Issues of Social Justice in 2021: When is it Reasonable Doubt? – The Case of Kathleen Folbigg

Kathleen Folbigg has been touted as ‘Australia’s worst female serial killer’. However, even after she was found guilty in 2003 of the murder of three of her children and the manslaughter of a fourth, some people questioned the reliability of her conviction, which was based largely on diary entries Folbigg made following the children’s deaths and the circumstance of four children dying from one family. Fast-forward to 2019 and new medical evidence emerged, which suggested that two of the children may have died of natural causes as a result of genetic abnormalities. This research was published in 2020, which led to 90 eminent Australian scientists and medical professionals petitioning the NSW Attorney General to pardon Folbigg. An unprecedented move. At the time of writing, we await the AG’s response: Whichever way the AG finds, the outcome will rock the legal world in Australia.

This case highlights issues bigger than Folbigg’s situation alone. It raises questions over the notion of ‘reasonable doubt’ in a legal context, as well as issues of procedural fairness, transparency in decision making, and the impacts of social pressure in high profile cases.

This session will bring together experts from both sides of the divide, legal – criminological, social – to discuss in a Q&A format the criminal justice system’s role in cases such as this, and to whom that system should be accountable.”

Join us online for an evening with expert panelists to discuss issues surrounding reasonable doubt with particular focus on the case of Kathleen Folbigg.

Isabella Crebert (The host of the UON Crim Podcast) is prepared to interview and question experts on the case of Kathleen Folbigg, in order to provide a conversational space for topical discussion. The panel member consist of:

Tracy Chapman: Chapman is Folbigg’s childhood best friend who has always supported Folbigg and upheld her innocence. Chapman speaks to Folbigg every day and visits her frequently. She championed Folbigg’s voice in fighting for a judicial inquest into her case.

Michael Nott: As a lawyer, Nott specialises in child protection and domestic violence, with a focus on medical and scientific evidence. He is renowned for defending alleged perpetrators of shaken baby cases, Munchausen Syndrome, factitious disorder, and cot deaths. In 2014, Nott composed an article about Folbigg’s infamous diary entries, where he provides his medical expertise on how the prosecution used the hypotheses of Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy and ‘the rule of three’ in relation to cot deaths during Folbigg’s trial.

Dr Xanthé Mallett: Forensic Anthropologist, Criminology, three time author, true crime television presenter, and associate lecturer in Criminology at the University of Newcastle. Mallett’s first book ‘Mothers Who Murder’ (2014) explores the lack of forensic evidence in Folbigg’s case. Mallett not only campaigns for Folbigg’s innocence, but for the grave miscarriage of justice that she believes has occurred.

The case of Kathleen Folbigg remains at the forefront of crime media as the fight for to prove her innocence continites. The University of Newcastle’s Criminology & Crimoinal Justice Society is pleased to present this online event for the official Social Sciences week (6 September – 12 September 2021).

Event Details
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