Abuse expert to face court over 'Munchausen' case
SCOTLAND’S leading child-abuse expert, whose diagnosis of the controversial condition Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSBP) resulted in dozens of children being taken into care, is to be called back to court to justify his actions in a landmark legal case.
Professor John Stephenson, who was a paediatrician in Glasgow, gave evidence more than a decade ago after a Scottish mother was accused of trying to murder her baby son. Her lawyers claim new evidence will exonerate her, and the case could result in dozens of convictions being overturned.
Parallels have been drawn with the Angela Cannings case - she was jailed for murdering her two sons but later cleared.
The latest case, due to be heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court in April, will reignite the bitter arguments over MSBP. Largely discredited, it is said to involve parents fabricating illnesses and deliberately harming their children in order to draw attention to themselves.
Identified in the 1970s by the consultant paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, MSBP has divided the medical community. It is claimed that Prof Stephenson has been involved in diagnosing at least 14 cases of the condition, resulting in a number of children being placed in council care.
Massimo Franchi, a Glasgow solicitor acting for six mothers who claim they were wrongly accused of child abuse, said yesterday that the families had been devastated by the allegations.
He said: "The doctors will have to justify what they’re saying about MSBP and prove this woman has suffered from the condition. It could mean going back to the Court of Appeal for other women who feel they were wrongly convicted."
The lawyer is considering calling Prof Meadow, who is under investigation by the General Medical Council, to give evidence. It was his testimony that led to a number of women in England - including Ms Cannings, Trupti Patel and Sally Clark - being wrongly convicted of murder.
The mother of four in the Glasgow case had two children taken into care after doctors said she was suffering from MSBP and harming her son to draw attention to herself.
In September 1993, after her son stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital, a civil court ruled that, "on the balance of probabilities", she was responsible, but no criminal charges were brought. It took two years to get the children back.
Last year, an investigation by The Scotsman found that at least 12 parents in Scotland had been accused of having MSBP, resulting in 19 children being placed in care.
The findings fuelled calls for a public inquiry, amid fears that hundreds of mothers may have been wrongly accused of child abuse and even murder.
Munchausen By Proxy