A young mother accused of shaking her baby son to death has walked free from court after a judge ordered jurors to clear her of manslaughter.
The judge said expert evidence was too divided for the jury to come to a conclusion as he threw out the charge. Legal experts said his decision would have serious implications for similar prosecutions up and down the country.
Although most medical experts still stand firmly behind Shaken Baby Syndrome, a minority of skeptical scientists fear that it is wrong, mistaking symptoms found in innocent accidents with deliberate killing.
Fatima Miah, 27, has faced two trials over the allegation that she shook her eight-month-old baby, Anas, to death in May 2007. She has always maintained he collapsed after falling off the sofa.
Judge Timothy Pontius said that, since there was a fundamental conflict of expert opinion on the cause of death, and no clear evidence to back one side or the other, he would have to direct the jury to enter a not guilty verdict.
“It is my firm view that – unusually – there is no evidence upon which this jury could find, to the extent they feel sure, that the expert opinion supporting the prosecution allegation of non-accidental death is to be preferred,” he said.
Edward Brown QC, prosecuting, said the ruling would have implications for many other similar cases, and the scientific evidence used in shaken baby prosecutions.