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The Ashya King wardship judgment

We have all been eagerly awaiting this, and it is now out.

 

This is the judgment given by Mr Justice Baker in the wardship proceedings, setting out the reasons why on Friday of last week a solution was reached that Ashya would be able to receive proton-beam therapy treatment in Prague. Ashya is no longer a ward of Court, and all decisions about him will be made by his parents.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/2964.html

 

It is not one of those rambling long judgment that would be incomprehensible to non lawyers – it runs about four pages and most of it is in plain English. I don’t often suggest that normal human beings read a judgment, but in this case, I would. It is a very good piece of work by Baker J  (not surprisingly, he writes a good judgment)

 

[It doesn’t answer my law geek question of whether the parents received free legal representation – I hope that they did. They were certainly represented, and the firm they used does do legal aid work. And there’s no debate at the end about costs, so I hope they got legal aid. One suspects that even the Legal Aid Agency had enough common sense to not want to be seen to be saying that the family should spend their treatment fund on lawyers]

The judgment focuses rather more on treatment and the future than a forensic delve into the past and what has gone wrong (understandably, because a solution had been arrived at that would please everyone, and also because if there is to be any suing going on about what happened it is likely to focus on the issue of the European arrest warrant and the arrest and detention of the parents, which is outside of the scope of the family Court)

 

What the Judge does say about the application for wardship itself is this :-

 

32 When Mr and Mrs King took Ashya from hospital on 28th August, the medical staff were understandably very concerned that the boy would suffer significant harm by being removed from the specialist care they were providing. When the local authority was informed about what had happened, and that it was believed that the parents had left the country, the social workers understandably concluded that there were reasonable grounds for believing that Ashya was at risk of suffering significant harm by being driven across Europe without medical assistance at a time when he urgently required post-operative therapy. I therefore conclude that the local authority acted entirely correctly in applying to the High Court, and further that Judge Arthur was right, on the evidence before him, to make Ashya a ward of court. My comments are confined to the matters within the family jurisdiction. I make no comment as to whether or not it was appropriate to seek a European Arrest Warrant. I merely observe that one consequence of this course was that Ashya was separated from his parents and left alone for several days in the Spanish hospital. As I observed at the hearing on 2nd September, whatever the rights and wrongs of his parents’ actions, it was not in Ashya’s best interests to be separated from them in such circumstances.

  1. The steps taken by the local authority and Judge Arthur on 29th August were entirely justified on the evidence then available. As at that date, there were reasonable grounds for believing that Ashya was at risk of suffering significant harm. A week later, the picture had changed and the court was faced with a completely different decision.

 

 

I’m sure that there will be many who think otherwise, but this judgment is very helpful in setting out the facts of the case when there has been so much speculation.

 

I am pleased that Ashya is back with his parents and that he is receiving treatment, and whatever else we might feel about this case, I’m sure that all of us wish him and his parents all the very best for the future.

 

 

 

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

35 responses

  1. What a cowardly judge to say “I make no comment as to whether or not it was appropriate to seek a European Arrest Warrant” when it was perfectly clear that he thought it very wrong seperating an ill child from parents for 3 days and leaving him alone in a Spanish hospital!) but did not dare to say so !Weasel words………….

  2. Ashamed to be British

    I completely disagree, these aren’t the facts of the case at all, Ashya had chemotherapy, the rest of the treatment was to expose him to radiotherapy in six weeks time, which is exactly what the King were taking him abroad for, only using a less aggressive and more direct form of radiotherapy, in order to save healthy tissue from destruction.

    Social services should never have had any input, children are taken abroad for treatment all the time.
    The hospital had no right to threaten these parents, or call out the hounds when they were challenged on their medical opinion.

    Malala Yousafzai had been airlifted twice, then flow from the Pakistan region to the UK, where she was surrounded by strangers, why wasn’t she ‘at risk’ or made a ward of court? It’s exactly the same except for the distance travelled, which for Malala, was much much longer.

    The system needs to know when to mind it’s own business

  3. I am pleased to see Mr Justice Baker take the bull by its horns and wrench the beast into submission, I do not think there is a better Judge do to this than Barker J.

