Justice

Major review finds ‘insufficient evidence’ in science behind shaken baby syndrome

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap.   A major review of shaken baby syndrome has called into question the science that links the three symptoms to deliberate harming. The study, conducted by an independent Swedish agency that assesses healthcare interventions, has found ‘insufficient scientific evidence’ to assess the accuracy of the so-called ‘triad’ of symptoms – that is, brain swelling, intracranial bleeding, and bleeding in the retina – in identifying traumatic shaking; and that there was ‘limited scientific evidence’ that the ‘triad and therefore its com­ponents’ could be associated with such shaking. You can read the report here. Despite long-standing concerns about the validity of the science behind the shaken baby syndrome, it has become increasingly difficult for paediatric experts to challenge a diagnosis in courts. Last month, the Justice Gap reported on how British defendants were struggling to find medical experts in the UK prepared to testify …

DNA Evidence Under The Microscope

This piece was originally published by The Justice Gap.   At the first mention of ‘DNA evidence,’ our minds can be forgiven for wandering to starched white lab coats and the tortoise-shell glasses of television detectives. A report released today by researchers from the European Forensic Genetics Network of Excellence (EUROFORGEN) wants to challenge that. ‘Making Sense of Forensic Genetics’, written in partnership with the charity Sense about Science, aims to clarify the limitations of what DNA can and can’t tell us in criminal investigations. ‘Such is the power of DNA to identify, convict, and exonerate,’ the report argues, ‘that many perceive it to be infallible.’ While forensic evidence has given prosecutors and detectives a vital tool in their investigations and in court, the researchers argue that we should acknowledge that the science is not fool proof and can rarely stand up alone. ‘The DNA evidence won’t give a “yes” or …

Silence in Court: British defendants in shaken baby cases look to US for help

This piece was originally published with The Justice Gap.   ‘I’ve been contacted by three or four families in the last three or four months, desperately looking for help,’ says Dr John Plunkett. From his farm deep in the Minnesota countryside, high-speed Internet can’t always be relied upon. But Dr Plunkett, a retired forensic pathologist who has been instrumental in challenging the science behind so-called Shaken Baby Syndrome, is receiving messages from British families struggling to find experts prepared to give evidence on their behalf in court. ‘There’s nobody that’s willing to testify,’ he claims. Back in March last year, Dr Waney Squier was banned from practising in the UK when the General Medical Council (GMC) ruled that she had given irresponsible and misleading evidence in court. As reported on the Justice Gap, Michael Birnbaum QC criticised the ruling as a ‘bizarre combination of the apparently one-sided and the obviously inept’ …