[Updated 9 Sept 2014] There has been a lot of media attention in respect of the case of Ashya King in the last few days. This post links to relevant information and sets out some basic legal facts (as far as they are known).
Ashya is a 5 year old boy who has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour, whose parents removed him from Southampton General Hospital against medical advice on Thurs 28 August 2014. On 20 August 2014 Ashya’s parents had made a request to a hospital in Prague to provide an alternative treatment to him, not available in the UK [source BBC].
On Fri 29 August 2014 Portsmouth City Council made an application to the Family Division of the High Court for Ashya to be made a ward of court. Some reports suggest that the Hospital applied to court but this is inaccurate, although it appears that the Hospital instigated action being taken by contacting the Local Authority. The court made a wardship order on that day and listed the matter for a hearing today (2 September 2014). You can read the order the court made here. At the time the press were unable to report the fact that Ashya was a ward of court (and may have been unaware of it) because it reporting of the fact that a child is a ward is a contempt of court (i.e. not allowed – the court can punish this by imprisonment).
The parents were found and arrested on Saturday 30 August.
Two [Edit 22.25 2/9/14 : Three] particular legal errors in some news reports are :
- [Edit 22.25 2/9/14 : that the parents removed the child “without medical consent”. They may have done so but they did not need medical consent to remove him.]
- that wardship gives the Local Authority (social services) the right to make decision by giving it parental responsibility. It doesn’t. It gives the court responsibility for major decisions about the child.
- that the court of protection deals with questions of medical treatment for children. It doesn’t. The court of protection only deals with adults.
Today the Judicial Office published the order from the hearing on 29 August and confirmation that the matter would be heard in open court at 2.30pm today (2 September). Mr Justice Baker heard the case with press attending and reporting – they were permitted to live tweet. He adjourned the matter until Monday next week so the parents can participate. At the time of the hearing the parents were still detained in Spain under the European Arrest Warrant. They have subsequently been released.
I’ve put together a storify of the hearing today, based on tweets from Sky reporter @ianwoodssky : Ashya King Hearing 2 Sept 2014. Obviously I can’t account for it’s accuracy but it gives a flavour of what went on today.
It is unusual for a hearing to be held in open court like this and for live tweeting to be permitted but it seems as if the case has been so widely publicised that no real purpose would be served by holding the hearing in public. Based on the tweets of the hearing it also appears as if the court may have thought that the parents would be able to access information about what was happening in their absence through the international media.
[edit 22.20pm 2/9/14 : CPS Statement on withdrawal of European Arrest Warrant is here.]
[Update 9/9/14 : On 3 Sept in an article on Spiked Online it was suggested Ashya had “been made a permanent ward of the court the day after he was taken from hospital, meaning, effectively, that his parents had already lost all of their rights to care for him.“ This was not correct. His wardship was a holding position pending a fuller decision by the court and wardship does not strip a parent of rights to care. On 8 September the Wardship was discharged on Ashya’s arrival in Prague. In fact that happened automatically because on 5 September Mr Justice Baker (a High Court Judge) made an order saying that would happen as soon as Ashya arrived in Prague. You can read an article here and the judgment and orders here.