Issues -Child abuse - Review of child abuse experts
|Expert evidence was discredited
in the case of Angela Cannings
||The results of this
survey should not give rise to complacency
A high level review of the way expert witnesses
are used in child abuse cases in family courts is to take
place. Children's Minister Margaret Hodge said Chief Medical
Officer Sir Liam Donaldson would carry out the inquiry. It
follows the case of Angela Cannings, cleared of killing two
of her children when expert evidence was ruled unsound.
Mrs Hodge also released the results of a first review into
disputed cases of children being taken into care, which has
questioned 47 out of 5,175 cases. She said
the government's moves were in response to "widespread
concern" about the "quality and validity of evidence"
given by medical expert witnesses in court.
The review asked local authorities to look at how many cases
where children are currently in the process of being taken
into care could be affected by the Cannings judgement last
A spokesman for the Children's Minister told BBC News Online
nine of the 47 cases in question had been concluded, with
a change of decision in only one.
In a statement, Mrs Hodge said: "The results of this
survey should not give rise to complacency that the interests
of children and their families are being optimally served.
"We are therefore also announcing today a programme of
work to determine how best to ensure the availability and
quality of medical expert resources to the family courts."
A local authority review of 30,000 cases where children have
been taken into care in the past, on the basis of disputed
medical evidence, is still in progress.
Mrs Hodge is expected to announce its findings in a few months'
Sir Liam will concentrate on the role of experts in family
courts, where judges decide whether a child should be taken
into care on the grounds of suspected abuse.
He will also look at how to ensure enough child abuse experts
of sufficiently high standing can be found to give evidence.
His report to ministers is expected early next year. The Court
of Appeal decided to overturn Mrs Cannings' 2002 conviction
for smothering her two sons after evidence from cot death
expert Sir Roy Meadow was discredited.
Another mother, Sally Clark, was also cleared of murder after
also being convicted on the basis of Professor Meadow's evidence.