A couple who refused to reveal which of them caused the death of
their foster child had their appeal against their eight-year
sentences dismissed by the Court of Appeal last week.
Michelle and Simon McWilliam were convicted in October 2001 of
child cruelty after their four-year-old foster son John Smith died
of brain injuries.
The pair had not been tried for murder because there was
insufficient evidence to indicate which of them had inflicted the
The case coincides with new recommendations from the NSPCC and a
group of legal and child care experts about how to ensure that
parents and carers who harm their children do not escape
The NSPCC’s Which of You Did It? working group calls for a review
of the rules of evidence in criminal proceedings in cases where
parents or carers are suspected of seriously injuring their child.
Under current law, parents or carers who kill their child can avoid
conviction if it cannot be proven which of them did it.
The group also recommends a review of the sentencing powers of the
courts and a review of how and why some areas in England and Wales
have greater convictions rates in these cases than others.