[back] MMR legal funding

From Private Eye No 1196 26 October-8 November 2007

MMR LEGAL AID: Mr Justice Davis has been cleared of any wrongdoing for not disclosing that his brother was a director of Glaxo SmithKline when he sanctioned the withdrawal of legal aid from families who claim their children were damaged by the drug company's MMR vaccine.

The Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) has advised more than 100 parents who complained of the conflict of interest that the high court judge states categorically that he was not aware at the time that his brother, Sir Crispin davis, was a non-executive director of GSK, one of three defendant drug companies in the MMR controversy.

But when the Eye and others asked his office about a potential conflict five months ago, a statement was issued on his behalf which said: "In 2003, Mr Justice Davis's brother was appointed as a non-executive director of GSK. At the date of the hearing before Mr Justice (February 2004), the possibility of any conflict of interest arising from his brother's position was not raised with him and did not occur to him. If he was wrong, any possible remedy must be sought in the court of appeal."

This is not quite the same as saying he knew nothing about it. The parents are now asking Sir John Brigstocke, the judicial ombudsman, to investigate this apparent inconsistency. They are also asking whether the OJC were right to dismiss a second complaint of a possible conflict. Sir Crispin is also Chief Executive of Reed Elsevier, publishers of the Lancet. Although the magazine published the original controversial research by Dr Andrew Wakefield and others at the royal Free Hospital, its editor Richard Horton had been widely quoted just before the legal aid hearing saying the study was flawed because of an alleged conflict of interest.