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Correcting the Shaken Baby Fiasco
December 1, 2008 permalink
Ontario is setting out to compensate hundreds of parents falsely accused of harming their own children based on faulty pathology by Dr Charles Smith, including false allegations of shaken baby syndrome.
Ontario launches review of convictions involving Charles Smith
December 01, 2008, THE CANADIAN PRESS
A formal review of shaken baby cases in which disgraced forensic pathologist Dr. Charles Smith played a role will be launched tomorrow along with a look at compensation for those wrongfully convicted, in part, by his expert evidence, The Canadian Press has learned.
Attorney General Chris Bentley will announce two teams have been struck to act on a damming report by Justice Stephen Goudge, who harshly criticized key players in a forensics scandal that saw innocent people branded as child killers.
"The McGuinty government will be acting on the Goudge report (Tuesday) by naming two teams to respond to Justice Goudge's recommendations," said a government source.
Bentley "will set up a review team for shaken baby death cases and a committee to consider issues of compensation related to the victims of Dr. Charles Smith's flawed work."
Justice Donald Ebbs will head the review team for criminal convictions involving shaken baby death cases, as recommended by Goudge.
Former integrity commissioner Coulter Osborne will head the committee to consider the viability of a compensation process.
Goudge's report found the failings of the "arrogant" Smith and his bosses were at the heart of the miscarriages of justice.
William Mullins-Johnson, an Ontario man who spent 12 years in jail after being wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of his four-year-old niece, has launched a $13-million lawsuit against six doctors, including Smith.
Mullins-Johnson said today that while he would welcome compensation, it doesn't change the hardships he had to endure.
"I'm glad they're making efforts to right that wrong a bit, but the damage is already done," he said.
"It's us that's going to have pick up the pieces and make some sense of this. It's a day-by-day battle, just like when I was in jail."
The review of cases in which babies in Ontario were apparently shaken to death will take place against the growing controversy over whether it's even possible to kill an infant by violent shaking alone.
While some argue the kind of force needed to cause injuries characteristic of the syndrome can't occur any other way, recent evidence indicates that even falls from low heights can cause similar injuries.
The provincial coroner's office has identified about 220 cases in which a baby supposedly died after being shaken by an abusive parent or caregiver.
In his report, released in October, Goudge made 169 recommendations, including asking the Ontario government to consider compensation for those affected by Smith's work.
Gouge also recommended that more than 140 other cases involving forensic pathology be reviewed.
The government had already indicated it would develop a compensation framework for those who suffered injustice and to review convictions involving shaken baby deaths, but hasn't announced any concrete plans.
After the report was released, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci introduced a bill to make forensic pathology more accountable by creating a new oversight council, a complaints committee and a provincial forensic pathology service, as recommended by Goudge.
Source: Toronto Star