own,
as a single father, in the stressful circumstances leading up to his wife,
Sally's, first appeal.
It caused Steve and his family severe additional anguish and anxiety,
because they knew that, if Southall's view was accepted by others, it could
have meant, not only that Steve might be arrested on suspicion of murder,
but also that his surviving child might be taken away from Steve again.
Steve was totally exonerated, after a full investigation
Fortunately, the resultant lengthy investigation by Professor David and
Social Services totally exonerated Steve, and dismissed Professor
Southall's allegations as being entirely unfounded.
In July, 2000 Steve complained to the GMC about Professor Southall's
actions, and asked them to investigate them as a matter of urgency. But it
took four years before the GMC ordered a hearing.
When it was finally held in Manchester this June in front of the GMC's
Professional Conduct Committee, Professor Southall showed no contrition. He
appeared to believe that he had done nothing wrong, and even had the
effrontery to repeat his false allegations that he believed Steve had
murdered both of his children.
However, the Committee disagreed with Southall, and found that his
behaviour had been precipitate, irresponsible, misleading and an abuse of
his professional position.
Serious Professional Misconduct
Today, the Committee has found that Southall's behaviour also constituted
serious professional misconduct, and has ordered that he be have conditions
placed on his registration and be prevented from working in the field of
child protection for 3 years.
Steve has never sought publicity about this particular aspect of the
miscarriage of justice visited upon his family by the medical profession.
Nor does he intend to do so now, regardless of the financial incentives
which he has again been offered.
Consequently, Steve does not propose to give any interviews to the media,
and would ask that the Press allow him and his wife to try to rebuild their
lives in peace.
Steve and his family were disappointed by some of the Press coverage of the
hearing in June, when Professor Southall's false allegations against him
were aired by some elements of the media without challenge, as if they
might even have some validity.
For the record, none of those professionals who had the opportunity to
consider all of the evidence in the case are prepared to give any credence
whatsoever to Professor Southall's views - the police, CPS, social
services, upwards of 20 other medical experts, the Family Court, the CCRC
and two Courts of Appeal. all totally exonerated Steve.
But some of this misleading Press coverage caused deep distress to the
Clark family, and has adversely affected Steve's employment prospects, at a
time when the Government's refusal to reimburse £130,000 of the Clark's
legal costs which were awarded by the Court of Appeal has already put the
family in a precarious financial position.
Thus, Steve would ask the media please not to repeat Professor Southall's
defamatory claims again, without appropriate caveats.
He would, however, like to thank the large number of journalists who did
get it right, and who have supported him throughout.
Contact details for information, but no media interview bids, please:
Sue Stapely: 020 7233 9444