The paediatrician at the centre of the scandal over innocent women being jailed over suspected cot deaths has warned that children could be put at risk as a result of the public pillorying he received.
Professor Sir Roy Meadow, whose expert evidence about Munchausen syndrome by proxy led to a number of women being convicted and jailed, has told his MP that consultants could "turn a blind eye" to suspicions that other children are being harmed by their mothers.
Speaking to The Independent, David Curry, the Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon, said Sir Roy told him "the brutal criticism he has received will make consultants reluctant to pursue it".
Sir Roy's evidence was discredited after three successful cases in which women were cleared of murdering their babies. Angela Cannings and Sally Clark were convicted chiefly on Sir Roy's theory that one cot death is a tragedy, two gives grounds for suspicion and three, unless proved otherwise, is murder. Trupti Patel was acquitted of murdering her three babies after her trial heard that his theory was flawed. The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, said five more cases were being referred to the Court of Appeal after a review of almost all the 298 similar cases, and more might follow. He said 16 cases had been identified by the Crown Prosecution Service as being potentially affected by the Cannings judgment.
Many families have been split up and children placed in care after cot deaths which were seen as Munchausen's by proxy. The condition is based on the theory that women may deliberately harm their babies to draw attention to themselves.
Margaret Hodge, the Children's minister, is carrying out her own review of the cases.
Ministers privately acknowledge that it will involve heart-rending decisions, but it is not expected that children who have been legally adopted can now be returned to their natural parents, in spite of the injustice that the families will feel. Mrs Hodge has made it clear that the priority will be to look after the interests of the child.
Sir Roy, 71, has not spoken publicly because he is facing a General Medical Council disciplinary hearing later this year, but disclosed his concerns to Mr Curry, his constituency MP. Mr Curry said: "Quite frankly I believe he has been pilloried. The word 'discredited' has been attached to his name almost as a permanent epithet ... I think it is right to hear his story."
He continued: "It is a horribly difficult area. It is difficult both psychologically and emotionally for the women but there are some very unpleasant things happening out there. It is the job of the law and the medical service to address the facts."
Mr Curry said he was told by Lord Goldsmith that his review of cases was based on the judgment by the Court of Appeal in the Cannings case, rather than on Sir Roy's evidence. There were also concerns where cases were testing the frontiers of current science, including the possibility that DNA testing could establish a link between a series of cot deaths.
Mr Curry said Sir Roy was "asking that he is judged on a fair basis with the whole of his career now on trial".Reuse content