Met accused of ‘campaign’ against shaken baby witnesses

BBC News

By Andrew Hosken
Today programme
Page last updated at 06:04 GMT, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Mother and Baby out for a walk pushing pram

Some 250 so-called Shaken Baby cases go to court each year

Three leading pathologists have accused the Metropolitan Police of attempting to discredit them as expert witnesses in so-called Shaken Baby court cases.

About 250 Non-Accidental Head Injury (NAHI) cases go to court every year, with the outcome often relying on a expert testimony from pathologists.

The Royal College of Pathologists has called for an inquiry into the claims.

Responding to the allegations, the Met said the force was “completely committed to the judicial process”.

The scientific debate over NAHI has grown increasingly acrimonious over the past 10 years.

At first it was played out in select gatherings of pathologists before ending up in courtrooms and inquests up and down the country.

That debate turned toxic, with one side accusing the other of proselytising suspect scientific theories.

Now, senior consultant pathologists have accused the Metropolitan Police and others of an orchestrated strategy to discredit them as expert witnesses for parents and carers accused of murdering their children.

Suzanne Holdsworth was acquitted at a second trial of a ‘shaken baby’ killing

Dr Waney Squier, Dr Irene Scheimberg and Dr Marta Cohen say their evidence is based on a speech made by Detective Inspector Colin Welsh, a lead investigator with the Met’s Child Abuse Investigation Command.

The BBC has obtained a version of the speech made at the 11th International Shaken Baby conference in Atlanta, September 2010.

In this speech, DI Welsh referred to a meeting in 2008 attended by representatives of the police, medical experts and CPS officials at which the “impact and effect of contradictory expert evidence” was discussed. The Met has confirmed the meeting took place but said it was standard procedure following an acquittal in a court case.

According to a note by a Seattle-based lawyer called Heather Kirkwood, DI Welsh talked about the failure of a number of high profile Shaken Baby prosecutions and stated the number one problem as “defence expert testimony.”

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