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On scientific freedom

The moment that we are denied the right to question a scientific theory that is held by the majority, we are not far away from Galileo’s predicament in 1615, as he appeared before the papal inquisition.

Clive Stafford Smith on shaken baby syndrome

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Reader Comments (59)

Comments were closed down VERY rapidly -I assume they weren't getting the correct kind of comment...

Mar 15, 2016 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

First few comments I saw were questioning why he'd failed to mention that he was the one who represented her in court.
Openness indeed...

Mar 15, 2016 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

So we have freedom to post correct physics I take it?

PROOF of GRAVITO-THERMAL EFFECT using Second Law of Thermodynamics and Kinetic Theory of Gases.

In the state of thermodynamic equilibrium (that is, maximum entropy) in a column of the troposphere the pressure from above and below any horizontal plane is equal. Because pressure is proportional to the product of temperature and density, and because there can be no transfer of energy or matter across any internal boundary when there is thermodynamic equilibrium, we can deduce that, for any horizontal plane, there must be equal numbers of molecules crossing upwards as there are crossing downwards, and the mean kinetic energy of each group while crossing the plane must be equal.

Now, for the numbers to be equal we note that the effect of gravity creates a slightly greater than 50% chance that net downward motion will occur during and also between molecular collisions. This means that there must be a higher density below the plane and a lower one above. So this explains how the density gradient evolves as a result of maximum entropy production (that is, dissipation of unbalanced energy potentials) in accord with the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

And, for the temperatures to be equal, this means that (because molecules gain Kinetic Energy with downward motion) there must have been lower mean molecular Kinetic Energy (temperature) above the plane and warmer temperature below. Hence there is a stable equilibrium temperature gradient resulting from the entropy maximization process described in statements of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.*

Hence the radiative forcing greenhouse conjecture is false.

Hence James Hansen and others are mistaken in thinking that temperatures at the base of planetary tropospheres (and in any solid surfaces there) are primarily determined by radiation of any form reaching that region.

* Second law of thermodynamics: In a natural thermodynamic process, the sum of the entropies of the interacting thermodynamic systems increases.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtmospheric Physicist

Just like the 'Munchausen syndrome by proxy' debacle all over again. More tyranny of the consensus of experts.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Very sorry but I can not let this thread go without criticism since it has implications for a current discussion ^.^

"The moment that we are denied the right to question a scientific theory that is held by the majority,"
My memory is that when the first Nic Lewis paper on Climate Sensitivity appeared,most people on BH accepted it in particular our host. There were a handful of doubters and they included Rhoda, Martin A and myself. My memory is that at least one of my posts was deleted and I was told to take it to the discussion page and not continue on the main blog page.
Our host has the power to do anything he thinks right of course but I think that what happened to us over climate sensitivity is not consistent with the behaviour being advocated in this thread (with which I heartily agree).

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:40 AM | Registered CommenterDung

@Atmospheric Physicist: there's a more basic explanation of Hansen's delusion: there has never been any experimental proof of Pierre Prévost's 1791 'Theory of Exchanges', used to justify the 'bidirectional photon gas diffusion argument'. (Radiometers measure unidirectional radiant exitance therefore temperature, not a real energy flux.)

The IPCC claim creates extra radiation entropy, >50% more atmospheric heating than reality and to work, ~30 m atmosphere adjacent the surface, and surface must simultaneously be at surface temperature and Absolute Zero! Stupidity......

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Oh dear! Not this again.

There had been much discussion on the geometric nature of the Sun and Earth, Copernicus being an early culprit, but it was of an academic nature, and they were not punished by the the Catholic Church. Galileo, however, 'knew' the Earth circled the Sun: he knew he was telling 'The Truth', it was reality, everyone should be told, even though there were other theories still out there and experimentation wasn't all that it was cracked up to be.

He wanted to stur up the Establishment, make a name for himself, earn some dosh. He also 'got it wrong'! The Earth does not circle the Sun: it moves in an ellipse; a circular orbit is not stable; circular motion was at the time thought to be for heavenly bodies, their paths were circles within circles, and not for this Earth.

That sounds more like our friend Al Gore, with his concern for polar bears and icebergs, his film about THAT graph, and a spend of $2,000,000,000 per day to save the Earth from a non-existent threat using a non-solution. Kept in the academic environment, there was no problem; attempting to take over a fairly smoothly running Establishment was asking for trouble.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:54 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

I'm guessing only a devout Catholic would defend the Catholic church in this matter with such asinine pedantry whilst simultaneously managing to completely avoid the point and derail the thread.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

It appears the problem was the pediatric neuropathologist's speaking outside her expertise in the cases she worked on in the 90s and less about her theories.

