Response by the
Richard Horton's comment in the
July Edition of The Lancet
It is unfortunate that there are several factual errors and a number of
half-truths in Richard Horton's article in the July edition of The Lancet.
`Meadow should not be found guilty of serious professional misconduct'
We are surprised that the editor of a respected professional journal felt
it appropriate to publish such partisan comments like this at such a time,
and also to appear on national radio to make further statements along the
If the editor of a national newspaper had done the same in the middle of a
criminal trial, on the day when the defence was due to open its case, then
he might well have found himself in court for contempt for attempting to
prejudice the outcome of the proceedings.
No-one should seek to prejudge, nor to influence, the finding of the GMC's
Professional Conduct Committee, which should be allowed to reach its
decision on the evidence put before it.
`Meadow's referral to the GMC should not have taken place'
Surely Mr.Horton is not suggesting that the public should be denied the
right to complain about doctors who they feel have not behaved properly?
Rightly or wrongly, doctors enjoy a regime of self-regulation for such
complaints, whereby the GMC acts as prosecutor, judge and jury. Although,
by its own recent poor performance, the GMC's role in this regard is
becoming increasingly questioned, we wonder whether Mr.Horton would prefer
the CHRE to take over.
We do not know if Mr.Horton is aware how incredibly difficult and time-consuming it is to persuade the GMC to take action against a doctor. There
are two separate screening processes, and it is a very drawn out and
tortuous affair, with the result that only those complaints which two
committees feel are strong enough have a case to answer are referred to a
Given Professor Meadow's high profile, we are sure that the GMC did not
make the decision to hold a hearing lightly. But, in any event, it is a
matter for the GMC, not for The Lancet.
Indeed, complaints made by dozens of other innocent parents against Meadow
have been rejected by the GMC. Many of these parents feel that, far from
the GMC conducting a "misconceived pursuit" of Meadow, the GMC has
protected him for far too long, that this hearing is many years overdue and
should not have been limited in the way in which it has been.
`It threatens the effective delivery of child protection services in
Despite the recent scaremongering from the RCPCH, no doctor who is a
genuine expert in his field, who gives honest and impartial evidence, and
complies with his duties to the court as an expert witness, has anything to
Is Mr.Horton suggesting that those doctors who attempt to pervert the
judicial system of child protection should not be held to account? Are
incompetent/biased doctors more important than innocent bereaved parents
and their surviving children, some of whom who have been improperly adopted
away from loving parents on the basis of false medical evidence? That, in
itself, is a form of child abuse.
'Meadow is a scapegoat'
Two other doctors who gave false evidence in our case have already been
found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the GMC. Martin Bell
OBE's complaint against another was "screened out" by the GMC, because that
doctor "apologised" for his serious errors.
The Police Complaints Authority investigated the DI in charge of our case,
but was unable to reach a conclusion because (a) doctors would not co-
operate with them and (b) the DI resigned from the Force (subsequently to
be re-employed in a "civilian capacity").
The Bar Council charged the prosecuting counsel in our case with serious
professional misconduct, but McKinnon J upheld his application to have the
charges struck out. We still await the judge's reasons for that decision.
It is simply now Professor Meadow's turn to answer to his professional body
for the consequences of his actions.
`Meadow simply reported a sentence from the draft CESDI Report sent to him
by a colleague'
Even Mr.Horton acknowledges that Meadow did far more than this.
In his evidence at trial, he went on to embellish the "1 in 73 million",
with his Grand National and National Lottery analogies.
He also made a further statement that 2 Sudden Infant Deaths only occur in
the same family once every 100 years, but failed to disclose to the court
data contained in the Report which stated that there had been 5 double SIDs
in the same family in the 3 years during which the Report had been
conducted, in the Bristol area alone.
In addition, despite knowingly full well that, having given his
"statistical" evidence, he should not use it to imply guilt, he then stated
on oath that he believed that our babies died unnatural deaths.
`Sally's legal team did not challenge Meadow's error'
They were not given proper opportunity to do so.
The "1 in 73 million" was bounced on them by Meadow only 3 working days
before the trial started, when there was a deluge of other matters to be
dealt with -- not least the radical changes to the way in which the
prosecution had been forced to bring their case after the collapse of their
original charge that Harry had been shaken.
The trial could not be delayed further to find statisticians to give
evidence, due to the pressure from the concurrent Family court proceedings
into the future of our surviving child.
The defence team did challenge the validity of the statistic, however, by
calling another co-author of the CESDI Report to give evidence which put it
in context, but the prosecution dismissed him as not being a statistician.
In any event, Mr.Horton misses the point -- as an expert witness, Meadow
should not have given evidence outside his expertise in the first place, he
should not have embellished it and he should have disclosed the counter-evidence
of which he was aware.
`Meadow carefully examined the evidence relating to the deaths'
As far as we are aware, all he did was read the original post mortem
reports (now found to have been incompetently carried out by the
He did not meet any of the family, nor did he interview any of the medical
professionals (midwives, nurses, doctors and nanny) responsible for the
care of our babies.
`He gave his opinion that the babies were unlikely to have died natural
deaths and presented supporting evidence'
When our legal team asked Meadow to produce the data supporting his
evidence, he eventually said that he was unable to do so because he
secretary had "shredded it", thus preventing the defence and his colleagues
from challenging his conclusions.
