Baby deaths mother bailed to await appeal

A mother who claims she was wrongly convicted of killing her two children was released on bail today to await the hearing of a fresh appeal.

A Court of Appeal judge in London heard that the Crown did not intend to oppose Donna Anthony's appeal, although it will be for the court to decide whether her convictions should be quashed.

Anthony, 31, was jailed for life in 1998 at Bristol Crown Court for murdering her 11-month-old daughter Jordan and four-month-old son Michael.

The case against her relied on evidence from paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, whose evidence in other cases has been discredited.

Anthony, of Yeovil, Somerset, always claimed both children were victims of cot death and not smothering as alleged by the prosecution, but her original appeal in June 2000 was dismissed.

Last month the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) said it was sending her case back to the Court of Appeal after considering "new expert medical evidence".

Anthony, who had been held at HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, west London, was in court dressed in her prison clothes for today's preliminary hearing.

Her case was one of 28 referred to the CCRC after the quashing of the conviction of Angela Cannings in January last year.

Mrs Cannings was cleared on appeal of killing two of her sons, seven-week-old Jason and 18-week-old Matthew.

Anthony's appeal is to be heard in the week beginning April 11 with another similar case in which Chah' Oh-Niyol Kai-Whitewind is challenging her conviction of murdering her 12-week-old son.

James Chadwin QC, for Anthony, told Deputy Chief Justice Lord Justice Judge today that she had been in custody for six and a half years and was hoping her convictions would be quashed today.

But the judge said that, sitting alone, he had no jurisdiction to allow the appeal. It was for a three-judge court to decide the matter, regardless of the prosecution's stance.

Lord Justice Judge said: "Having looked at the reference (CCRC reference of the case back to the court) and having done no more than dip into the issues arising on the medical evidence, it would simply have been pretentious for us to think we could have dealt with the case today."

But he said it was clear the bail application should succeed, subject to conditions and the question of where Anthony should live. He heard submissions on those issues in private.