Remaining fraud charges withdrawn for Parkinson’s researcher

Caroline Barwood
Caroline Barwood

Two remaining charges against a Parkinson’s researcher recently convicted of fraud have been dropped by an Australian court.

In October, Caroline Barwood, formerly at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, was found guilty of five out of seven charges. Subsequently, Barwood was handed two suspended sentences: one for two years, and another for 15 months, both to be served concurrently. She will not serve jail time.

Initially, Barwood pleaded not guilty to the three charges of fraud and four instances of attempted fraud — unlike her former UQ colleague Bruce Murdoch, who pleaded guilty to 17 fraud-related charges in March, and also earned himself a two-year suspended sentence

Barwood was found guilty of five charges against her, but the jury could not reach a majority verdict on one count of fraud and another of attempted fraud. She was asked to re-attend court for a “mention.” 

On December 6, those charges were withdrawn. Barwood told us:

the Crown entered a Nollie Prosequi in respect to these two counts and accordingly I was discharged.

Barwood added:

The jury was unable to reach a verdict. Discharged means these counts have been dropped. No further action.

Barwood’s attorney, Gregory McGuire, confirmed that the

…other two charges were withdrawn…

According to Barwood, both charges “related to grant applications.”

Barwood — granted bail in 2014 — was found guilty of trying to obtain up to $700,000 (AUD) for a study about Parkinson’s disease that never happened, according to 9News.

When we reported on the court’s verdict in October, McGuire gave us more background on Barwood’s convictions: One involved obtaining a scholarship from the Lions Medical Research Foundation — to which the UQ had returned part of a $300,000 grant, The Australian reported. The other fraud count, said McGuire, was a result of adding her name two scientific studies without contributing to them.

Two charges of attempted fraud for Barwood involved trying to obtain funding via early career fellowships. 9News reported that Barwood sought just under $300,000 from the National Health and Medical Research Council, but both times, her applications were unsuccessful. 

Barwood has three retractions and a “reader alert” to her name; Murdoch has also notched a fourth retraction for a paper that doesn’t list Barwood as an author.

This case caused some collateral damage: One of Barwood and Murdoch’s former grad students — who goes by the name of Dominique — has appealed to UQ to return thousands of dollars in tuition fees after the lab was shut down. This is one of many instances when fraud scandals involving senior faculty have far-reaching implications for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, as our co-founders noted in a recent article for STAT.

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