    I would say though from the outset there were avenues available to both the Parents and the NHS Trust that would have avoided much of the problems subsequently faced, one would have thought that the COP should have been approached in the first instance as soon as a disagreement about the type of treatment the parties had in regards to Ashya, it may have just been the right intervention the situation needed.

    It is woefully concerning that the state can apply for and be granted a European Arrest Warrant on simple hearsay evidence in regards to neglect, I do understand the fundamental importance of Ashya’s well-being and safety, one can obviously see the implications such a warrant had in the progression of this matter, when I saw the First order I was Aghast that the contents of the order did not permit the actions that we saw unfolding, in that the separation of the family and consequent detention of the Parents, the EAW simply made a bad situation worse.

    One of my principles in life has been to take that all important step back and give things that second thought, I do face criticisms for it, unknown why, however in this whole story and embarrassment to the UK state I would say it is fundamental people think twice, once the ball is set rolling it is almost impossible to stop, in this though I am glad Barker J has knocked that ball out of the ballpark.

    I must admit I do like paragraph 31, it sits very well with me, stock should be taken on that very notion what is described in that particular instance

    “”31. Thirdly, it is a fundamental principle of family law in this jurisdiction that responsibility for making decisions about a child rest with his parents. In most cases, the parents are the best people to make decisions about a child and the State – whether it be the court, or any other public authority – has no business interfering with the exercise of parental responsibility unless the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of the care given to the child not being what it would be reasonable to expect a parent to give.””

    I would say that I have admired the stamina the King family have shown in this whole matter, they were aggrieved and quite rightly however they dealt with things with dignity and decorum, they proved without a shadow of doubt that even in sheer adversity all their focus was on Ashya, I will second what Barker J said in that I also hope now Ashya makes a complete and good recovery

    • Ashamed to be British

      I do believe (please, anyone correct me if I am wrong) that hearsay is when evidence is provided by one person, who has heard something from another person, that they heard from another person, not that it makes any difference in this case, the whole thing was wrong from start to finish, I for one, do not believe this is anywhere near over, taking innto consideration that the LA have started on the issue of educational needs

  4. Judicial pomposity to “excuse” the Kings from attending the final hearing. One rather thinks they have other things on their minds.

  5. Is your article out of date or not tackling what actually happened – this is what the doctors said and threatened http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2750899/Muslim-students-offered-Sharia-law-friendly-student-loans-government-bid-Islamic-pupils-university.html

  6. Anyone care to name the doctors in question – if so contact me on twitter @wizardpc and I’ll see they get the right kind of publicity 🙂

    • Ashamed to be British

      don’t do twits, but the Dr is called Wilson

      • So are a lot of other doctors, so lay off publicity.

      • Ashamed to be British

        Hey I only replied to a question, I didn’t say I was seeing to any publicity, in any case, the name is already public

        I hold no concern for this being, he made a bad call, he must as an adult and someone who is in a position of trust, be prepared to take responsibility for his actions

    • Well, what we do know is that the Kings removed their child and fled in a clandestine manner. In broad terms, there seem to be two possible explanations

      1) The medical staff said things that were or sounded like a threat that if the Kings didn’t consent to the proposed treatment they would be able to obtain court orders that would allow them to carry out the procedures without their consent. The Kings had by that stage a cogent treatment plan and access to sufficient liquid capital to give it effect (or at least could have liquidated sufficient assets by the time the radiotherapy needed to start) but feared that if they continued to go down that path the trust would make good their threat

      2) The medical staff were willing to support the Kings put together a treatment plan for treatment in Prague provided the parents could fund it, but there was insufficient liquid capital and no realistic prospect of their getting it. Recognising that as it stood they weren’t going to convince anyone that waiting for them to obtain enough cash to fund an unproven treatment was in Ashya’s best interests, they decided to escape the jurisdiction.

      Given we know a that a substantial part of money currently being used to fund this treatment has come from sources other than the parents we can’t infer that they had the money all along and that option one is right.

      I suppose we will find out should the Kings decide to do as they are threatening and litigate the issue in tort. It would make for a fascinating cross-examination of the medical and the parents—based on what we have seen in the media it seems like one side would have to be lying. In any event, without seeing how the Kings and the various medics and police officers fared under scrutiny it seems right that Baker J refused to get drawn into whether the trust and police behaved appropriately.

