# Case 5.2 R Vs. Sally Clark

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Case 5.2 R Vs. Sally Clark
.2 R v Sally Clark (1999)
5.2.a Danger of multiplying probabilities together
One of the laws of probabilities states that when the events are independent of each other their probabilities can be multiplied together. This is called the product rule. In the trial, Roy Meadow was asked to present some statistical information as to the happening of two cot deaths within the same family. It was explained to the jury that there were factors that were suggested as relevant to the chances of a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) death within a given family; namely the age of the mother, whether there was a smoker in the household and the absence of a wage earner in the family. None of these factors were relevant to Clark’s family so he stated that the chances of a baby dying from SIDS are 1 in 8543. He also then stated that the risk of two infants dying of SIDS in the same family is approximately 1 in 73 million. This figure was calculated by multiplying the two probabilities as shown below-
(1/ 8543) * (1/8543) = (1/ 73 million) approx.
He further added that there are about 700,000 live births in a year (in England and Wales), so the deaths can occur like this “by chance” once every hundred years. Professor Meadow backed up his evidence by giving the following example-
“… It’s the chance of backing that long odds outsider at the Grand
It is clear that the second statement does not follow from the first and it does not tell anything about the children or their parents other than there were no smokers in the household, there was one waged income, and the mother was 27 or over - all being factors which put the Clarks in the lowest of all risk categories. (Criminal Division,

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