Thursday, 2 June 2011

Spilsbury - Myth or Legend?

Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the famous pathologist has been the subject of a few books, in the main, complementing the man`s reputation, though one did not.  The pro-Spilsbury crowd, include one written about 1951, which just stops short of declaring Spilsbury to be a god, the man whom is still the final word on pathology.  It seems great to say that defence lawyers withered when questioning him in court, but it would seem that they simply would not dare state that this "God" was in any way mistaken.  I also believe that judges would not have allowed that to happen.  He was an out-and-out self-promoter, and was so arrogant as to dismiss anything that did not agree with his diagnosis.  He was right, and right all the time.  Other well-known pathologists such as Smith, Bronte, Grace, Gardner, etc, were obviously not as brilliant as he!

    Barrister Andrew Rose wrote an alternative view on Spilsbury entitled "Lethal Witness", highlighting a number of cases in which Spilsbury`s opinions went unchallenged, simply because he said so.  One man, hanged on Spilsbury`s evidence, stated that he was a victim of "Spilsburyism", because he was so revered.  Yet, it seems that Spilsbury relied more on his word and the manner he presented everything, than irrefutable medical proof.  This is so in line with the great advocate, Sir Edward Marshall Hall, who relied on flamboyance and theatrics rather than legal brains.  One of his most famous cases was that of Hawley Crippen.  Medical knowledge now, has proved that the skin sample he stated was an operational scar, was not, and the skin belonged to a man, not a woman.  I wonder if the Spilsbury fan club will put these in their books.  One positive development from this man, is that he put forensic work to the fore and is regarded as the father of CSI.