Dr. Charles Smith's victims to be compensated
Pathologist's 'flawed work' deeply affected lives in Ontario: Bentley
Ontario will offer payments of up to $250,000 for each person whose life was directly affected by Dr. Charles Smith's flawed pediatric forensic pathology.
The decision announced Tuesday comes almost two years after the Goudge inquiry's report on 45 criminally suspicious children's deaths in which Smith had done, or consulted on, the autopsies.
Smith worked at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, but functioned under the Chief Coroner's Office from 1991 to 2001.
Commissioner Stephen Goudge's report found that in 20 instances in those 10 years, Smith made mistakes leading to dubious conclusions of criminal wrongdoing. Thirteen of those cases resulted in criminal convictions.
"The flawed work of Dr. Charles Smith has deeply affected the lives of many people in Ontario," Attorney General Chris Bentley said Tuesday. "Today we are moving forward with payments to recognize the impact of that experience."
"It is the right thing to do," he said.
Individuals who were wrongly accused themselves will be entitled to a maximum of $250,000 each as a "recognition payment." A child of someone wrongfully accused who was removed from the family home as a result is entitled to up to $25,000.
A family member directly affected by a relative's involvement in the criminal justice system is entitled to up to $12,500. Legal costs incurred by the wrongly accused may also be reimbursed.
Retired Ontario Superior Court Judge Chester Misener will examine all applicants to determine eligibility.
At a press conference announcing the program, Bentley said the province estimates that the process, from initial application to payment, will be completed within 90 days.
"We have made efforts to contact all those who are eligible," Bentley said.
He also stressed that participation in the program would not preclude any beneficiaries from pursuing additional funds in subsequent legal actions.
"It does not affect or limit any individual procedures in our civil courts," he said. "Their right to pursue that process is not affected or touched by this process."
William Mullins-Johnson, who spent 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of his four-year-old niece, launched a $13-million lawsuit against six doctors, including Smith. His conviction was quashed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2007.
After living with the term baby killer for 13 years, Sherry Sherret-Robinson was exonerated in December, as the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted her of infanticide and pronounced her wrongfully convicted.
She was convicted in 1999 of her four-month-old son's death three years earlier, due in large part to Smith's evidence that her son was asphyxiated and the death was suspicious.
He found evidence of a skull fracture where other experts found none, and neck hemorrhages Smith referred to were in fact caused by Smith himself during the autopsy, experts said in submissions to the court.
With files from The Canadian Press