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Explain why the case of Sally Clark was considered to be a miscarriage of justice, and at which point in the Criminal Justice process did the miscarriage occur?

In order to answer this question fully, you will need to include:

A Definition of ‘Miscarriage of Justice’.
The evidence presented in court.
The evidence which was excluded.
An analysis of the medical expert testimony.
The verdict.
The sentence.
The Consequences of the miscarriage of justice.
Best wishes,

Rachel

A Definition of 'Miscarriage of Justice'

R v Sally Clark [2003] EWCA Crim 1020, [2003] 2 FCR 447 is a case of miscarriage of justice as it was founded on the statistics that she had murdered her sons. Clark suffered in the hands of an incompetent doctor that presented wrong evidence that was based on his opinions rather than founded on facts through altering his position on the cause of death. This caused more “harm” to Sally Clark and his family because he was convicted yet she was innocent. This case of “miscarriage of justice” has challenged the criminal justice system. The suffering of Sally was relieved when the Court of Appeal found that Sally Clark was not guilty and she was acquitted of the murder case in 2003. The evidence presented to the court was rejected because it was considered to be influenced by expert opinion believing to be factual other than simple judgments.

The concept of “miscarriage of justice” is an indefinite phase, which is capable of instigating a number of distinctive implications, construed, as well as influenced by life experiences. Thus, the broadly considered definition is a failure to achieve justice. Nonetheless, “miscarriage of justice” challenges the criminal justice system that vigorously tries to transmit justice for all people through convicting the guilty besides interpreting the innocent individuals.

Sally Clark was a solicitor of past good personality who resided with her husband, Mr Clark, at Wilmslow in Cheshire. The two had two children, Christopher and Harry. However, Christopher as an apparently healthy baby; however, died in 1996, while Clark’s husband was out for an office party, while Harry died in 1998 because he was born three weeks before the definite date of delivery. Dr Williams who was the family pathologist carried out a post-mortem examination to ascertain Christopher’s cause of death and he established bruises plus worn bruises  besides a minor crack along with minute “bruise” in frenulum that was attributed to resuscitation. The pathologist established evidence of disease in the lungs. In the case of Harry, Dr Williams found injuries that were believed to be pinpointing of non-accidental harm linked to cases of shaking in many instances. On February 9, 1998, Sally and her husband were interviewed in relation to Harry, as well as detained on suspicion of Harry and Christopher murder. He was advised by solicitors and she decided never to answer questions.  Christopher’s death was originally diagnosed as sudden infant syndrome (SIDS) by Dr Alan Williams.

Yet, Dr Williams unpredictably plus biasedly reevaluated his judgment that implies a degree of neglect, as well as unprofessionalism besides considered murder of smothering subsequent to circumstances, which were arresting analogous to those adjoining the death of Harry. Clark pleaded her innocence regarding this case. Regrettably, subsequent to several appeal trials, Clark eventually acquitted from the charges by the Court of Appeal in 2003, after Lord Bingham ruled the case in support of Clark. Lord Bingham affirmed in his verdict that the conviction of Clark should be believed to be unsafe as novel medical evidence established that Harry definitely suffered plus died from Staphylococcus aureus and not murder. This was recognized and kept as a secret by Dr Williams since he considered that this fact was not applicable, while this evidence must have been a subject for the jury to make a decision.

A Summary of the Facts of the Case

The evidence presented to the court was dependable with the physical injury suffered by Christopher early prior to his death plus at some former stage(s). Moreover, the court heard that there was proof that Christopher was suffering at least to some degree from infectivity at the time of passing away. The previous evidence resulted in the finding that Christopher’s demise was not from natural sources and lead to the detention of Clark for his killing. The later evidence resulted in the original finding at the period of his passing away, where he died from a contagion of the respiratory tract. The court heard that through examination results in regard to Christopher that physicians in the case summoned by the trial team indicated that the consequence of physical injury came earlier before death, several bruises, a scratch in the frenulum, as well as the existence of blood in his lungs. In the case of Harry, The evidence that the court heard was that the cause of death was dependable with physical injury to Harry in a while prior to his death plus at the initial stage(s).  Also, the court was informed that there was no infection that caused or contributed to the death of Harry. Thus, in the case of Harry, either the trial case was right or the cause of demise was not determined.

