Fearing that reliance on the argument had led to miscarriages of justice, she
became a key expert witness defending parents who said their children’s
deaths were the result of natural tragedies.
The case opening tomorrow could see Dr Squier, a pathologist for more than 30
years, removed from the medical register, for the opinions she has expressed
The charges against her — of which few details have been released — have
shocked several medical and legal specialists, who believe the action stems
from a campaign to silence doubts about the theory, and secure more
convictions for child murder.
Dr Marta Cohen, a paediatric pathologist at Sheffield Children’s Hospital who
shares Dr Squier’s views, said: “I believe this humble, clever, courageous
woman is the victim of a witch hunt by the Metropolitan Police to stop her
from being an expert witness which may risk them losing their case.”
Dr Squier, 66, has devoted almost all of her professional life to the study of
infant brains, appearing in courts around the world in cases where babies
had died after suffering brain injury. In the UK, around 250 cases involving
claims of shaken baby syndrome go to court a year.
Until 2001, she agreed with the standard medical view that the combination of
three key symptoms, known as the “triad”, should lead to a conviction. But
subsequent research led her to doubt that these symptoms alone were
sufficient verification of guilt.
She came to believe that shaken baby syndrome may not exist, and that the
triad signs could occur naturally in a baby. Dr Squier suggests that
bleeding into the membranes in the brain could be a mechanism in young
babies, which is intended to protect the brain itself from haemorrhage as it
is exposed to pressure during delivery.
The view, shared by a minority of pathologists, is at odds with mainstream
theories developed in the 1970s.
In 2000, Lorraine Harris, of Derbyshire, was jailed for manslaughter, after Dr
Squier concluded her four-month-old baby Patrick had been shaken to death.
But in a 2005 appeal, the pathologist was called as an expert witness for
the defence, saying she was now convinced the criteria she had used to
define whether shaken baby syndrome had occurred were wrong. The conviction
Around the world, the arguments became heated. The case of British nanny
Louise Woodward — found guilty in 1997 of shaking eight-month-old Matthew
Eappen to death in Boston, Massachusetts — was pivotal in bringing arguments
over shaken baby syndrome into the public eye. She was jailed for 15 years
but the conviction for second degree murder was later reduced to involuntary
Dr Squier became the target of criticism. This culminated in a 2009 case in
which a High Court judge, Justice Eleanor King, accused her of speaking
“contrary to the mainstream of current thinking”. As a result, in April
2010, police referred the doctor to the GMC. Around the same time, Scotland
Yard police are alleged to have undermined the pathologist and other expert
witnesses blamed for failure to convict in cases of shaken baby syndrome.
At a US conference in 2010, Det Insp Colin Welsh, then of the Met’s child
abuse investigation command, was reported to have suggested police would
investigate such experts and report them to their professional bodies “to
see if we turn up anything”.
Since then, the pathologist has been rejected by a number of courts. In 2011,
Dr Squier said: “If I am blocked from giving evidence in court, defendants
already having to cope with the tragic death of a baby will not get the
benefit of the new science. Equally, if the courts fail to accept that the
mainstream view of 30 years ago can no longer be relied upon, there will be
serious miscarriages of justice.”
The pathologist said many convictions for shaken baby syndrome relied on
confessions. “Some police grind those accused down interviewing them for
hours while their baby is dying in hospital,” she said. “Under such duress
people can confess to anything.”
Tomorrow, a GMC fitness to practise panel will consider charges that between
2007 and 2010, the pathologist failed to be “objective and unbiased”, was
“dishonest”, and “brought the reputation of the medical profession into
disrepute” while acting as an expert witness in court cases.
Last week, the GMC had yet to pass on to the pathologist’s lawyer full details
of her alleged dishonesty. Dr Squier said: “I refute the charges absolutely.
I will be putting up a very robust defence but I am unable to discuss it
further at the moment.”
If she is cleared, it could throw the findings of thousands of cases into
Prof Margaret Esiri, emeritus professor of neuropathology at the University of
Oxford, who has worked with Dr Squier since the 1980s, said: “Her findings
do make it more difficult for the police to prosecute. They would rather
evidence was cut and dried so they can get their convictions.”
Bill Bache, a solicitor who has defended families in cases where shaken baby
syndrome was alleged, said he was “flabbergasted” by the charges.
Clive Stafford Smith, a civil rights lawyer and director of the charity
Reprieve, said: “Much shaken baby and battered child testimony is extremely
dubious, and should be vigorously questioned.”
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which manages such GMC hearings,
declined to comment. The Metropolitan Police said: “We are aware of a report
registered by the then National Police Improvement Agency with the GMC in
2010 about a doctor. The Metropolitan Police cooperated with a request from
the GMC to provide relevant information.”
Article source: http://telegraph.feedsportal.com/c/32726/f/534871/s/3e70ee32/sc/7/l/0L0Stelegraph0O0Chealth0Chealthnews0C110A943790CShaken0Ebaby0Eexpert0Efaces0Ewitch0Ehunt0Bhtml/story01.htm