Not Saussure

March 18, 2007

Sally Clark and the eminent professors

Filed under: Law, Medicine — notsaussure @ 2:34 pm

Via Devil’s Kitchen, I see this, from the blog of Terry Hamblin, [update:  Prof Hamblin has removed the post from his blog, so I’ve had to take a copy from the Google archive] Professor of Immunohaematology at the University of Southampton, on the subject of Sally Clark’s death:

So far response in the correspondence columns of the major newspapers has been that the ordeal of unjust imprisonment had driven her to it.I wonder. Perhaps she was possessed by guilt that she really had killed her kids and remorse that she had brought down two eminent professors of paediatrics in getting the decision reversed.

I have not followed the case closely

One can understand Professor Hamblin’s prudence in waiting until Mrs Clark was safely dead until rehearsing his suspicions. After all, she was apparently able, initially from a prison cell, to press-gang the Court of Appeal, the Royal Statistical Society and the General Medical Council into bringing down two eminent professors of paediatrics. Heaven only knows what she might have done to an eminent Professor of Immunohaematology while alive and at liberty.

Not having followed cases closely hasn’t, of course, in the past prevented eminent professors sticking their oar in; besides Sir Roy Meadow, the other eminent professor ‘brought down’ by the late Mrs Clark was

Professor David Southall, a leading expert in child protection, [who] intervened in the case of Sally Clark, the solicitor jailed for life for killing her two sons, in a “dogmatic and high-handed manner”, despite having no professional involvement in the case, the GMC heard.The consultant paediatrician had not seen any medical records or postmortem results relating to the death of Mrs Clark’s two babies. But after watching her husband Stephen talking about his wife’s murder conviction on a documentary, he telephoned police to state that the father rather than the mother had deliberately suffocated the babies.

As a result of this intervention, he was found guilty of professional misconduct by the GMC. Can’t imagine why.

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  1. Thank you for the comment on my blog. I had really not given the Sally Clark case much thought until I saw the notice of her death. I’m afraid that the question of libel never entered my head, though since you mention it I suppose one ought to think that way.

    You don’t mention that Meadow’s professional misconduct verdict was overturned by the High Court on appeal. Don’t you think you should? Or is that an appeal verdict that you disagree with?

    Comment by Terry Hamblin — March 18, 2007 @ 3:20 pm

  2. To be strictly accurate, the Court of Appeal overturned the serious professional misconduct ruling. The court was in no doubt that he was guilty of professional misconduct, though — they disagreed with the GMC as to whether it was serious enough to justify striking him off.

    See para 251:

    In this appeal there can be no doubt that Professor Sir Roy Meadow fell short of the required standards.[…] Such breaches of the duties imposed upon an expert witness must amount to misconduct even if the witness had no intention to mislead and honestly believed in the validity of his opinion. However I cannot accept that in the context of this particular case Professor Meadow was guilty of serious professional misconduct as construed by the Privy Council authorities.

    Or, as Sir Anthony Clarke MR put it in his dissenting judgement (para 91),

    The difference between the view that I have formed and that formed by my Lords is not on the question whether Professor Meadow was guilty of professional misconduct but whether he was guilty of serious professional misconduct.

    In other words, the court was in not doubt that he was guilty of professional misconduct simpliciter, though not (in the majority view) so serious enough as to justify being struck off.

    Is that an appeal verdict that you disagree with?

    Comment by notsaussure — March 18, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  3. You might profitably and in reverse or historical order read the following.

    The people who failed Sally were legally qualified, not medically qualified…. and she paid them to represent her… and they failed her.

    Comment by ziz — March 18, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

  4. This is an open letter to Prof Hamblin who has blocked replies at his blog.

    Professor Hamblin,

    Your erroneous original thoughts still stand here. Yes, the Internet is a big place, but not for an 8-year old grieving boy whose name is on your blog.

    I actually have more respect for Roy Meadows who has maintained a respectful silence (who carried out his job to the best of his ability, armed with the technology at the time) than I have for you, a person armed with hindsight who says:

    “Perhaps Clark was possessed by guilt that she really had killed her kids.”

    One of her babies died of a staph infection. How do you justify this argument, which you posted 24 hours after her death? How can she kill her baby by staph? You and I are both armed with hindsight.

    One of these “kids” is an 8-year-old boy who is likely to be reading your message.

    You also say: “Sally Clark has died in suspicious circumstances.”

    As a medical professional, how can you suggest these are the circumstances 48 before a post mortem?

    OK, I accept this is doctor’s jargon for “sudden death” but to the layperson (including an 8-year old boy) this means foul play or murder. How would you explain that supposition to the other occupant of her house when he reads this message at your blog?

    If I were you and I chose to leave the original post here indefinitely, I would be looking to compensating this little boy (the deceased’s son) in monetary terms. I think you should admit your error by sending this boy a cheque for an amount no less than £100,000 as compensation in the event he reads these inaccurate and malicious slurs against his late mother.


    Comment by Coral — March 19, 2007 @ 12:56 pm

  5. For the attn. of Professor(?) Hamblin

    Re: Sally Clark

    An inquest heard that she probably died of natural causes but more tests were needed to find a definitive cause.


    Comment by Coral — March 19, 2007 @ 6:11 pm

  6. Hi,

    Are you aware that your link at the top of your page is a 404 error page?


    Fixed NS

    Comment by Coral — March 20, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

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