11 June 2007

Sally Clark: a reminder

Sally Clark, the mother who was wrongly jailed for killing her two sons, has died. Her family said in a statement she was found dead at her home Friday morning. The cause of the 42-year-old's death has not been revealed. But relatives said she never recovered from the appalling miscarriage of justice she suffered.

Mrs Clark, was a solicitor from Wilmslow, Cheshire, when she was convicted of smothering 12-week-old Christopher in 1996 and eight-week-old Harry a year later, on the evidence of paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow. He told a court the odds against two cot deaths in the same family were 73million to one. ...

Her three years and three months in jail - she was given two life sentences at Chester Crown Court in October 1999 - saw her reviled and abused as the worst kind of criminal, although many inmates became convinced of her innocence. Her husband Stephen never accepted her guilt and fought tirelessly to clear her. At one point the couple's third son, now eight, was taken into care.

Mrs Clark died in the home at Hatfield Peverel, near Chelmsford, Essex,which her husband bought while she was in a local jail. Her family said they did not know what caused her death but added: 'She never fully recovered from the effects of this appalling miscarriage of justice. 'Sally, a qualified solicitor, was a loving and talented wife, mother, daughter and friend. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.' Family friend Penny Mellor said: 'It is the most appalling tragedy heaped on other tragedies.’ (Daily Mail, 17 March 2007)

Clearly Sally Clark had an above-average IQ and would have been perceived as privileged, successful and middle-class, which made her a suitable target for hostility.

The principle of ‘innocent until proved guilty’ has been abandoned in modern society. Now you are likely to be considered guilty until proved innocent, or until judged to be innocent by a jury which will consider you thus only if there is what they believe to be convincing evidence for some alternative explanation of the ‘crime’. What is regarded as 'convincing' includes the opinions of doctors, that is, people appointed by society to have the power to make decisions on behalf of other people about things which concern them. Sally Clark was eventually acquitted, so it is possible to say she was innocent, but how many more are convicted and imprisoned on equally unsatisfactory grounds?

A civilised society might be defined as one in which the individual has a clearly defined territory within which he is free to evaluate his priorities for himself, and be free from interference so long as he does not break clearly defined laws of interaction with other individuals and their territories. We are not living in a civilised society. It is now possible for people living in perfectly respectable ways to find that they have quite inadvertently, as a result of some accident, come under suspicion of criminal acts and may be convicted.