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Shake baby expert witness found guilty of misleading courts

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A Consultant Pathologist, who has been an expert defence witness for parents accused of killing their children, has been found guilty of multiple charges that include giving misleading evidence in court.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) said that Waney Squier, a Consultant Pathologist based in Oxford, had failed to work within the limits of her competence, failed to be objective and unbiased, and failed to heed the views of other experts. In many of the cases investigated, her actions were deliberately misleading and irresponsible.

The MPTS had considered Squier’s work as an expert witness in six child abuse cases and one appeal in which parents faced charges of non-accidental head injury, formerly known as shaken-baby syndrome.

Michele Codd, chair of the tribunal, gave examples of where the panel felt Squier’s court evidence had strayed outside her field of expertise. These included offering opinions on biomechanics in relation to injuries from falling, pathology of the eyes, and paediatric medicine.

“The tribunal is in no doubt that you have been a person of good character and have not acted dishonestly in the past,” Codd told Squier. “[But] it found that in your written and oral evidence you were dogmatic, inflexible and unreceptive to any other view,” she said. “The furthest you were prepared to accept any criticism was to state either that you had made a typing error or that you could have been clearer in what you had said in your reports or evidence. The tribunal was not able to accept large tracts of your evidence.”

Dr Squier is prominent among researchers worldwide who have challenged a long-standing belief that a trio of symptoms of head injury provide unequivocal evidence of abusive behaviour. Squier has argued in the scientific literature and in court that the symptoms in question – haemorrhages on the surface of the brain, haemorrhages in the retinas, and a swollen brain – can have innocent causes, such as choking or other difficulties in breathing. These symptoms, they say, can also arise from the birthing process itself.

The UK General Medical Council, which brought the charges against Squier, will make a final decision by 24 March on whether she should lose her licence to practice.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074ch8r