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Folbigg poised for review of child-killing convictions

Kathleen Folbigg's name could be cleared and her convictions overturned after an inquiry found there was reasonable doubt of her guilt and referred her case to a state's top appeals court.

Folbigg received an unconditional pardon in June and was released from jail after a NSW inquiry heard new scientific evidence indicating she might not be responsible for her children's deaths.

Her case and pardon have sparked calls for an overhaul of justice systems nationwide to better keep pace with technology.

In his final report released on Wednesday, inquiry commissioner Tom Bathurst found there was an "identifiable cause" for three of the deaths and Folbigg's relationship with her children did not support the case that she killed them.

Kathleen Folbigg
Kathleen Folbigg wants her convictions for killing her four children overturned.

The former NSW chief justice added the mother's diary entries - controversially used during her trial to help secure her conviction - did not contain reliable admissions of guilt.

The 56-year-old's lawyer welcomed the findings as "another significant positive milestone in Kathleen's 24-year journey to clear her name".

Folbigg was convicted in 2003 and ordered to serve a minimum 25-year sentence for the suffocation murders of three of her children and manslaughter of a fourth.

The children, Caleb, Patrick, Sarah and Laura, died between 1989 and 1999 at ages ranging from 19 days to 18 months.

But Mr Bathurst found Patrick's death was likely caused by a neurogenetic disorder rather than suffocation, while there were plausible explanations for the deaths of Sarah and Laura.

"Although no identifiable cause of Caleb's death was identified (the other evidence means) that in his case the reasonable possibility that he died of unknown natural causes has not been excluded," he said.

Folbigg was released after the inquiry heard there was credible evidence her children could have died from natural causes and the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted there was reasonable doubt about her guilt.

NSW Attorney-General Michael Daley in June said he accepted that preliminary finding and had recommended Governor Margaret Beazley grant an unconditional pardon.

Mr Bathurst said he had agreed to a request from Folbigg to refer her case and his report to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to consider quashing her convictions.

Her lawyer Rhanee Rego welcomed the referral and the inquiry's conclusions.

"Today, and every day, Kathleen's thoughts are with her children," she said.

Ms Rego noted Mr Bathurst described Folbigg as a "loving and caring mother", a finding she said "reinforces a personal truth that Kathleen has held in her heart for more than two decades".

Tom Bathurst
Tom Bathurst found there was an "identifiable cause" for three of the deaths of the children.

Australian Academy of Science chief executive Anna-Maria Arabia said reforms were needed to ensure the legal system could keep up with scientific advances.

"Knowledge will always be iterative and it should be the case," she said.

"That is why we need a far more sensitive and far better interaction and engagement between the science system and the justice system."

The academy called for three areas of law reform to ensure the use of experts in a legal inquiry was not a "one off" for Folbigg's case.

These included a legal mechanism in Australia to enable emerging evidence to inform cases after all other appeals had been exhausted.

Folbigg's legal team has previously flagged potentially seeking compensation from the state.

A spokeswoman for Mr Daley said it would be inappropriate for the attorney-general to comment further on the case because it had been referred for appeal.

The government can opt to make an ex-gratia payment to Folbigg on the basis that she has suffered at the hands of the state, but that will only be considered once she has exhausted all legal options.