Folbigg 2019 inquiry: guilty finding upheld

The Australian Academy of Science late yesterday released a statement about the NSW Court of Appeal’s decision to dismiss Kathleen Folbigg’s appeal to overturn the findings of a 2019 inquiry into her conviction.

In the wake of a pardon petition presented earlier this month to the NSW Governor – which 22 of the Academy’s fellows signed – the statement reiterated that there are medical and scientific explanations for the death of each of Folbigg’s children.

Folbigg’s legal team 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 scientific evidence that’s come to light since the inquiry.

When the petition was made public on 4 March, Cosmos provided an expert overview of the science behind the petition, drilled down to the detail of the peer-reviewed paper that prompted the petition, provided an explainer for the genetic science underlying the study, and sought comment from legal experts into how the law regards and treats scientific evidence.

“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,” says ANU Professor of Immunology Carola Vinuesa, who signed the petition and gave evidence at the inquiry.

Vinuesa has been one the principal analysts of the genomes of Folbigg and her four children. She co-authored the paper released last November in Europace that reviewed the rare genetic mutations the children carried.

“In all four Folbigg children, there is credible medical and pathological evidence, including new peer-reviewed genetic findings, by an international team of 27 scientists published in a top international cardiology journal…that points towards natural causes of death,” she says.

“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.”

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

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

“We want to work more closely with the legal community to ensure evidence placed before courts is presented in the most accurate way possible, using the most appropriate experts and the most up-to-date science,” says Professor John Shine, Australian Academy of Science President and another petition signatory.

Folbigg’s legal team – solicitor Rhanee Rego and barrister Dr Robert Cavanagh – released a separate statement, in which they said: “The decision today should not impact on the petition for pardon of Ms Folbigg, which is currently under consideration by the Governor.

“The petition deals with matters not considered by the NSW Court of Appeal.

“The decision of the Court of Appeal does not end the legal avenues available to Ms Folbigg.”

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