Press Association January 30, 2003
Solicitor Gives Hope To Other Jailed Mothers
by Pat Hurst, PA News
The release of cot-death mother Sally Clark has given hope to other mothers jailed after their babies have died suddenly, it was claimed today.
Mrs Clark vowed to fight for others still suffering a similar fate, including the case of Angela Cannings - a prisoner in the same jail.
And Terry Cannings, whose wife was jailed for life for murder last year after their two babies died suddenly, said Mrs Clark's release yesterday would give them hope.
Mr Cannings said, "I was so pleased for Sally and her family and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried as well, I was so pleased. "Without yesterday's result going in Sally's favour, I think it would have made a big dent in our morale.
"I suppose the truth is that I don't cope, for what is now 37 months I have not enjoyed any of my days. I just get up in the morning and go to bed at night hoping there is a light at the end of the tunnel."
Mrs Cannings, 38, from Salisbury, Wilts, was sentenced to life last month at Winchester Crown Court for the murder of seven-week-old Jason in June 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in November 1999. She has appealed but is still waiting for a decision from the Court of Appeal as to whether it will be allowed.
The court heard that Cannings' first child Gemma also died, in 1989, but no charges were brought in relation to that death. It is thought the case of Sally Clark will strengthen the Cannings' and others' cases.
She was released from her life sentence by the Court of Appeal yesterday after serving three years in jail. Mrs Clark, a solicitor, said her ordeal had been a "living hell" after she was wrongly jailed for killing her two babies.
The Court ruled her convictions for murdering the babies were unsafe. Christopher, 11 weeks old, died in December 1996, and Harry, eight weeks old, died 13 months later, in January 1998.
Her husband Stephen had mounted a vigorous campaign to clear her name after she was jailed at Chester Crown Court in November 1999. With the help of solicitor Marilyn Stowe, who searched through medical files, they found crucial new evidence that would clear Mrs Clark. They revealed at yesterday's appeal hearing that vital medical evidence had not been seen by the jury.
Dr Alan Williams, the Home Office pathologist, knew that Harry had the killer bacteria staphlococcus aureus in his little body - but did not reveal this at the trial.
Dr Williams decided not to come to the court to explain why this evidence was not disclosed. He could now face action by the General Medical Council, which says it is "considering" if action needs to be taken.
At the original trial the jury was told the chances of two cot deaths in the same family were 73 million to one. Experts now say the chances are 8,500-1.
The Appeal Court was told yesterday there had been a "serious miscarriage of justice", and Mrs Clark, whose first appeal in 2000 had been rejected, was freed.
She was able to go home with her husband Stephen to Wilmslow, Cheshire, to be reunited with her other son, who is four.
Mike Mackey, Mrs Clark's solicitor, explained, "The situation is that in some cases expert evidence is vital and there is an understanding between experts that come together to assist the court.
"In this case Dr Williams took the view that the finding of bacteria was not relevant. He was entitled to do that view. What he was not entitled to do was withhold that evidence from the pathologist instructed by the defence and the pathologist instructed by the Crown.
"We were in a situation where the Crown said there is no evidence of natural disease. If disease did not kill these children, who or what did?" Mr Mackey, talking on GMTV, called for an inquiry into the affair.
"I think there should be an investigation into exactly what has gone on. How can these results manage to wind up in a file marked Chris rather than Harry? "There is obviously questions to be asked." It is important the issue is not prejudged. "She has been grossly and unfairly treated but two wrongs don't make a right."
He said Mrs Clark and her husband are probably still coming to terms with the events of the last 24 hours. "She's a very resilient lady. Obviously, she had times when she was down but
she got through."I think probably the enormity of what's happened has not quite sunk in. I
expect Sally wants to go back to being a mother. "But they are a couple obviously devoted to each other and I'm sure we all wish them well."
Mr Mackey agreed the couple could be in line for compensation cash. He said: "I'm sure that's something they will consider, but how do you compensate a woman locked up for three years, deprived of being with her son?"
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