That said, it is certainly true situations like SBS are ripe for this type of abuse: evidence-poor, low quality of evidence, lack of means for experimental verification, high moral shrillness quotient, and a chance for society to prove its moral worth by punishing seemingly normal people, and for ferreting out evil that lurks under the surface.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:24 PM | Registered Commentershub

11:32 Doug Cotton?

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Clive Stafford Smith has a track record of challenging 'Consensus' in very controversial and emotionally charged legal areas, (try Google with 'death row' after his name)

He represented a client in this instance, who had dared to challenge a consensus view, the rights and wrongs of which, I have no insider knowledge of, but which is based on limited research, and is accepted as fact.

I presume that part of the reason for this becoming a thread here, is the inconsistency / hypocrisy demonstrated by The Guardian. Just because a consensus declares 2+2=5, doesn't make it right, even if it is close.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:36 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Martin A: don't think so: AP knows the detailed thermodynamics, a rare quality not applying to me I add.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Alright @Dung seems to say BH commenters are "denied the right to question a scientific theory"
That sounds unsual so I checked

"'the whole of my post was removed' when some of it was entirely relevant."
May 7, 2014 at 9:04 PM Dung
That looks to me like @Dung admitting a large part of it was not on topic
- Maybe this was the March 6th 2014 thread discussing Climate Sensitivity but @Dung is not mentioned in 4 pages of posts. Just some comments to @Monty saying off topic should be taken to the Discussion Thread.

- The point is all the time the Guardian and Lewniverse do seek to deny "the right to question a scientific theory" with their comment policies.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

James G:

Galileo was largely the architect of his own punishment. Copernicus's book wasn't banned at the time, nor would Galileo have been if he had published in Latin. But he published in Italian with a "dialogue" which could be seen, and was presented as an attack on the Pope. He didn't get burnt at the stake because he had a letter approving of him discussing his theory. Because he got it more or less right he has been presented as a martyr to truth, when really he was abrasive and obstinate (possibly obsessive or obstreperous are better adjectives).

P.S. I am not now nor have I ever been..

Mar 15, 2016 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterGraeme No.3

a. You write with the authority of someone who was there rather than just someone who once read something about it written by someone else with a devout need to defend the indefensible.
b. Punishment by the pope for telling the truth was deserved? What a witless argument! But don't feel the need to defend the indefensible again and stop derailing the thread please.
c. Who cares! The thrust of the point is obviously not lost with such pedantic nit-picking. There are many other examples in the history of science when the religious fervour of the willfully blind consensus prevented scientific progress though not many ending with a prison sentence.,,,,yet.

Mar 15, 2016 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I got a lot of pushback, especially from parents who were raising boys. They're too hungry, I was told. And I get it. Protein is much more filling than fruits and vegetables. But I'm not alone in this recommendation.

Aptoide For iPhone

Mar 15, 2016 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy

There are a few things to consider in the case of Dr Squier.
1 - To date, she has been censured for giving Expert evidence that was beyond the scope of her expertise
2 - In doing so she has taken a minority position and appears to have not made this clear during her evidence .
3 - Her position is not scientifically unreasonable, in that while the majority holds that the 'triad' injuries in and of themselves are sufficient to diagnose a 'shaken baby', her opinion and that of some researchers is that the 'triad' injuries can occur from other means, and that to confirm they came from a 'shaken baby' she would look for evidence of bruising to arms or ribs consistent with having been gripped tightly.
4 - Evidence for SBS is obviously very sketchy. It's not as though you can do control experiments... Also, clearly a hugely emotive issue.

My take, from what I understand of the issues, is that Dr Squier's position would certainly be up for discussion amongst specialists in the field, and superficially appears sensible, but probably should not be used when giving Expert evidence in a Court, or at least not without a major caveat that this is a minority position and one that is most beneficial to the Defendants in the case (at least assuming that the secondary bruising is NOT present).

I actually suspect in the longer term, this case will be beneficial to Dr Squier's opinion, in that it has shone light into some quite murky areas of how medical expert evidence is produced and used, especially in the area of SBS.

