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Sat. May 18th, 2024

The Australian Academy of Science today welcomed a report by former New South Wales Chief Justice Tom Bathurst AC KC that found Kathleen Folbigg’s conviction for the murder of her four children beyond doubt.

The College is pleased that the Commissioner has taken the case to the Court of Criminal Appeal to quash her conviction.

Professor Chennupati Jagadish, Dean of the College, said that Commissioner Bathurst and the lawyers assisting in the investigation, Ms. Callan SC, Ms. Roy and Ms. Wootton, must be commended for employing such a comprehensive mechanism of scientific consideration throughout the investigation.

Professor Jagadish said: “Decisions need to be scientifically based wherever they are made, including in the justice system, and the second Forbig inquiry benefited from the appointment of the Academy as an independent scientific advisor.

Australian Academy of Science welcomes report confirming Catherine Folbig’s conviction beyond reasonable doubt

The Academy is calling for a more science-sensitive legal system across Australian jurisdictions to avoid duplication of justice.

CEO Anna Maria Arab said Ms. Forbig’s case demonstrated that decision-making in the justice system needed to be regularly based on sound evidence, particularly when it came to understanding complex and emerging science.

We look forward to working with attorneys general across Australia on law reform to create a more science-sensitive legal system,” Ms. Arab said.

The College said Ms. Folbig’s case demonstrated the need for law reform in three areas:

Adoption of a reliability standard to determine the admissibility of evidence
Mechanisms for selecting experts through independent and reliable sources, especially where complex scientific material is needed to inform decision-making
Establishment of post-appeal review mechanisms, such as the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC)
The Academy is grateful to the many scientific experts from around the world who provided written and oral evidence during the investigation.
Media notes:

This video explains how science played a central role in overturning Australia’s greatest miscarriage of justice and can be used in news stories or embedded in online news stories.


The Australian Academy of Science acted as an independent scientific advisor to the second inquiry into the conviction of Catherine Folbig, believed to be the first time in the world that an academic institution has played such a role in a judicial inquiry.

As independent scientific adviser to that inquiry, the Academy was able to systematically communicate complex and emerging scientific evidence to a lay audience. This included assisting in the selection of experts so that experts from the most relevant scientific disciplines could inform the inquiry and identifying issues that the experts were qualified to address.

The ASA’s role in the inquiry provides a unique example for examining the methods available to the Australian justice system for considering, assessing and managing scientific evidence and expert witnesses.

Anna-Maria UAE will be presenting at the Australian National University on November 17th at an event entitled Rethinking Science Communication in the Courtroom), an event at the Australian National University (ANU) on November 17th to speak on this topic.

The Australian Academy of Science provides independent, authoritative and influential scientific advice, promotes international scientific engagement, increases public awareness and understanding of science, and advocates for, recognizes and supports excellence in Australian science.

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