Shaken baby review uncovers few questionable convictions

Questionable convictions have been found in just three of the 88 shaken baby cases reviewed by the Attorney General.

The review, part of a wider trawl of infant homicides in 2004 following the Sally Clark and Angela Cannings cases, took into account findings last summer by the Court of Appeal which clarified the law on shaken baby syndrome.

The Attorney General also announced the implementation by the Crown Prosecution Service and Association of Chief Police Officers of new guidance on the way prosecution teams instruct expert witnesses.

Under the new guidance, expert witnesses will be required to produce proof of their credibility and competence and limit opinion to their own specific area of expertise.

“So called ‘shaken baby syndrome is a difficult and sensitive issue for all involved, and has led to a growing medical controversy about the identification of the causes of these injuries,” Lord Goldsmith said. “These clear and thorough guidelines will assist in bringing about greater confidence in the criminal justice system in handling such difficult cases where expert witnesses are called on.”

The three convictions identified as questionable include one male convicted of murder in 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment, one male convicted of manslaughter in 2001 and sentenced to three years imprisonment, and one female convicted of manslaughter in 1994 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Goldsmith’s office has written to the legal representatives of those involved in the three cases suggesting that it might be appropriate for the safety of their clients’ convictions to be referred to the Court of Appeal or the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

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