The evidence the court received suggested that the bereavement was other from the natural causes, as well as possibly the most important because this resulted in the refusal of Dr Williams’ early verdict at the time of demise was the proof of bleeding in Christopher’s lungs. The findings by Dr Williams that the death in respect to Christopher was because of bleeding of lungs were rejected by the court because he altered his conclusion as to the cause of death. He had made no documentation of such findings at the instance; nevertheless, he had extracted samples from the lungs that were obtainable for minuscule assessment. As a result, the court rejection of evidence by Dr Williams that the cause of death was because of bleeding was rejected. This was because the court believed that Dr Williams was discriminating as to his documenting of his results only noting those facts, which appeared to him to be accommodating of his conclusion.

In addition, the court rejected the evidence that Harry’s death was as a result shaking. The court considered that William’s judgment remained guesswork identifying the particular mechanism, which caused the death. The evidence presented to the court was rejected because it was considered to be impacted by specialist opinion believing to be factual other than mere judgments. The court in relation to shaking baby syndrome, declaring the standard triad symptoms would no longer “automatically or unavoidably” be adequate to conclude death by shaking. Consequently, the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith appraised cases of shaking baby syndrome declaring three to be unsafe.

In the evidence, that the children died in the hands of the mother or caregiver was rejected as the similarities of both the death of Christopher and Harry was not an important suggestion of murder. The court rejected the evidence on the ground that no one had noticed any harm to both kids in their lives, which had given rise to the notion that the kids had been harmed. So, it was improbable that the “bruises” had been due to any of the resuscitation processes by the ambulance staff or the therapeutic staff at the hospital.

The Evidence Presented in Court

The initial post-mortem was performed by Dr Alan Williams. Thus, in the case of Christopher, since Williams judged that the loss was because of a natural basis, there was no other post-mortem examination. In the case of Harry, there was the second examination undertaken together with Professor Emery, as well as Dr Rushton. Hence, in the case of Christopher, the medical examination indicated via evidence was reliable with physical damage that affected Christopher both in a while prior to his demise plus at some earlier stage(s) .

Dr Williams having performed post-mortem examination had asserted that there were no major characteristics of respiratory virus in the case of Christopher. He was cross-examined regarding the manner he would have articulated such contradictory viewpoints at various instances plus upon reading cross-examination report and he presented non-compelling justification for the change of his stance. There was no other doctor that established any evidence of any infection through the only material where they would evaluate the stance was the facts accessible from the slides captured by Dr Williams.

Professor Meadow upon their examination described that the cause of Christopher’s demise was not from infectivity, nor would it be grouped as SIDS and his position was not a natural demise. On the other hand, Professor Green supposed that there was no verification of natural illness. Green believed that it was exceedingly probable that passing away was not natural; however, he could have given the grounds of passing away as cannot be determined. Dr Keeling believed that the cause of death was SIDS case in addition to she was not able to discover a natural justification for the death of Christopher. Hence, in her view, the cause of demise was not established that implies that it may have not been usual. Finally, professor Berry claimed that the death of Christopher is unascertained. Like in the case of Christopher, it was possible that the cause of Harry’s death was not established.

The court acquitted Sally Clark based on the evidence presented and that there was no proof of any sickness or contagion suffered by Harry, which may have explicated the death. The verdict of the court was that this was not the case of SIDS because there was no clear justification for the fatality, the proof inclined to an unnatural loss. Also, the court maintained that the change of Dr William’s position that the death of Christopher was due to the infection of the respiratory tract to a view that there was evidence that there was no such infection made the court to set free Sally Clark. In addition, the court verdict in the case was informed by the fact in line to the death of Christopher, if stood in separation could not have warranted a verdict of murder. However, the court considered that if there had been proof that Harry perished due to natural grounds so that the judges established this was the likelihood, then it appears unavoidably to abide to fact that they would not have been convinced that Christopher was murdered.