Mar 15, 2016 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Blanchard

JamesG on Mar 15, 2016 at 12:22 PM
I haven't been either, nor have been. Disagreeing with the sanctification of Galileo isn't the same as having a 'devout need to defend the indefensible'.

Graeme No.3 on Mar 15, 2016 at 1:11 PM
"Galileo was largely the architect of his own punishment."

The evidence does point in that direction (and it wasn't as though that was his only course of action) so I would expect there would be very few who would want to be cast in that light. It just shows a lack of Historical knowledge, or carelessness.

JamesG on Mar 15, 2016 at 1:48 PM
a) Graeme, I would take that as complement! :)
b) Galileo was wrong, like Al Gore, taking insufficient care in analysing the results.
c) We care: the Truth Seekers :) :) :)

Mar 15, 2016 at 3:49 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

The most interesting explanation of what happened to Galileo was written by Damian Thompson in the Spectator some time ago. He is a practising Catholic and his explanation from the viewpoint of the Catholic church was that Galileo had given his word to the Pope that he wouldn't publish while the Vatican was still considering the evidence and then went back on it. The Pope, who had been a personal friend of Galileo for years whilst a rising member of the clergy, felt betrayed and reacted very badly.

Mar 15, 2016 at 4:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterGladiatrix

Ian Blanchard
Your point 4 is the one that causes me the most concern, As you say you can do experiments, even animal testing is not an option in this case. Point 3 is also valid, to shake anything violently you have to hold it very firmly, in the case of a baby I would imagine the best grip would be around the chest so rib damage and chest bruising might add to the evidence. There must have been circumstances, road traffic accidents and falls for instance, where babies and small infants have been severely shaken naturally and injuries can be compared?

With regard to the first two points the first should only reflect on the evidence given in the summing up as the defendant has the right to have credible witnesses? Surely it is up to the prosecution to cover point 2 as forcibly as they are allowed to, the jury makes up its own mind taking all the evidence into consideration.

Preventing people from giving evidence despite not being in their primary field of expertise or that it goes against the prevailing consensus takes away an element of "beyond all reasonable doubt".

All this is pure speculation on my part, but a curious mind asks these questions.

Mar 15, 2016 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

NCC, AP is deffo DC

Mar 15, 2016 at 4:49 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk


One thing to note is that there are different rules governing Expert Witness evidence and normal 'witness of fact' evidence, in that Experts are allowed to offer interpretation. As such, there are specific guidelines in place for what you are allowed to (and are obliged to) do as an Expert Witness,. I'm not particularly familiar with the situation in criminal cases, but in civil claims you must comply with CPR 35 guidelines ( ), however the overriding premise is that the scope of the Expert evidence should fall within their expertise*

With regard to your broader point, unfortunately (and I know this from experience) a Court of Law is not a particularly good place to determine the factual accuracy of competing Expert evidence. Judges and juries can be influenced by how well an Expert performs as a witness rather than by the strength of their factual evidence, and there can also be background issues in play that influence the judgement (I have particular knowledge of this regarding a very large civil claim in the Republic of Ireland, where media coverage and 'common knowledge' had prejudiced the case - unfortunately I am not allowed to discuss further).

*Noting that the claim of expertise is usually based on the say-so of the Expert, and does not have a formal definition - typically a solicitor calls or e-mails with an outline scope of a case and asks if it is within the scope of your expertise, and there is a strong commercial motivation to say 'yes' even if that requires a fairly generous interpretation of the term 'expertise'. I'd never take on something I didn't know a reasonable amount about, but there is always a bit of a tendency to 'learn as you go'.

Mar 15, 2016 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Blanchard

Perhaps Galileo should be a discussion, despite being at least partially relevant here?

The timeline suggests that he was ambushed rather than bringing it on himself.

1590s quietly and behind closed doors discusses Copernicus with Keplar and others. 1610s observes moons of Jupiter and becomes more vocal and gets exasperated by resistance to the theory. Becomes far more vocal and publishes pamphlets, letters and dialogues. Late 1610s is admonished to remain silent(not everyone agrees he was). 1625 change of pope to one more positive about science and encouraged after meetings with the new pope Galileo writes a 500 page book in 1629 finally published in 1632 which sells out by then the opposition (the establishment and consensus) had organised itself. Thereafter it is downhill until his trial in 1633.

These days Galileo would have become a blogger and called his blog RealOrbitScience just as well we live in more enlightened times, apart from a few exceptions.