`He capitulated to lawerly pressure and his use of imaginative language
(Grand National) was made in good faith'
If Mr.Horton has ever seen Meadow give evidence, he will know that he is
the least likely of 'experts' to capitulate to lawyers. Indeed, in his book
"The ABC of Child Abuse" he advises doctors how to resist pressure from
Thus, we are not so convinced as Mr.Horton of Meadow's motives in
embellishing the false statistics, and in failing to disclose the counter
statistics, at a time when the prosecution's medical evidence had either
collapsed or been brought into serious question.
Initial pathology findings
We find it deeply distressing that Mr.Horton lists various of the initial
findings by Dr.Williams, the pathologist, when he should know that
virtually all of those findings were proved to have been either non-
existent or misinterpreted/caused by Dr.Williams.
Indeed, Mr.Horton knows that Dr.Williams was found guilty last month of
serious professional misconduct for, among other things, the incompetence
of his post mortems, which cannot be relied upon.
It is a tactic which has been adopted in the past by Meadow, himself, and
other of his supporters, but it is unworthy of an editor of The Lancet.
The continued recital of mistruths about our family and the deaths of our
babies seems never-ending, it hinders Sally's recovery from the miscarriage
of justice she suffered and increases the amount of the likely compensation
which will be paid to her by the long-suffering British taxpayer.
The trial judge warned the jury against statistics
Mr.Horton's quote of the judge's summing up is selective, in that Judge Harrison
also told the jury that the "1 in 73 million" was something they could
take into account when reaching their verdict.
We are incensed that Mr.Horton quotes extensively from the judgment of the
first appeal, when he must know that it was overturned by the second court
This tactic has been used by a number of other apologists for Meadow's
behaviour, and is as distressing to our family as it is ill-founded.
It is misleading for Mr.Horton to say that the false statistics were of
"marginal importance" at the second appeal.
The court said that they did not have to decide the matter, because the non-
disclosure of microbiology was enough. But they went on to say that, if
they had been asked to decide, then they would have found that the misuse
of statistics by Meadow would have been sufficient on its own to uphold the
Also, we wonder on what basis Mr.Horton feels that the appeal court had
"noticeably weak grounds" for holding that the false statistics may have
had a major effect on the jury. All independent professionals to whom we
have spoken who attended the trial have told us that, in their view, it was
the single most important piece of evidence in the whole 5 weeks. Indeed,
it has been reported to us that a jury member indicated to a friend
afterwards that it was what had swayed the majority into guilty verdicts.
`The crucial error was legal not medical'
Whilst we do not contend that the lawyers (prosecution and defence) were
without fault, they did not, and could not, put words into the mouth of
such a supposedly eminent expert as Meadow.
It was his decision to introduce evidence as to the rarirty of multiple
SIDs, and his decision to quote selectively from the CESDI report into
SIDs, when he knew that at no time had we ever claimed that our babies
deaths were SIDs.
It is clear that Mr.Horton is aware of this, yet he fails to question
Meadow's motives for doing so. Indeed, he seems to think that Meadow acted
"in good faith", whilst failing to consider that the context of Meadow
giving (and embellishing) such evidence was the collapse of the
prosecution's medical case, and the absence of any evidence other than the
fact that Sally was a caring, loving mother.
Mr.Horton also fails to acknowledge that, even after the "1 in 73 million"
was exposed as being false, Meadow continued to choose to appear in court
as a prosecution witness, to give evidence as to the rarity of multiple
SIDs in one family- R v. Cannings and R v.Patel. We struggle to see how
this can be described as a legal error.
`Meadow in good faith tried his best to assist the court'
By shredding the data underlying his evidence, by embellishing the false
statistics and by failing to disclose data which showed that they were
false? -- we do not agree with Mr,Horton on this point.
The causes of death of Sally's two sons remains unascertained
We are deeply frustrated and concerned that the editor of such a respected
professional journal can be so ill-informed.
No fewer than 12 leading national and international medical experts gave
sworn evidence for the second appeal, with varying degrees of certainty but
all to the effect that Harry died from some form of bacterial meningitis.
The pathology undertaken on Christopher was so incompetent that we will
never know, but a number of experts believe that he may have died from a
`The GMC cannot be the place to arbitrate on complex and contingent
aspects of medicine's intersection with the law.'
Nor can a court of law, yet Meadow and other doctors choose to try to use
the courts to do just that. They only have themselves to blame if they are
eventually caught out in misleading statements or even falsehoods.
Rightly or wrongly, the GMC has been empowered by Parliament as a quasi-
judicial body to conduct a hearing into complaints against doctors.
Proceedings are run along the lines of a criminal trial. If doctors do not
like appearing in such proceedings, then we can assure Mr.Horton that
neither do innocent, bereaved parents who have been falsely accused by
doctors - we risk losing our children and our liberty, doctors only risk
losing their reputations; and they are well paid for doing so.
May we remind Mr.Horton that Sally spent three and a half years
incarcerated in prison, separated from her husband and surviving child,
purely as a result of incorrect evidence given by doctors, not lawyers.
`Facts and fairness demand that Meadow be found not guilty of serious
Many around the world who have suffered at the hands of Meadow and his
followers would fundamentally disagree with Mr.Horton.
But, unlike Mr.Horton, we do not propose to try to influence the current
GMC proceedings and, after all this time, are content to await their
Please note: Neither Sally nor Steve Clark is granting any interviews.
Issued on their behalf by Sue Stapely M; 07885 798833.