The Evidence Which Was Excluded

Sally Clark was sentenced by a majority of ten to two judges on November 9, 1999 in the Crown Court at Chester of killing of her boys, Harry and Christopher. However, after spending 11 months in custody, she appealed against her detention; however, Clark’s appeal was rejected on October 2, 2000. In January 2003, the then Court of Appeal attended to the application where the verdict of the court was that her detentions were unsafe and she was released.

Sally Clark’s trial replicates characteristics of a miscarriage of justice because she was convicted by the erogenous medical examination statistics by Dr Williams. Sally was convicted because of the incompetence of Dr Williams because he failed to provide an actual cause of death of Christopher and Harry. Dr Williams surprisingly plus biasedly reevaluated his judgment in the case that suggested a degree of negligence besides incompetence in his profession. The evidence presented to the court never established the actual cause of death and this made the case of Sally Clark to be appealed in 2000. Therefore, the imprisonment of Sally was wrong because the statistics from the specialist could be used as evidence and was wrong based on the evidence presented to the court.  The miscarriage of justice made her spend some years in prison till she appealed in 2000 where she was acquitted of the charges in 2003.

Conclusions:

The case of Clark stresses the call for a faultless examination of child deaths, with a proper peer-reviewed investigation of probable mechanisms along with the causes of death. Thus, the legacy of Clark would definitely not to be recalled by the legal, as well as medical professions and by parents. Pathologists have agreed to implement standardized national autopsy strategy to unforeseen infant deaths in Australia plus on a universal description of SIDS to eliminate cases of miscarriage of justice in the prospect.

References: 

Alec Samuels. “The Lessons from the Sally Clark Case”. [2004]72 Medico-Legal Journal 3, 102.

Batt, John (2005). Stolen Innocence. (Ebury Press 2005).

Batt, John. Stolen Innocence: The Sally Clark Story — A Mother's Fight for Justice. (Elbury Press, 2004).

Byard Roger, W. “Inaccurate classification of infant deaths in Australia: a pervasive and persistent problem”. [2001] 175 Med J Aust 1, 5-7.

Byard Roger, W. Sudden death in infancy, childhood and adolescence. (2nd ed. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2004) 77-166.

Byard,  Roger, W. “Unexpected infant death: lessons from the Sally Clark case”. [2004] 181 Medical Journal of Australia 1, 52-4.

Cunliffe, Emma. Murder, Medicine and Motherhood. (Oxford: Hart Pub, 2011).

Derbyshire David. “Misleading statistics were presented as facts in Sally Clark trial”. Telegraph. (London, 12 June 2003) 1.

Easton, Susan M. Silence and Confessions: The Suspect As the Source of Evidence. (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Fisher, Jim. Forensics Under Fire: Are Bad Science and Dueling Experts Corrupting Criminal Justice? (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2008).

Great Britain. Expert Evidence in Criminal Proceedings in England and Wales. (London, England: The Stationery Office, 2011).

 Leila Schneps & Coralie Colmez, Math on trial. How numbers get used and abused in the courtroom, (Basic Books, 2013).

Moles, Bob. A State of Injustice. (South Melbourne: Lothian, 2004).

Naughton, Michael. Rethinking Miscarriages of Justice: Beyond the Tip of the Iceberg. (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2007).

Readow, Roy. “A case of murder and the BMJ” [2002]324 Britain Medical Journal.7328, 41-43.

Shaikh, Thair. “Sally Clark, mother wrongly convicted of killing her sons, found dead at home”, The Guardian, (London, 17 March 2010) 1.

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