Mar 15, 2016 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

"Dr Squier's position would certainly be up for discussion amongst specialists in the field, and superficially appears sensible, but probably should not be used when giving Expert evidence in a Court..." --Ian Blanchard

SandyS is right. Banning such testimony could gut the "reasonable doubt" defence, leaving unanswered "expert" testimony by prosecution witnesses.

" least not without a major caveat that this is a minority position and one that is most beneficial to the Defendants in the case..." --ibid

But who will provide that caveat? The judge? The witness herself? The bailiff? Here, at least, it's up to the attorneys to attack the credentials of opposing witnesses. That requires some skill, of course. I once was empanelled on a murder case where the inept defence attorney went after the State's witness, who had a PhD in Psychology. She cited the fact that his resume didn't show that he'd taken any courses to get his doctorate. The witness made the following reply:

"At the doctorate level in Psychology, there are no courses, per se. The [student's mentor] assigns a series of practicums that provide the necessary experience. It's not like Law School...assuming you went to Law School."

I immediately looked at the Prosecutor, who turned away from me, pretending to ask his assistant a question, in order to avoid bursting out with laughter in court.

But other than that one thing, I largely agree with your comment, Ian.

Speaking of intolerance, I found myself in The Mitchell Library, Glasgow, today - and saw a sign that Moonbot was speaking at 18:30 - his talk was entitled 'How did we get into this mess?'.

Hmm. Since I had several trenchant answers, none of which he would like, I decided not to attend.

That and the fee to gain entrance, of which I am sure he would get a percentage. That stuck in my throat too.

Mar 15, 2016 at 6:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterGerry

isn't funny how the liberal Left, whilst they bleat about "Human Rights", immediately want to shut down discussion if it challenges their infantile "world view"?
My father, who is still around, fought the Nazis for 6 years, to give these ingrates the freedom to whine on about their pet beliefs, not to shut down debate when they didn't like it.
That's what Hitler (and Stalin- and almost every genocidal dictator) started off by doing.

Mar 15, 2016 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&twisted

Clive Stafford's attempt to use Galileo as an analogy to his client's situation is indicative of his ignorance of history and his willingness to use discredited folklore to further an objective.
So I believe the comments by Robert Christopher and Graeme No.3 are relevant to the thread.

Mar 15, 2016 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBill S

If anything is worse than the 'Munchausen syndrome by proxy' it's Doug Cotton in person.

Ball , Spencer and Lindzen are not exactly Galileo, Newton , and Einstein.

Mar 15, 2016 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRussell

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:44 PM | Registered Commenter stewgreen

Not sure what I did to blot my copy book with you but you had me worried for a while there ;) I went through that thread and I surely was not there. However that would be the expected result if "'the whole of my post was removed' when some of it was entirely relevant."
No I did not think you would accept that as a reasonable get out so I investigated a bit more.
unbelievably I found this actually in a discussion thread:

O/T comments have been removed. Please keep your discussion to the subject of the headline. .
Oct 15, 2013 at 7:47 AM | Registered Commenter Bishop Hill

so who knows what else got removed?
Then I found this:

Dung, you (and rhoda and I) are in the 3% of sceptics who think the concept of climate sensitivity is rubbish.

I imagine that the 97% who think it is a meangful concept that can be used to calculate future global temperature would point out to you that it applies when the system has eventually reached equilibrium, so carping on about what global temperature is currently doing does not invalidate the idea of CS.

Jul 22, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Registered Commenter Martin A . from a year earlier
So as Kilroy said " I was 'ere" hehe

Mar 15, 2016 at 7:42 PM | Registered CommenterDung

SandyS, 4:39pm: Rib damage is not necessarily going to be evident, as the ribs of neonates and infants are less ossified and more flexible than those of older children. I am also aware of cases where the victims were held by their limbs, necks or even heads, not the thorax. A potential source of experimental data could be using crash-test dummies - these are used in neonatal and infant sizes and contain the same accelerometers and other electronic kit as their adult counterparts.

Mar 15, 2016 at 8:16 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

All this stuff about the "real" story of Galileo is a bit futile isn't it? The testimony is obviously referring to the popular version of the story. Everybody knows Canute was a fool who didn't know his limitations, and that the "lion's share" is only the greater part of a thing. Seems to me that we have a little boy and a finger, but the dyke's already been washed away.

