Date of conviction: Nov 1999
Date of appeal: First Appeal 2000 – Second Appeal Jan.2003
Date of release: Jan 2003
Time Served: 4 years
Sally Clark became the victim of an infamous miscarriage of justice when she was wrongly convicted of the murder of two of her sons in 1999. Even after the conviction was overturned, she never recovered from the experience, developed a number of serious psychiatric problems including serious alcohol dependency and died in 2007 from alcohol poisoning.
Clark’s first son died suddenly within a few weeks of his birth in 1996. After her second son died in a similar manner, she was arrested in 1998 and tried for the murder of both sons. Her prosecution was controversial due to statistical evidence presented by pediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who testified that the chance of two children from an affluent family suffering sudden infant death syndrome was 1 in 73 million, which was arrived at by squaring 1 in 8500 for likelihood of a cot death in similar circumstance. The Royal Statistical Society later issued a public statement expressing its concern at the “misuse of statistics in the courts” and arguing that there was “no statistical basis” for Meadow’s claim.
Clark was convicted in November 1999. The convictions were upheld at appeal in October 2000 but overturned in a second appeal in January 2003, after it emerged that the prosecutor’s pathologist had failed to disclose microbiological reports that suggested one of her sons had died of natural causes. She was released from prison having served more than three years of her sentence. The journalist Geoffrey Wansell called Clark’s experience “one of the great miscarriages of justice in modern British legal history”. As a result of her case, the Attorney-General ordered a review of hundreds of other cases, and two other women convicted of murdering their children had their convictions overturned. Clark died of acute alcohol poisoning in her home in March 2007.