August 09, 2004

Mother is cleared of murdering her babies
By Nicola Woolcock

A MOTHER detained for killing her two babies on the basis of evidence from
the discredited paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow has been cleared of all charges.

Julie Ferris, 32, was convicted four years ago of smothering her children
and was held indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health
Act. She was released on bail last May, pending a retrial, which was due to
be held this November.

The Crown Prosecution Service has now decided to drop all charges against

She said yesterday: "My nightmare is now over, now I can start rebuilding
my life. I was detained under the Mental Health Act and spent four years in
bail hostels, secure units, hospitals and in prison.

"I was dragged around the country, miles away from my family. I was branded
a child-killer and beaten up by other inmates. At one stage, the
authorities even told me I would never be free unless I agreed to be
sterilised to stop me having more children. I refused because I knew I was

"I can't believe the battle is over, but there are still many questions
that need answering."

Ms Ferris, from Birmingham, was convicted of manslaughter after the deaths
of her babies, Hayley and Brandon. Hayley died at nine months in 1993 and
initially was thought to have been a cot-death victim. When Brandon died
five years later, aged eight months, Ms Ferris was arrested.

She was charged with two counts of murder, later reduced to manslaughter,
and her case went to Birmingham Crown Court in June 2000. The prosecution
claimed that she had a mental age of 6 and Ms Ferris, who has learning
difficulties, was prevented from entering a plea. A jury was told that Ms
Ferris had "severe mental limitations" and could not participate in her
trial in "any meaningful way".