Mar 15, 2016 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Swan

it's all another gimmyick

Mar 15, 2016 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

There's a fine passage: "the medical profession has boldly asserted that a particular “triad” of neurological observations is essentially diagnostic of SBS. Since the Nuremberg Code properly prevents human experimentation, this is an unproved hypothesis ..."

Those who espouse the medical conventional wisdom have no conclusive evidence; what sort of evidence do they have?

Mar 15, 2016 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme


They did the same with SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) back in the 80's. "Bold assertions" from a limited number of very vocal pediatricians and 'campaigners' asserted that it was due to phosgene produced by micro-organisms in urine soaked bedding. It took a long and very expensive inquiry to debunk the claim.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:00 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Robert Swan on Mar 15, 2016 at 8:17 PM

"Everybody knows Canute was a fool who didn't know his limitations."

I am not 'everybody'! And this is off topic.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:52 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

Robert Christopher:

I'd have thought the relevance was obvious, the sarcasm too. Of course Canute was demonstrating his lack of power. And why have we debased poor old Aesop who had the lion getting everything? But these truths are getting washed away by popular perception and there's nothing much you or I can do to stop it.

You may well be right about Galileo. Makes no difference. In this context reference to Galileo is reference to a well known parable, not history.

Mar 16, 2016 at 12:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Swan

Salopian, did those making bold assertions about SIDS retire with reputations unblemished by the unnecessary anguish they caused?

Mar 16, 2016 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

GC; Frankly yes, you will have to go beyond wikipedia and dig up the DHSS inquiry into SIDS.

Mar 16, 2016 at 12:57 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

You should just block Doug Cotton; he's nuts.

Mar 16, 2016 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Fitzpatrick

And pause denier Russel pops again up to present yet another strawman anyone's life enriched by this puerile agitation?

Mar 16, 2016 at 1:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

IRT "Mar 15, 2016 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtmospheric Physicist"

Please ban the execrable Doug Cotton in all of his slimeball manifestations.
Zed is at least more or less sane.

NCC1701, Cotton knows physics, no matter which personality fragment he is posting under, the same way a broken clock shows the right time.

Mar 16, 2016 at 2:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Salopian, thank you for that. I do not doubt that SBS does occur, but feel uneasy that a post mortem 'interpretation' that can't be challenged, leads almost directly to a murder conviction. In the UK a death sentence can not be passed, but Clive Stafford Smith may know more about other countries.

Mar 16, 2016 at 2:44 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

GC: Excuse me, but I think you are completely misinterpreting my previous comments. I totally disagree with the current "definition" of SBS - it is as wrong and misguided as the earlier supposed 'cause' of SIDS

Mar 16, 2016 at 3:17 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Point of this post : That the Guardian suddenly presents an article saying "the right to question a scientific theory" should not be suppressed, when in fact the Guardian on Climate Issues has a culture of rigorous suppression of questioning of theories.

@Dungs point "BH suppresses "the right to question a scientific theory" cos it once deleted a post of his on the grounds it was off topic
- That is the crime of perspective and false equivalence,
#1 He admits part of his post were off topic
#2 BH hosts about 20,000 comments/year yet @Dung
can only find 2 mentions of removing off topic posts egs are ONE in March 2014,
and one mention Oct 15, 2013 of "O/T comments have been removed." (which BTW I can't even find)
- Then he quotes an item from from Feb-Aug 2013 Discussion .. Sense and sensitivity where he participated in a long discussion about the thing he claims was suppressed by BH

So all I can see is Dung being upset cos the mod thought his March 2013 comment was off topic and removed it ..
telling Dung to go to the Discussion board where doubts on Climate Senstivity theory were ALREADY being discussed.

Mar 16, 2016 at 6:37 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

John Smith-Smith

Are you in the UK? My take from your choice of words in describing your experiences in Court is that you aren't.

The UK system for Expert Witnesses is somewhat different from those in the Republic of Ireland and (as far as I understand it) the USA, in that the Expert's primary duty is to the Court rather than being an advocate for their client. As such, in this situation it would be beholden on Dr Squier to tell the Court that her opinion was not held by the majority of specialists in the field.

