New Folbigg Inquiry Hearing for November

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A retired judge is due to start hearing evidence in November during the second inquest into Kathleen Folbigg’s convictions for murdering four of her children.

Former Chief Justice Tom Bathurst was appointed in May to lead the inquiry after the Governor of New South Wales received a petition from leading scientists asking him to be pardoned due to new scientific evidence.

Folbigg’s lawyers submitted evidence indicating that a genetic mutation may be responsible for the deaths of two of the children.

Mr Bathurst held a brief hearing on instructions on Friday when assistant solicitor Sophie Callan SC admitted to the “unusual position” of his outfit after an earlier investigation based on new scientific evidence claimed.

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Folbigg, 54, was jailed in 2003 after being found guilty of murdering her children Patrick, Laura and Sarah, and manslaughter of her son Caleb.

Former NSW District Court Chief Justice Reg Blanch led the first inquest and in 2019 concluded his guilt was “even more certain”.

Ms Callan said Mr Bathurst’s task was to form his own opinion on whether there was a reasonable doubt about Folbigg’s guilt.

He was to set aside Mr Blanch’s claims as well as his dismissed claims in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, High Court and NSW Court of Appeal.

“It is necessary that you come to your own opinion on all of the evidence,” she said.

She said 22 experts testified at Folbigg’s trial and another 19 testified or presented reports at the Blanch inquest, including an analysis of her diary entries.

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The second investigation would also look at new evidence, including a study linked to genetic mutations and diseases that may prevent children from breathing while they sleep.

The investigation would focus primarily on medical and scientific evidence, she said.

Mr Bathurst has allowed separate lawyers to appear at the inquest on behalf of Folbigg, her ex-husband and father of the children, the Department of Health, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commissioner of Police.

He was told the Australian Academy of Sciences had also expressed interest in participating in the survey.

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Four experts are expected to testify at the inquest, which is due to begin November 22 and last two weeks.

New South Wales Attorney General Mark Speakman had advised the governor to order the second inquest, saying the evidence in the petition met the threshold necessary for some sort of intervention.

Folbigg was initially sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment, with a 30-year un-released period, but an appeal later reduced her sentence to 30 years with a 25-year un-released period.

She is not eligible for parole until 2028.

Scientists calling for her early release say there is no medical evidence she suffocated the children she was convicted of killing.

– PAA

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