      • Ashamed to be British

        Your information is incorrect, the Kings went to Spain to sell their villa in order to pay for treatment, the clinic in Prague offered the treatment with monies to be sorted later

      • Just to clarify what I said above, it’s not exactly a secret that the Spanish holiday villa market isn’t great at the moment. It seems unlikely the Kings could have offloaded the villa within the tight timescales required. Hence the use of ‘liquid assets’ as opposed to ‘assets’…

        As far as I recall I haven’t read any news report suggesting that the Prague unit came forward and suggested providing the treatment on credit before the Kings fled Southampton, but if there are any I’ll stand corrected (my recollection is that those offers were made a couple of days later) Obviously if the Prague unit said that after they had left it doesn’t tell us anything about Kings’ intent at the time they fled.

        If it were true those facts alone don’t really make for a cogent explanation—why chose to drive 1,300 miles to Malaga instead of 850 to Prague? It’s hardly likely that the Prague unit would make the credit contingent on the holiday home being on the market.

        It just generally strikes me as odd that, given how quick the Kings have been to come forward, provide details and criticise (albeit in a form that nobody could sue over), the current narrative doesn’t hang together all that well at the moment. But doubtless it will all become clear in time.

      • Ashamedtobebritish

        I have to agree. Maybe they were already mid sale? I don’t have those details, of course you are correct in that the unit offered treatment after the fact, what doesn’t sit right with me is the declaration from SGH that the child was critically ill, he wasn’t per se (obviously it doesn’t get much worse than childhood cancer) he’d had the operation to remove the tumour, then the chemo and the hospital were waiting for 6 weeks until they could commence radiotherapy, which is generally how it’s done, so Ashya wouldn’t have been doing anything other than waiting for those 6 weeks anyway, what this hospital did do was engineer a situation uneccesarily at a massive cost to the tax payer, the Kings were quite within their rights to take their child back to the place he was born for what they considered to be superior treatment.
        Who knows? Maybe they knew of someone who’d had a run in with Hampshire local authority, creating a flight instinct the moment they were threatened with social services … Hampshire local authority don’t have the greatest reputation where family issues are concerned, explaining the videos etc, they were in a very fortunate position as the world watched them, so seized the moment, not many have that opportunity. Good for them to have the foresight to destroy the lies many face secretly, not only did they saved their own children from almost certain care proceedings, but set a precedence for other children

        Lots of maybes … For now, I personally support the Kings in their decision making, they did nothing illegal, yet were hunted down, jailed and all the actions of the local authority proved to serve, was a delay in the 6 week timeframe for treatment to commence, (the reasoning for releasing the hounds in the first place) leaving a very scared 5 year old with strangers, an unnecessary and out of jurisdiction decision IMO

  7. The Telegraph reports the Kings face huge legal bills, so that’s your legal aid question answered.

    • That could be in relation to the lawyer they instructed in Spain though, they did have a Spanish lawyer speaking to the Press on their behalf. (I think that on a rigid interpretation of Legal Aid they wouldn’t have got it in England, but one would hope that the Legal Aid Agency saw sense and granted it. That’s not necessarily a given though – I can’t find any legal precedent for the Legal Aid Agency seeing sense)

  8. Pingback: The Ashya King wardship judgment | Children In ...

  9. I think what this case demonstrates is that the authorities can be too quick to jump in when the perceived risk is from the parent, especially if that parent disagrees with agencies.

    In contrast, if the child is at risk from agencies such as in the Rotherham case , the child remains at risk for years whilst the agencies involved cover their backs.

    Pam Allen, Head of Children’s Services at Rotherham between 2004-2009 , plus two of her senior managers, have moved to East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Where a very familiar scenario is being played out by Children’s Services with the kind assistance of Humberside Police. Just as leopards do not change their spots senior managers do not change their working practices.

    East Riding Council are issuing various press statements and conducting an internal investigation. It is also being investigated by the local safeguarding board, guess who is a member? Yes Pam Allen!

    There is a story here from the local prhttp://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/Police-probe-Rotherham-child-abuse-examine-role/story-22875901-detail/story.htmless :

    I would be very grateful if anyone would tweet etc , there are very vulnerable children currently being harmed.

