The New South Wales Supreme Court has overturned the convictions of Kathleen Folbigg, who had been labelled “Australia’s worst mother” after being accused of killing her four children. The court cited unreliable evidence, marking a pivotal moment in a case that has spanned two decades.

Kathleen Folbigg, 56, spent 20 years behind bars before being pardoned and released by the state government. The court’s ruling follows an inquiry earlier this year, which cast reasonable doubt on her guilt. The inquiry pointed to scientific findings related to rare gene mutations that could have caused the deaths of her children.

The case dates back to the late 1980s and 1990s when Folbigg’s four children died suddenly. Prosecutors had alleged that she had smothered them based on circumstantial evidence extracted from her personal diaries. In 2003, she was sentenced to 40 years in prison, a term later reduced to 30 on appeal. Despite losing multiple legal challenges, Folbigg consistently maintained her innocence.

Chief Justice Andrew Bell stated that a “substantial and extensive body” of evidence had led to Folbigg’s exemption. The court declared that the evidence used to convict her was not reliable and questioned about the legal system’s handling of the case for decades.

Folbigg criticised the legal system for ignoring proof of her innocence for years. Her legal team now intends to seek compensation on her behalf for the decades she spent wrongfully imprisoned.

The case has drawn global attention, with criticism directed at Australia’s legal system for its perceived slow response to advanced science. The inquiry’s findings regarding rare gene mutations causing the children’s deaths sparked discussions about the need for updated forensic practices in criminal investigations.

Folbigg expressed gratitude for the advancements in science and genetics that provided answers in her case. Once stigmatised as Australia’s worst mother, Folbigg hoped that others would not have to endure the ordeal she faced and urged continued efforts to improve the criminal justice system.