Leading scientists give their verdict on appeal decision

The Australian Academy of Science has issued a strongly worded statement regarding the NSW Court of Appeal decision that it found there was no legal error in the inquiry into Kathleen Folbigg’s conviction, which was led by former judge the Hon R O Blanch AM QC in 2019.

The Academy said on March 24: “There are medical and scientific explanations for the death of each of Kathleen Folbigg’s children.

“Today the NSW Court of Appeal has dismissed Kathleen Folbigg’s appeal, which requested that the findings of the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry be overturned. The appeal reviewed the legal processes undertaken by the Inquiry but did not consider an assessment of the scientific evidence available since the Inquiry.

“The incorrect conclusions about the genetics evidence found by the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry, were adopted by the NSW Court of Appeal in their conclusion today. The Europace peer reviewed scientific paper , which validates the findings of the mutation in Sarah and Laura Folbigg, displaces the findings and non-scientific reasoning at the Inquiry,” said Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA FAHMS.

“These points were made clear in the petition recently submitted to the NSW Governor and which is currently being considered by the NSW Attorney-General as a separate matter to today’s Inquiry. 

“The petition argues that Ms Folbigg should be granted a pardon based on the significant scientific evidence of natural causes of death for her children.

“This includes new peer-reviewed genetic findings by an international team of 27 scientists published in a top international cardiology journal last year.”

Australian Academy of Science President Professor John Shine AC PresAA FAHMS(Hon) FRS was among 22 Fellows of the Academy and 90 scientists to sign the petition.  

“It is deeply concerning that there is not a mechanism to appropriately weigh up all medical and scientific evidence in a case of this nature,”  Professor Shine said. “There is now an alternative explanation for the death of the Folbigg children that does not rely on circumstantial evidence.”

Human geneticist and researcher Professor Jozef Gecz FAA FAHMS added: “The science in this particular case is compelling and cannot be ignored. Despite the new knowledge gained from sequencing the human genome almost 20 years ago, we still have some way to go when it comes to both understanding the complexities of genetic disorders and educating the community about these issues.” – 

Former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb AC FAA FTSE added: “Expert advice should always be heard and listened to. It will always trump presumption.”

ANU Professor Carola Vinuesa FAA FAHMS, who was an unpaid expert witness in hearings that took place during the 2019 inquiry into the convictions of Kathleen, issued a separate statement saying:“Today, the incorrect conclusions about the genetics evidence found by the Commissioner of the 2019 inquiry were adopted by the NSW Court of Appeal in their conclusion. The evidence set out in The Europace paper, which validates the findings of the mutation in Sarah and Laura Folbigg and were published after the 2019 inquiry displaces the findings and non-scientific reasoning at the Inquiry.

“As pointed out in our report to the 2019 Inquiry (which was endorsed by international calmodulin and cardiac genetics experts), the International Calmodulin Registry and peer-reviewed literature document that the Folbigg girls’ deaths were not outliers with regards to already known CALM-related sudden unexpected deaths. It is unfortunate that incorrect statements regarding these facts have once again been given such weight.”

Pictured main (from left): Academy President Professor John Shine, Professors Carola Vinuesa, Fiona Stanley and Jozef Gecz and Former Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubbwho have all signed the petition.

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