An Expert Witness will face questioning from opposing Counsel, but the scope for this is usually quite limited (certainly in Civil cases, where Experts for the two sides have to meet prior to attending Court and produce an agreed document that shows those areas where the Experts agree and those where they disagree including an outline reason for why they do - this agreed note is used to narrow the areas that are open for discussion in open court), and it is unusual for a barrister to attack the credibility of an Expert Witness unless the 'Expert' is either clearly incompetent or operating so far beyond the scope of his expertise as to not be credible.

Of course it should be remembered that criminal law solicitors and barristers are not specialists, and so likely only have a fairly superficial understanding of the technical evidence being presented by an Expert, and so might not pick up some of the nuances.

Mar 16, 2016 at 7:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan Blanchard

Salopian -

A potential source of experimental data could be using crash-test dummies - these are used in neonatal and infant sizes and contain the same accelerometers and other electronic kit as their adult counterparts.
Mar 15, 2016 at 8:16 PM | Registered Commenter Salopian

This work has already been done - in the US about 10 or 12 years ago. It was mentioned in a British documentary on SBS, I think it was Panorama but it may have been on Channel 4. Anyway, iirc a US parent had been accused of SBS, because the doctors and medical experts stated that there was "no possible way the brain injury could have come from a fall". His defence was that his child must have sustained the injuriies from a fall from a couch a few weeks earlier. When they analysed the data from the latest hi-tec crash test dummies (think it was in Detroit) they found that a baby falling off a couch onto a wood floor could easily sustain a force of more than 20g. The accused was acquitted. The programme also featured interviews with British pathologist, who argued that one of the classic triad symptoms of SBS (blackening of the tissues behind the eyes iirc), was a natural consequence of death (and therefore not unique to SBS cases), and should not be used as an indicator of SBS. I am sure that there are people who abuse and harm and shake their babies, but I am equally sure that there have been a good number of people who have been wrongly accused and prosecuted of SBS in England and Scotland in recent years. My advice to young couples / baby sitters was not to be alone with their babies at any time (or be very very careful), if the child has a fall and sustains what may be at the time what looks like an innocuous injury, they will be the ones who have to prove their innocence, which can be impossible to do when the doctors and medical experts will be quick to blame the parent and take the court fees. That the GMC are still going after good doctors who question the orthodox view is a disgrace, but not surprising given their track record e.g. the persecution of Lisa Blakemore Brown for daring to question the establishment view on Baron Munchausens and the safety of some vaccines. Google Angela Canning or "Who killed Sally Clark".

Mar 16, 2016 at 7:51 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

I knew there had been a few cases which established that these injuries can occur from a fall and people were released from prison because of that. It appears though that 'specialists' have just doubled down on their previous stubbornness - as related in the article.

Going back to the famous case of Louise Woodward when a defence 'expert' had informed the court that for a child of that age you'd have to be a gorilla to cause such an injury by shaking and there would necessarily be neck trauma which was missing, one of the doctors for the prosecution then changed his story and enacted a clearly invented scenario where after shaking the child the babysitter bumped the child's head against something. This prompted the defence lawyer Barry Scheck to angrily shout 'were you there?'. The fact that the child had suffered a fractured skull weeks before the incident after apparently falling backward onto a supermarket floor had even been initially hidden from the jury and (I believe) from the defence even after this had been established as a possible - even probable - cause of death. Louise was nevertheless convicted on the balance of probabilities - because she was there and nobody else was and because so many doctors refused to change their story even when the facts did.

However there are no real experts on SBS because the science is not sound enough so anyone presenting themselves as an expert is already misleading the jury. That is why the charges against Squier are so seriously stupid. I'd therefore be disappointed if any expert witness in the UK had to declare what the majority of specialists in the field believe as that would be manifestly unfair but then any 'balance of probabilities' decision has always been just guesswork and guesswork should not decide anything.

People likely split according to whether they think it is more serious to convict an innocent than let a guilty person go free. My own bitter experience is that too many professionals just don't keep up to date with the latest research, are often far too hubristic and extremely unwilling to admit any mistake. God help any of us if we are unlucky enough to be near a child that suddenly collapses for no apparent reason. I certainly wouldn't let my daughter be a babysitter. When you can't trust doctors not to just make stuff up then it's a sorry day.

Mar 16, 2016 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Mar 16, 2016 at 6:37 AM | Registered Commenter stewgreen

Shall we take it to the discussion board? ^.^

Mar 16, 2016 at 12:40 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Salopian, not arguing with you! Just very uneasy about the unchallenged standards of evidence, to prove that an unchallengeable autopsy conclusion is used to convict someone of murder.

