ROY MEADOW – EPILOGUE (or so we thought : Ed)
Written by Felicity McCall.


On Friday, July 15th, 2005, the General Medical Council (GMC) found Professor (Sir) Roy Meadow guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck him off the register. This effectively bans him from practising as a doctor.

The Council ruled that Meadow’s conduct at the trial of a number of women wrongly convicted of murdering their babies - including Sally Clark, Angela Cannings and Donna Anthony - had been “fundamentally unacceptable.”

It said his evidence at Sally Clark’s trial was “erroneous and misleading”, and his interpretation of statistics “may have seriously undermined the authority of doctors giving evidence. “

During the 1999 trial, Meadow had told the jury that the chance of two natural and unexplained cot deaths in one family was “73 million to one”, a fact which undoubtedly led to the guilty verdict, and which was later disputed by both the Royal Statistical Society and other experts who said that once genetic and environmental factors have been considered the true figure is closer to 200 to 1.

The GMC panel’s chair, Mary Clark-Glass, said she did not think he had misled intentionally, but warned he “should not have strayed into areas that were not within his remit of expertise”.

Afterwards, Sally Clark’s father Frank Lockyer, who brought the case, said the system of expert witnesses needed to be examined, his family may now be able to put the last seven years “of hell” behind them.

Angela Cannings said the news was “fantastic” and called for Meadow to apologise. Donna Anthony’s solicitor George Hawks said she “ is not vindictive… she just wanted him to acknowledge he had got it wrong in her case and offer an apology.”

Closure then? Perhaps, in part … yet the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Professor Sir Alan Craft, said the decision to strike off Meadow was “saddening”… as he had a “long and distinguished career” and undoubtedly “saved the life of many children.” The decision, he said,“does not reflect on the rest of his career.”


EDITOR'S NOTE: In February 2006 Meadow appealed and Mr Justice Collins ruled that as an expert witness he was part of a protected species and immune from any action by the GMC unless a judge ordered it. Here are two articles from Private Eye magazine that does a far better job of describing the position than I can.



PRIVATE EYE No 1153, 3rd March 2006.
MR Justice Collins’ judgment reversing the decision of the General Medical Council to strike off Professor Sir Roy Meadow will be felt far beyond the controversial “cot death” murder trials at which Meadow has given expert testimony. The judge has removed the power of any professional body to guarantee and enforce standards — unless it can be proved that the expert was acting in “bad faith” or unless a judge refers the expert to his or her professional body. Collins’ judgment can only be described as a victory for commonsense if you ignore the evidence, the context, Sir Roy’s peculiar track record, the statistics, paediatrics, genetics and the presumption of innocence.

The GMC’s charge against Meadow, the first president of the Royal College of Paediatricians and the discoverer of Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, was not that he got one statistic wrong in good faith, as Judge Collins believes. It was that at the trial of Sally Clark (who was jailed in 1999 for killing her two sons, three-month-old Christopher and two-month-old Harry), he wrongly cherry-picked from a study the single most damning statistic — “a 73 million to one” chance of having two sudden infant deaths — while keeping back from the jury the main finding of the study: that once you suffer one cot death, the chances of a second are actually more likely.

Meadow also failed to declare his lack of expertise as a statistician. And to compound matters, the “73 million to one” figure arrived at by simply multiplying the chance of having one cot death (at the time put at one in 8,543) by the same figure is in any event wrong because one should not square odds and nor should one apply general population statistics to individual cases — all of which the “expert” Meadow did.

On the eve of Mrs Clark’s double murder trial (she was eventually freed by the courts in 2003), Sir Roy faxed the police a table from the study showing the “73m to one” figure — but not the accompanying health warning text, which painted a very different picture and warned: “This does not take account of possible familial incidence of factors” — that is, genetic or environmental factors. The charge against Meadow was that he loaded the evidence against the cot death mother in the dock while ignoring his duty as an expert to present the full picture, even when it was inconvenient and undermined his own evidence.

In his expert statement for the court, written earlier, Meadow had put the double cot death chance at one in a million; but again, contrary to good expert guidance and practice, he was unable to produce the raw data on which this figure was based. No scientist would be able to get a paper containing such statistics published without proper scrutiny and peer review — yet they can it seems be produced to a court where a mother or father faces a life sentence when accused of the most terrible crime.

