By Megan Lloyd Davies
THE cases of thousands of children who could have been wrongly put into care are to be reviewed, it was announced yesterday.
Up to 5,000 children have been taken from parents said to be suffering Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy – a condition first identified by discredited paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow.
Solicitor General Harriet Harman announced yesterday they are to be included in an inquiry into the cases of 258 women convicted of killing their babies over the past decade.
The inquiry was announced after Monday’s Court of Appeal ruling that parents should not be prosecuted over the sudden unexplained death of a child in cases where cot death was a possibility.
The hearing quashed the convictions of Angela Cannings, 40, of Wiltshire who was jailed for murdering her two baby sons on Professor Meadow’s evidence. The doubt over Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy – said to drive parents to fake illness in children to gain doctors’ attention – follows the discrediting of the professor’s theory that multiple cot deaths were probably murder.
Ms Harman, responding to the Appeal Court ruling, told MPs: “We will make sure that we recognise that not only injustices done in the criminal justice system but any potential injustices in care proceedings are identified and acted on.”
She said it was not known how many youngsters had been taken into care after civil child protection cases in which expert evidence was decisive.
But her announcement that the review will consider civil and criminal cases may lead to thousands of families being reunited. Ms Harman said priority will be given to 54 women still in prison, some of whom may be released on bail pending appeal.
Fifteen current prosecutions relating to unexplained infant deaths may now be dropped, she added.
Among the 258 cases the inquiry will examine is that of Donna Anthony, 30, from Yeovil, Somerset. She was jailed in 1998 after being convicted of murdering daughter Jordan, 11 months, and son Michael, four months. Her solicitor, George Hawks, said: “The case must now go to the Appeal Court.”
Professor Meadow, 70, who trained up to 250 judges in dealing with witnesses in children’s cases, earned millions of pounds for providing flawed evidence in court.
Legal experts said it was likely he testified in 40 cases a year. His fee would be at least £1,600 a day.
MUM OF SIX WHO CAN'T BE SET FREE
SARAH thought life could not get any worse after her four children were taken away. She was wrong.
In the mid-90s, a doctor following Sir Roy Meadow’s guidelines had labelled the single mum a sufferer of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
After the court case, she was spat at and jeered by neighbours.
But through her grief Sarah (not her real name) found love again.
She met a new man, and they decided to leave Britain behind.
Yesterday she said: “I had been told my two youngest were going to be placed for adoption and the older two were in long-term foster care.
“I decided to move to New Zealand, have a fresh start and fight from there.”
Within three years Sarah had given birth to a girl, who is now six, and a boy, who is four. But British social workers tracked the 39-year-old down and informed the authorities.
In July 2000 when her son was admitted to hospital, an adult sedative was allegedly found in his urine.
Again, her children were taken and put into the care of family members.
Yet a leading New Zealand chemist has since said the hospital was wrong to rely on a simplistic screening test.
He said the alleged sedative could not be distinguished from a drug given to the boy for an ear infection.
Sarah’s marriage has broken
down and she has not seen her children for two years. “I am happy that
some parents are going to be released from prison,” she said. “But
whether you are in a cell or a house you are still in prison. And I will