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Goudge Inquiry focus of sociology prof's lecture at forensic sciences centre

An invitation to speak to some of the top forensic scientists in the country will provide a UWindsor sociology professor with the chance to impress upon them that there’s a serious disconnect between the goals of social workers and the recommendations of a pediatric forensic pathology inquiry into the wrongful convictions of several Canadians accused of killing children.

Associate professor Gerald Cradock will speak this Friday at the Centre for Forensic Science and Medicine in Toronto and will discuss his scholarly work on the Goudge Inquiry, a commission that wrapped up in 2008 after investigating the way 19 criminally suspicious deaths involving children were handled by Ontario authorities.

Dr. Cradock said he was pleased to receive the invitation to speak there, especially given that his field of expertise isn’t forensic science.

“I’m impressed that the centre is doing what it’s doing, that is, seeking an interdisciplinary perspective on the complexity and uncertainty inherent to the knowledge within forensic science and medicine,” he said.

The Goudge Inquiry, named after Justice Stephen Goudge who oversaw the proceedings, was called to examine the state of forensic pathology in Ontario but focused mainly on the flawed work of Charles Smith, a pathologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto whose expert testimony led to the wrongful convictions of a number of people accused of harming children.

Cradock said that a major theme of the inquiry's recommendations was for pathologists to be cautious in providing a cause of death related to child abuse where evidence is potentially ambiguous because of the possibility for wrongful criminal convictions in what may be accidental deaths. That thinking, however, contradicts the aims of social workers in child protection agencies who are trained to err on the side of caution and quickly remove children from potentially harmful situations, he said.

Cradock will present his lecture Goudge, Knowledge, and the Pursuit of (Un)Certainty: Inquiring into Inquiries at the centre on October 28 at 1:30 p.m. The lecture will be webcast live.

Cradock will also appear at 4:30 p.m. today on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that focuses on University of Windsor researchers, on CJAM 99.1 FM.