Manslaughter

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken Baby Syndrome

The unlawful death of a child is always a deeply traumatic act and one that shakes any society to its core. For some parents, it represents not only a deeply personal and tragic loss but the beginning of a nightmare.

The reality in most murder and manslaughter cases is that the perpetrator is known, and close to the victim. Investigators will, therefore, look closely at the parents when a child dies, an approach which for a grieving parent can only add to the pain that they are suffering. We cannot lose sight of the fact that people facing these allegations are still in a state of profound shock and grief.

Experts will be brought on board very quickly to establish a cause of death, and in some cases, this will be stated to be from non-accidental injury (NAI) and caused by excessive shaking, often of such force that it is described as being the equivalent of a car-crash.

An allegation of shaking is often based on the presence of three things (the 'triad of injuries'):

• Swelling of the brain;

• Retinal bleeding; and 

• Blood in the dura (an area between the brain and skull).

The presence of these injuries, as proof of violent shaking, can be found mainly in medical literature emanating from the United States  as early as the 1940s.

The research findings went largely unchallenged until 2001 when Dr Jennian Geddes published a paper that offered up alternative explanations for the medical results. In later years other experts would revisit this area of medicine, and they too argue that other factors may be in play.

Experts who have challenged the conventional interpretation of the 'triad' have often paid a hefty price.

Dr Waney Squier, a well-known expert in this area, who has acted in a great many cases, was struck off by the General Medical Council (Medical Practitioners' Tribunal) following a prolonged campaign to discredit her.

However, the GMC finding was reversed by the High Court in November 2016 (Squier v General Medical Council [2016] EWHC 2739 (Admin)).

The science in this area is still in a state of flux, and from a criminal law perspective that is a critical issue as cases must be proved to a standard so that the jury can be sure of the defendant's guilt.

How can I assist?

This area of law is complex. The highest quality criminal defence work requires not only an understanding of the law in this area, but of other related areas, such as medicine - and a refusal to automatically accept apparently 'conclusive' expert opinions. By quickly identifying the pertinent issues I will pull together a top team of advocates and experts with an intimate knowledge of this complex area.

Examples of ‘baby shaking’ cases I have been involved with can be found here.  

For a confidential and private consultation, please contact me on 07766001774 or email me via contact@crimelawyer.co.uk.

 

Hillsborough Prosecutions

Hillsborough Prosecutions

A High Court judge has granted permission for proceedings to continue against the former South Yorkshire police chief superintendent, David Duckenfield, who may face charge of manslaughter of 95 people killed during Hillsborough disaster of 1989.

Prosecutions against others allegedly involved in the Hillsborough tragedy began in July 2017, but Duckenfield's case is different as earlier proceedings against him were stayed in 2000 after a failed private prosecution. A stay acts to prevent a case continuing.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers, in a 2-day hearing before Sir Peter Openshaw, sitting at Preston Crown Court, will argue for a Voluntary Bill of Indictment. If successful, the stay will be removed, and prosecution proceedings can continue.

Applications to remove a stay on proceedings are relatively rare, as is a request for a Voluntary Bill of Indictment, a special procedure whereby a High Court Judge can authorise crown court proceedings to begin, bypassing other formalities.

A similar application was made against Paul Gadd, better known as Gary Glitter, in 2014. In that case, Mr Justice Globe allowed prosecutions to continue, ultimately resulting in a lengthy prison sentence for Gadd.

What are the criteria?

The Criminal Practice Direction of the Lord Chief Justice states:

“The preferment of a voluntary bill is an exceptional procedure. Consent should only be granted where good reason to depart from the normal procedure is clearly shown and only where the interests of justice, rather than considerations of administrative convenience, require it.”

In the case if R v Arfen 176 JP 682 QBD, without attempting to give an exhaustive list, Mr Justice Nicol identified various circumstances that would justify the granting of leave, namely, if there had been a dismissal without regard to a relevant statutory provision or judicial authority, or there had been an error of law, or if the crown had new evidence which made a significant difference to its case, or if the decision to dismiss lacked a rational foundation.

It is likely that the findings from the Hillsborough inquests will form a major part of the prosecution application.

Are there other considerations?

It is likely that the legal team for Duckenfield will argue that he cannot have a fair trial due to prejudicial press coverage and delay. It would be pure speculation to comment on the likely success of those applications.

 

For help with any criminal law related matter please contact me on 07766001774 or via email: contact@crimelawyer.co.uk