It is never possible for me to bypass a reference in print to C. Frank Lockyer, a retired police superintendent who is now 77 years old and, by coincidence, the same age as my own father. On 9 January, Mr Lockyer’s name appeared in a piece in The Times, written by the distinguished journalist Camilla Cavendish. Last year, Ms Cavendish’s investigations into injustices in the Family Courts won her the prestigious Paul Foot award for campaigning journalism. I enjoy reading her work.
Her 9 January column dwelt upon the role of expert witnesses in the Family Courts. It made reference to Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who had complained to the Press Complaints Commission about an earlier piece written by Ms Cavendish. He had objected to her comments upon the evidence given by him in the murder trial of Mr Lockyer’s daughter, Sally Clark. I am pleased to say that Professor Meadow’s complaint was not upheld.
In the article in question, Camilla Cavendish had written that evidence supplied by Professor Sir Roy Meadow had “led to the jailing of innocent people”. Many people, including myself, believe that his evidence did play a major role in Sally being wrongly convicted of the murders of her two babies. The incorrect statistical evidence he gave to the court certainly persuaded me to involve myself in the case, even though I am not a criminal lawyer and knew none of the people involved.
I intervened voluntarily, persuading Macclesfield Hospital to release previously undisclosed medical evidence, which showed that one of Sally’s babies had had a form of meningitis. Her convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2003, but not until she had served three years of hell in prison, during which she had also been deprived of her surviving son and he of her.
After learning about the Press Complaints Commission’s recent decision, Frank Lockyer wrote to Camilla Cavendish about his own experiences of Professor Sir Roy Meadow. Mr Lockyer told Ms Cavendish that Professor Meadow has always refused to apologise for his role in the prosecution of his daughter’s case, or even admit that he could have been mistaken.
Despite the dismissal of his complaint, Ms Cavendish nevertheless admitted that she had reflected long and hard on what she had written, stating that Professor Meadow’s complaint “is not an episode I am proud of”. It was a humble and appropriate comment from a woman who has such a high reputation.
By contrast, Camilla Cavendish states:
Mr Lockyer writes that he would never have complained to the General Medical Council about Professor Meadow if he had apologised or admitted that he might have been mistaken…Mr Lockyer wanted accountability, not revenge. He is concerned about what he considers to be the reluctance of so many members of the Royal College of Paediatrics to admit that evidence might sometimes be wrong.
In 2007, having failed to recover from her ordeal, Sally died. Her surviving son will grow up without his mother.
For any parent, knowing how his child has suffered and died years before her time, how can that be borne? If Frank Lockyer is the father that I believe him to be, he will be living some part of every day in sorrow.
Yet incredibly and bravely, he soldiers on. He recently e-mailed me after reading about the case of Joanne Hill, highlighted in one of my recent posts.
I believe that Mr Lockyer’s work in relation to miscarriages of justice, including that of his own daughter, deserves public recognition and an award by the Queen.
In the meantime, if it is of any comfort at all, I would like to quote Gandhi, who numbers amongst the greatest but most humble of men and who once said:
It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.