Shaken Baby Syndrome – Challenging the experts

Adam Makepeace March 7, 2018

Cases relating to allegation of child deaths caused by shaken baby syndrome are amongst the most complex to come before the criminal courts.  The unlawful death of a child is always deeply traumatic.  For some parents, it represents a deeply personal tragedy, compounded by the nightmare of a criminal trial.

By far the majority of murder and manslaughter cases involve a perpetrator that is known to and is usually very close to the victim.  If any child dies, the parents are obviously potential suspects in the case.  “Experts” are brought into cases involving the deaths of children very quickly.   However, with shaken baby syndrome, there are real difficulties – because there are significant disagreements within the medical community about the syndrome.

The orthodox view is based on the presence of three things (known as the ‘triad’).   This is based on medical journals emanating from the United States going back to the 1940s.  The ‘triad’ are:

  • Swelling of the brain
  • Retinal bleeding, and
  • Blood in the dura (an area between the brain and skull)

The ‘triad’ remain the basis for evidence of shaken baby syndrome given in criminal proceedings.   However, the science in this area has, since 2001, started to be challenged.   From a criminal law perspective, this is a critical issue that needs to be put to a jury – as part of their process of determining guilt on the basis that they are sure that a criminal offence has taken place.

The challenges to the ‘triad’ are controversial.   In 2001 Dr Jennian Geddes published a paper that offered up alternative explanations for the medical results and those views have been supported by others in recent years.  However, where experts have challenged the ‘triad’ in court proceedings, they have been maligned by the mainstream medical community.

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 High Court has since reversed this ruling.

How we can help in relation to ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’…

An understanding of the areas related to criminal proceedings, including such things as forensics and the prevailing views of the medical community are important attributes of the best criminal solicitors.   If you are involved in a case which involves your criminal representatives having a detailed knowledge of these subject areas, then you need to instruct solicitors that have the broadest base of talent in the criminal defence community.  As the largest criminal defence firm in the country, we have been involved in more high profile, complex cases than any other firm in the country and we have the right expert to be able to help you in your case.

For a confidential and private consultation, please contact Adam Makepeace on makepeacea@tuckerssolicitors.com or on 020 7388 8333 to be advised as to the person who can help provide you with the best defence in your case.

Our offices are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to deliver immediate and expert legal advice and representation.

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