The GMC said it had accepted that Sir Roy’s failures were neither "calculated nor wilful". It added: "However, your misguided belief in the truth of your arguments, maintained throughout the period in questions and indeed throughout this inquiry, is both disturbing and serious.” In the opening sentence of his judgment Judge Collins proclaims that Meadow is an eminent paediatrician. In fact science has junked Sir Roy’s Munchausen’s Syndrome By Proxy, which has no laboratory science behind it and doesn’t merit a proper entry in either of the world medicine’s two diagnostic bibles. Even the Department of Health has dumped the title.

Science has also junked Meadow’s Law: that until proven otherwise, one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder. Genetics too makes a nonsense of Meadow who shredded his database before the Sally Clark case began. Sir Roy’s apparent eminence thus seems to rest on legal findings, and here again Mr Justice Collins gives Meadow the benefit of the doubt. Meadow has given reports in 10 criminal cases, always effectively for the prosecution and against the defendant. This 100 percent siding against the accused shows, critics say, someone who tends to see child abuse wherever he looks. In four of those eases —those of Sally Clark, Angela Cannings. Donna Anthony and Margaret Smith — the appeal court found that there had been miscarriages of justice. In a fifth case, that of Trupti Patel, the jury dismissed the Crown’s evidence, including that of Sir Roy. Appeals are in the pipeline for two more cases.

It was clear from the GMC’s criticism of Sir Roy’s continuing misguided beliefs that the panel had these other matters in mind — even if Mr Justice Collins did not. It was precisely because Sir Roy was regarded as leader in his field, that he should have taken meticulous care in such a sensitive area. Yet he had failed to keep abreast of his own field of expertise, had strayed outside his area without revealing it and had given misleading evidence. His errors “compounded by repetition over a considerable period of time” were what led to his sanction.

Mr Justice Collins’ overriding concern was that doctors would be discouraged from giving expert opinion if it could lead to disciplinary action, even if given in good faith. But any expert giving opinion in which could lead to wrongful conviction should surely be prepared to have that opinion rigorously tested — and especially when life sentences are at stake. Those who can support what they say with data, research and evidence will have nothing to fear.


Private Eye 1155, 31st March 2006.

WHY has Mr Justice Collins apparently been keeping the recent spate of contentious appeals from the General Medical Council, including the cases of Labour benefactor Dr Chai “Diddums” Patel and Professor Sir Roy Meadow, to himself?

The GMC no doubt thought it had the answer when it came to last month’s high court hearing into the GMC decision to strike off Sir Roy, over the deeply flawed evidence he presented in the case of Sally Clark, wrongly jailed in 1999 over the deaths of her two sons, three-month-old Christopher and two-month-old Harry.

Lawyers for the GMC asked the judge if he should excuse himself from hearing Meadows’ appeal because the GMC had sat in judgment on the judge’s brother — “high society psychiatrist” Dr Mark Collins, over allegations of sexual impropriety with a vulnerable female patient. While the GMC cleared Dr Collins of serious professional misconduct and found the sexual allegations unproven, it did publicly criticise him for crossing patient-doctor boundaries by meeting the patient outside of work and allowing his head to be turned’ by a pretty patient. GMC lawyers also pointed out that the barrister representing his brother, Nicola Davies QC. was also representing Sir Roy.

Mr Justice Collins could see no potential conflict resulting from his brother’s clearing by the GMC and said that he did not know Ms Davies. He then went on to deliver a judgment which not only limited the powers of the GMC to regulate doctors who give inaccurate and misleading evidence to courts, but also gave greater protection from sanction from any old “expert” who gives evidence, no matter how dodgy. The ruling has come in for critical scrutiny and is being appealed by the GMC.

But should Mr Justice Collins have removed himself from hearing the GMC case against Labour benefactor Chai Patel, who continues to stamp his feet at not getting a peerage? Eye readers are well aware that the case against Dr Patel related to Lynde House in west London, then run by his firm Westminster Care Homes, where there were widespread allegations of neglect. It was the first test of whether a doctor should be disciplined over the care of patients who he was not directly treating. But it was thrown out by Mr Justice Collins before it ever got underway on the grounds that the charges brought against Dr Patel by the GMC were a “rotten indictment” and looked like scapegoating.

As everyone knows, Dr Patel is the man behind the Priory group of health and rehabilitation clinics.., and Mr Justice Collins’ brother. Dr Collins, was a clinical director at the Priory clinic in central London and now, according to its website, works at the Priory Hospital in Roehampton.