Folio Essay on Sally Clark’s case

We were asked to write about an issue we felt passionate about. When I found out about Sally Clark’s case I was horrified such tragic circumstances could happen. Sally Clark was wrongly convicted of murdering her two baby sons and after a battle for over three years to prove her innocence, on 29 of January the verdict was declared “unsafe” and she was released from prison. Sally Clark was the victim of a double tragedy. She suffered the deaths of two of her children and was then separated from her husband and third child and wrongly imprisoned for over 3 years as she was accused of killing her two sons.

It has only been just over two weeks since Sally Clark was released but yet there is another 15 cases to be reviewed all believed to have misleading evidence produced during the trial. Sally Clark was found guilty in November 1999 after overwhelming evidence was provided against her. Professor Roy Meadow’s said that the chance of two siblings to both die of Sudden Infants Death syndrome (Sids) or cot death as it is commonly known, was very unlikely he estimated that it was only 1 in every 73 million and that it would only occur once every 100 years.

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This was later found to be untrue with the real figures being closer to 1 in 60 and that at least one family in Britain a year suffer from the death of their second child caused by cot death. It was such an exaggerated statistic that the Royal Statistical Society took the rather unprecedented steps of writing to the Lord Chancellor to say “there was no statistical basis” for the figure and a Professor of Mathematics at Salford University even carried out a special study to show the invalid reasoning behind Sir Roy Meadow’s testimony.

The flawed statistic given by Professor Roy Meadows is believed to have had a very serious impact on the decision the jurors made which found Sally Clark guilty. Sally Clark’s nightmare started in December 1996 when she found her 11 week old son Christopher lifeless in his Moses basket while her husband was out at a Christmas party.

It was believed that his death was caused by breathing problems but the case was reopened in January 1998 when her second son Harry aged 8 weeks was found dead in a bouncing chair while her husband was not in the house, suspicions were arose by the double death and by the end of the investigation it was believed that Sally Clark had smothered Christopher and Shook baby Harry to death. Sally Clark was portrayed throughout her trial as a “lonely old drunk” who resented her children for keeping her away from her well paid job as a solicitor.

The court was told how she checked herself into the Priory clinic (well known for celebrities who want to quit a drink or drug addiction) but she claimed that was for bereavement counselling – not to stop drinking. She insisted that she wasn’t an alcoholic and would only drink socially with others. In October 2000 appeal court judges threw out Sally Clark’s first attempt to have her conviction quashed saying there was “overwhelming” evidence to support the conviction but Sally and her supporters didn’t give up.

Her family and friends never lost hope of seeing her come home a free woman. Her husband Stephen, sold their home and left his job to work on helping Sally to be released and looking after their surviving son she gave birth to after Harry had died. It took Stephen two years to obtain Harry’s medical records, in it he found that tests had been carried out showing Harry was suffering from a bacterial infection called Staphylococcus aureus the same bug that causes MRSA, the hospital acquired infection.

This indicates that baby Harry died of natural causes. The tests were carried out by the prosecution pathologist Dr Alan Williams who didn’t disclose to the court that he had carried out the tests or the results he found. He is now under investigation by the General Medical Council. Since Sally Clark’s first appeal research has discovered that a particular gene was very common among cot death babies this gene claims the life of one baby a day in the UK and is the most common cause of death in infants under the age of one.

This raises the possibility that maybe tragedy could strike twice in the one family, this along with the flawed statistic given during the trial by Sir Roy Meadow’s convinces me that Sally Clark was innocent and that Sally Clark was a victim of a tragic miscarriage of justice. Sally Clark has still got a tough time to get through, now she is free she has to rebuild her life, get to know her son and grieve for Harry and Christopher. Donna Anthony is launching a new appeal after the release of Sally Clark. Donna Anthony was jailed for life in 1998, found guilty of smothering her 11 month old daughter Jordan and four month old son Michael.

Sir Roy Meadow who gave incorrect evidence at Sally Clark’s trial also gave evidence against Donna Anthony at her trial. He claimed that the likelihood of two cot deaths to occur in one family as a chance in a million a figure vastly different from the figure given at Sally Clark’s case. It has been proven to be an unrealistic figure. At least six more mothers convicted of killing their children in trials that Sir Roy Meadows gave evidence in are to be reviewed including Angela Cannings a fellow prisoner of Sally Clark.

Angela Cannings was convicted of killing seven week old Jason in 1991 and eighteen week old Matthew in 1999. She was convicted last year. Angela’s husband has stood by her protesting her innocence. He and Stephen have been helping each other through their tough time. Angela Cannings daughter Gemma also died in 1989 but it was accepted that the cause of death was Cot Death. Her second cousin has also lost two children to Sids raising questions as to whether it has a genetic link.

I have done a lot of research into this case and I believe that the women are unfairly treated they are found guilty while there is only statistical basis and no evidence. This kind of case doesn’t seem to follow the normal belief that your innocent until proven guilty but as it is in the press now there is a lot of support for these women as many people believe that it is a miscarriage of justice. I hope that there will be a review as to how a fairer case can be created for these women if they do have to go to court although if there is no evidence I don’t think it should be pursued.

Its so great to see the support that Sally Clark received from her family they had no doubt that she was innocent which is what she needed to keep strong. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose two of my children to cot death let alone be separated from my family and be accused of killing my babies. Sally Clark has missed such important times in her young surviving sons life like his first steps, his first words. It’s a shame such a tragedy wasn’t ended years ago as there wouldn’t be so many lives turned upside down.

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