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
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.
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.”
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
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”
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.
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,
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.
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.
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