It is good that attempts are made to explain 'unexplained' deaths, so they may be prevented from occurring again. Knowing that agencies in the UK dedicated to child protection are actually ruining the lives of some children and their parents due to misguided interpretation of 'evidence' into unchallengeable proof, does not inspire me with confidence, with the motivation for putting this lady on 'trial', and discrediting her.

Mar 16, 2016 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The analogy between Climate Science and Non-accidental Injury Science (and kindred phenomena) is very apt, and one which I have tried, unsuccessfully, to promote for years.
The key concepts in both are "attribution" and "experts". Over time, the experts build up an entire arcane culture in which only they are authorities on "attribution": that is to say, they claim to have built up validated models that can, on the balance of probabilities, show that observation A is caused by B.

I actually followed in person a "non-accidental injury" (NAI) baby case from indictment through to appeal as an disinterested party (for that particular case).
The verdict was guilty, but over-turned on appeal.
IMHO there were numerous flaws in the whole procedure, largely stemming from "expert witness" and "attribution" issues.
Here are the key points:
1. The baby of a few weeks showed no sign of distress (such as crying, unconsciousness, vomiting, feeding irregularity) at any time: the behaviour of the baby was entirely unremarkable.
2. The accused mother had taken the baby to her clinic nurse, thence to the doctor, after spotting some odd mark gradually developing on the head.
3. The nurse and doctor took the view that that there were natural causes (routine post-natal) skull-bone realignment, or the result of a difficult delivery (which indeed there had been: breach/forceps/emergency) but requested a precautionary X-ray.
4. Two hospital medical X-ray interpreters agreed that there was no reason to suspect NAI and in any case the "injury" was minute: less than one square centimetre of slight darkening (?) on the X-ray which "could" be a tiny bleed at the junction of two skull bones and lying just under the skull.
5. For obscure reasons, a single "renowned national expert in NAI/SBS/fracture" interpretation was sent the X-rays for yet another opinion. She asserted that in her expert opinion this was a classic NAI.
6. The police became involved, the baby removed from the mother and the mother was charged and sent for trial a couple of years later.
7. A defence "expert witness" was located who asserted that in his expert opinion this was not NAI and that the earlier "first line" interpretations were entirely reasonable, and that the other "expert" was mistaken. Much of the involved discussion (some of it in front of the jury) about this disagreement.
8. Nevertheless the mother was convicted by a jury, albeit on a relatively minor end of the spectrum of charges (assault without intent).
9. On appeal the conviction was quashed, not on the unreliability of the medical evidence, but on the lack of evidence that the alleged "hitting" had taken a place at a time when the mother had sole care of the baby.
I do not know if the baby was ever returned to the mother.

The startling thing for me was the extremely small number (single figures) of legally-recognized national "experts" in NAI, all of whom doubtless know each other and have a financial interest in being the "goto" for prosecutors.
During the credential establishment proceedings, the prosecution expert asserted that she had an excellent track record in that nearly all her "opinions" had led to convictions, yet appeared oblivious to the weakness, irrationality and circularity of that argument.
It is weak because saying "the juries have gone with my opinion" is not grounded in hard evidence; it is circular because if juries of lay persons do indeed tend to give great weight to expert witness opinion (not knowing any better) then it is a circular to use that tendency in order to bolster the credibility of the expert.
This all happened at a time when "NAI" on babies was the fashionable moral panic (and sceptics were pointing out that normal bone development sometimes mimicked the alleged "repeated fracture" patterns.
This came slightly after the eruption of similar panics on Satanic Ritual Abuse, and before the panic on Dissociated Identity Disturbance (aka DPD and MPD), CSA, MSbP and the craze for Anal Dilatometry, which led (in the UK at least) to numerous families being split up and parents imprisoned on the basis of "expert" opinion. All
these panics, like the Climate Change Scare, involve small communities of experts, usually highly-paid, agreeing on some hitherto unrecognized evil that is now objectively measurable and able to be modelled.

I do not know the extent to which emerging experts are subjected to pressure to confirm to the consensus in these medical issues: the Guardian article (comments disabled already) rings true by comparison with the pressure on climate scientists to stay "on message".

In summary: hear, hear! The creation of experts, communities, attribution and consensus is a seriously retrograde step in many contentious areas, from Climate Change through to Shaken Baby Syndrome and many others.

Mar 16, 2016 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterSuffolkBoy

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