Sir Roy Meadow – UK – 16 July 2005

PROFESSOR Sir Roy Meadow, whose evidence led to three mothers being wrongly convicted of murdering their babies, was struck off the medical register yesterday.

The 72-year- old doctor was found guilty of serious professional misconduct after he was found to have given ‘erroneous’ and ‘misleading’ evidence in court which led to long jail terms for the women, Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony.

The decision by the General Medical Council destroys his reputation. He was knighted for his work as a paediatrician, and even after he was accused of making mistakes he was still in demand as a lecturer in child health around the world.

The verdict was greeted with relief by the families torn apart by Meadow’s evidence.

Mrs Clark’s father, 75-year-old retired police superintendent Frank Lockyer – who brought the case against Meadow – was in tears.

His daughter, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, was jailed in 1999 for smothering her two sons, 12-week- old Christopher and eight-week-old Harry, but was freed on appeal in 2003.

Mr Lockyer said: ‘Now perhaps we as a family can put the last seven years of hell behind us and move on.

‘I remember the words of my daughter on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice when she said there are no winners here, only tragedy.

‘Clearly the system of expert witnesses has got to be looked at.’

Mr Lockyer added: ‘The Royal College of Paediatrics has a lot to answer for because the hierarchy have persistently refused to accept that there was something wrong. They buried their heads in the sand.’

George Hawks, solicitor for Donna Anthony, who was jailed for life in 1998 after being convicted of the murder of her 11-month old daughter Jordan and four-month-old son Michael, said she took no pleasure in Meadow’s downfall.

He said: ‘He was being paid to give expert evidence and he got it horribly wrong. It’s never nice for anyone to have their career ruined in this way.’ The three women were all convicted of murdering their babies and jailed for life after Meadow, a world-renowned expert in child abuse, testified against them.

In the case of Sally Clark, Meadow said the probability of two cot deaths in the same family was 73million to one.

However, studies suggest the figure is probably closer to 64 to one, and experts say that the statistics presented by Meadow did not take into account the genetic link between siblings which could result in both dying through natural causes.

Meadow also likened the deaths of Mrs Clark’s two children as being equivalent to the chances of picking four different horses to win the Grand National in consecutive years at odds of 80-1.

In the case of Donna Anthony, who was accused of of killing her daughter Jordan, aged 11 months, and her son Michael, aged four months, in 1998, Meadow said the chances of two cot deaths in a case such as hers were one in a million, another statistic later discredited.

Mary Clark-Glass, head of the GMC’s disciplinary panel, said Meadows had to be struck off the medical register to safeguard the public interest. She told him: ‘You are an eminent paediatrician whose reputation was renowned throughout the world and so your eminence and authority carried with it a unique responsibility to take meticulous care in a case of this grave nature.

‘You should not have strayed into areas that were not within your remit of expertise. Your misguided belief in the truth of your arguments is both disturbing and serious.’

Meadow, of Weeton, North Yorkshire, who was knighted for services to child health upon his retirement from the post of Professor of Paediatrics at St James’ University Hospital, Leeds, in 1998, left the hearing without comment.

His supporters have claimed he has been made a ‘scapegoat’ for the failures of others. Last night Sir Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said he was saddened by the case and said Meadow, a former head of the College, had saved the lives of many children during his 40-year career.

Tom Magner, of the Society of Expert Witnesses, said: ‘The severity of the penalty will cause many expert witnesses, particularly doctors, to reconsider whether to offer their services to the courts.’