The law is not equipped to consider scientific disputeBMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i1768 (Published 31 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1768
- Stephen J Watkins, director of public health for Stockport
- Stockport SK1 3XE
In the first BMJ of this century I wrote an editorial criticising the conviction of Sally Clark for murdering her children.1 That conviction was based on the proposition that highly unusual coincidences don’t occur by chance—a mathematical fallacy disproved by every announcement of a lottery winner.
It took years to secure Clark’s release, and her health was so badly damaged in the meantime that she died soon afterwards. At that time, medical experts on both sides were united on one point—that the legal system couldn’t deal properly with scientific controversy.
This and other miscarriages of justice stopped when the expert witness Roy Meadow refused to give further evidence unless allowed to do so in a proper scientific way, describing uncertainty and …