Directions hearing held for Kathy’s case
A directions hearing was held this week in preparation for the inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions.
A Sydney courtroom was packed on Thursday for the first mention of the inquiry. Legal representatives appeared for Folbigg, NSW Police and NSW Health, while Kathleen’s supporters were also in attendance.
Former chief District Court judge Reginald Blanch QC – who is leading the inquiry – said proceedings were unlikely to begin until February or March next year and would examine new evidence from forensic pathologists.
Senior counsel assisting the inquiry Gail Furness told the hearing the convictions were based on circumstantial evidence and four new reports from medical experts suggest the deaths could be explained by unidentified natural causes.
“Three of the reports concern the cause of the deaths and one is addressed to the use of diary evidence. None of those authors gave evidence at the trial,” Furness said.
Monash University forensic pathologist Professor Stephen Cordner concluded in his report that “there is nothing from a forensic pathology viewpoint to suggest that any of the children had been killed”.
Furness said the report by Cordner indicated there were natural causes of death for two of the children, Patrick and Laura, and natural causes were a plausible explanation for the other two deaths, Caleb and Sarah.
A peer-reviewed report on Cordner’s work, which will also be examined, suggested the “jury was almost certainly misled by statement made by experts regarding the rarity of multiple cases of SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome]”.
Furness submitted that the inquiry should focus on any new research or medical evidence about sudden infant death, and expert medical opinion as to the causes of death of each child.
She said a report from a clinical psychologists that suggested Kathleen’s diary entries did not contain a clear admission of guilt did not generate enough doubt to warrant further examination.
Folbigg’s barrister Robert Cavanagh (pictured above leaving the court) said he did not disagree the focus should primarily be on medical evidence.
The court heard Legal Aid has funded a senior barrister to represent Kathleen, who is expected to be briefed by the end of the year, when the inquiry will return for another directions hearing. The first hearings could be as soon as late February 2019.
Outside court, barrister Isabel Reed, who has been one of the lawyers working on the review, said her client was “as well as could be expected”.
Documents and information about the inquiry, including sitting dates, will be listed on its website, folbigginquiry.justice.nsw.gov.au.