Doctor in cot death court cases to face misconduct allegations

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The Independent Online

Professor Sir Roy Meadow, the paediatrician and child health expert at the centre of a series of cot death cases, is to face charges in a public hearing before the doctors' disciplinary body.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said yesterday it had received complaints about Sir Roy who gave evidence for the prosecution in the cases of Sally Clark, Trupti Patel and Angela Cannings, accused of killing their children. Angela Cannings was freed last week by the Court of Appeal after spending 20 months in jail for the murder of her two sons. Sally Clark was freed last January after being convicted in 1999 and Trupti Patel was cleared in June.

The GMC gave no details of the allegations against Sir Roy but said that if proved, they would raise a question of serious professional misconduct. It said investigations were continuing and the case would be heard in the second half of next year. It will go before a public hearing of the Professional Conduct Committee. Complaints to the GMC are assessed by a medical and a lay screener who can reject them.

The council is under pressure to be seen to be acting correctly because of the publicity the cases have generated.

Sir Roy is a former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and was knighted in 1998 for services to child health. A GMC spokeswoman said the complaints had been "in the screening process for some time"and the unusual decision to issue a statement about the hearing had been in response to media inquiries.

Sir Roy was criticised by the Appeal Court judges in the Angela Cannings case last week. There are thought to be at least six women still in jail convicted in part by his evidence. He has been a witness in an unknown number of other cases in the family courts.

The Attorney General is considering a review of all the cases in which he has been involved, pending publication of the Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Mrs Cannings.

He has been accused of exaggerating the odds against multiple cot deaths, quoting a figure of one in 73 million in the Sally Clark case, and misleading juries by citing what has been dubbed Meadow's Law - that one cot death is an accident, two is suspicious and three is murder.

He claims his remarks have beentaken out of context and misrepresented. He argues that they were intended to raise the possibility before a disbelieving public that parents could harm their children.

His supporters say that without his work many more parents would have got away with murder. He was the first to describe Munchausen by proxy, the disorder in which parents fake illness in their children in order to gain medical attention. This helped identify the nurse, Beverley Allitt, who was jailed for life for killing four children.

Professor Alan Craft, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics, said in a letter to The Daily Telegraph last week: "His work has done an enormous amount to protect children."

A CPS spokeswoman said Sir Roy did not use statistics in the Patel and Cannings trials and had been one of a number of expert witnesses to be called by the Crown.