Debate on expert witnesses

Debate on expert witnesses

“I believe that the Roy Meadow should be struck off the
medical register and hopefully anyone called to give medical
evidence at child protection trials will stick to the facts as they
have been proven and not bring theories into the courtroom. 

If a medical expert feels the need to bring the possibility of a
theory into play, then he/she should ensure that they make it clear
that it is only one possibility and that there may be others which
they are not aware of.  This seems to go against the grain for
medical experts but it should be taken as read.

Anyone giving evidence should remember that the lack of medical
evidence does not prove there isn’t any to be found, just
that it hasn’t been found yet.”

Marion MacNeil

“With the example of Roy in front of us who now will stick
their professional neck out and express opinion in difficult

Doreen Crawford

“I speak as a previous colleague of Professor Roy Meadow,
and wish to make the following comments regarding the general
issues associated with this case and expert witnesses in
Firstly from my own experience I can confirm that during my
employment with the University of Leeds, and thus with Prof. R
Meadow, that he always appeared to act in a very professional and
caring manner both in terms of his day to day interactions and his
integrity as lead for a National research study.
Secondly it appears that the legal process has been ‘let off the
hook’ in terms of the cases of wrongful conviction involving the
evidence of the expert witness Prof. R Meadow.  It seems to me that
the Judge, Jury, Defence and Prosecution legal teams, are currently
viewed as passive players in a court case where only Roy Meadow is
to blame.  The ultimate responsibility for balancing the truths
that all witnesses bring to the adversaries court process lies with
the jury.  That said the Judge is equally culpable for allowing a
decision making process to occur that must have been so absent of
other evidence only the voice of Meadow was heard.  The legal
fraternity should speak out and bring their own house in order in
these cases rather than sitting back and allowing a witness to take
the blame for their decision making.
Thirdly I am aware from other colleagues who may be asked to give
expert testimony that this is now for them fraught with risk.  Any
misjudgement of evidence, fact, or opinion, may lead to
vilification by a hungry media and a legal system that shies away
from taking responsibility.  It appears that nationally our ability
to take risks, to give our best judgements, or to make decisions,
is continually being limited and in the long term our legal system
and other institutions will suffer.
Yes Roy Meadow’s evidence was incorrect, but isn’t that the case in
every trial where we have an adversaries system and two opposed
sides call witnesses that back different versions of the truth. 
One side, and one group of witnesses, will always in the long term
be proven to have been incorrect in asserting evidence of guilt or
innocence.  It is for the legal system, the jury, and the judge, to
determine guilt based on all evidence submitted and to lay blame at
witnesses seems to miss the mark.”
Norman Chessman
Head of Professional Services
Clayfields House

“As a social work student in Kent I feel that the expert
opinion of Dr Roy Meadows has cast doubt on all expert opinions in
regards to cases of cot death and the likes.

It is shameful that in such a critical case such as these the
fate seems to stand on the opinion of one professional person. The
decisions made and the opinions given show that the courts and the
understanding of deep family matters are being pushed through like
cattle at a market. Now whether this is due to it being the fastest
and easiest way to draw a conclusion or simply fitting to the
budgets concerned for others is not the case, the case is that
innocent people are being caused great loss and emotional torment,
on top of the issue in hand through lack of vigorous needle picking
background research and care to finer detail.” 
M. G. Corbett.

“Although it appears from press reports that Meadow had
indeed gone beyond his area of expertise and gave misleading
statistics to the court, I consider he is being made a scapegoat
for the failings of the court system. He should have been
crossexamined on the statistics and the limits of his expertise
made plain to the court.
The effect on the availability of expert evidence is that no
sensible paediatrician will go anywhere near child abuse, let alone
forensic work.”

Stephen Barber,
Child Protection Adviser,
Diocese of Oxford



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