  10. I think this case illustrates well my own and many others experiences of questioning a treatment (in my own situation it most certainly was not in the best interests of the patent concerned, but the clinician used these words as an excuse and I have gone to great lengths to disprove this- with a highly unusual response, but perhaps not surprising in view of the likely outcome for the clinicians).

    it is very clear that public officials / professionals who hold largely unquestioned powers, given by the state, which are also colluded with by the judiciary / legal system, are incredibly dangerous to society and its well being.

    Humans did not come onto this earth being thus controlled. We have come into a 21st Century where the protection of children (and less so adults) has spwaned a huge and quite often ineffective, industry of jobs / careers. They fail in one job and merely move on to do the same elsewhere- there is repeated failure- not lessons are ever learnt because the powerful do not need lessons- the are god.

    Most of us are at risk of having our families torn apart on the these people deciding we are causing harm, whether or not this is actually the case, because they cannot understand our motives or our actions. We have to justify ourselves when we commit no crime. We must defer to them or always do as they ask. The exceptions to this situation are those the top end of the social and economic hierarchy. These employees of the state now pose the greatest threat to humanity and the well being of society as does social inequality. I would fear terrorists less personally.

    • All the more reason to abolish “punishment without crime” by merging family courts and the court of protection with criminal courts and run them under the same rules ! (innocent until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt etc)

      • Ashamedtobebritish

        How though? The ‘No punishment without crime’ laws already exist, we need to ensure they’re strictly implemented.
        The position we have now is that anyone arrested then released with no further action, or the cps decide there’s not enough evidence to take it forward to a court case, is still punished by social services, who tell you that you’re not innocent, there just isn’t enough evidence to prosecute, that is wrong, I have been informed by police and lawyers that once the cps decide not to take further action, you are innocent by default because that’s exactly what they deem you to be.
        Social services will punish you regardless.
        There is also a rising trend in jailing parents for speaking out, in the case of Robert Green who was arrested and jailed for ‘attempting to hand out leaflets’ – there was no crime committed.
        We are unfortunately punished behind closed doors out of court too, speaking to an MP, reporting an issue to a medical professional (or daring to disagree with them) seeking advice, campaigning, peaceful protest are all met with contact sessions being stopped, this happens within the local authority decision making, so they literally hold your children to ransom, without thought to the child’s well being. Anyone who tries to speak out against that course of action can expect to see their child when they turn 18.
        Laws are only fit for the purpose if they’re adhered to and anyone breaking them is severely punished.
        Stephanie Freeman has endured THREE attempts to commit her to jail on invalid orders, the local authority so desperate to silence her, when the court refused to do so (quite rightly) she had her contact removed on the basis that SOMEONE ELSE made a video saying they were coming for the children, this woman’s reports state, to this day that her parenting is to an exceptional standard, yet the courts continue to go along with the LA’s insistence that her child is adopted in 2 weeks time, punishment for speaking out at how her 2 children have been abused and still continue to be in state ‘care’

  11. Simple!Contrary to what you claim there are no laws stopping “punishment without crime”,a mother who has committed no crime can have her baby taken for “risk of emotional abuse”,The worst possible punishment that exists in UK since the abolition of hanging according to Sir James Munby ,President of the family courts!If family courts were run under the same rules as criminal courts no mother (or father) could have their child taken unless they were proved beyond reasonable doubt to have committed a crime against children.Surely that is easy to understand?

    • IAN377= forced adoption I DON’T KNOW WHY WORD PRESS CHANGED IT !

    • Ashamed to be British

      No worries about the name, it’s happened to me before and I already knew who you are.

      I must confess, I missed your stance on ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ before replying, my apologies for that … something I have been saying myself for many years, I put this idea forward when John Hemming took the new children’s bill proposal into parliament, but was ignored -_- moving forward, you are correct that this is how it should be, because child abuse (and imo, any abuse) is a criminal offence, not a civil one, my only worry concerning this proposal would be that this particular crime would have to be proven to have taken place, which would mean a child being hurt before any action is taken, for arguments sake as in the babyP case, that went to criminal, yet didn’t do much for the child, there has to be some sort of balance.

      I am aware of parents losing their children on ‘risk of’ like yourself I work with them every day- some I have found, really are at risk, social workers sometimes get it right (speaking from experience from my own case) others have been stitched up like a kipper (again, speaking from experience from my own case)

      The most basic and fundamental step we as a nation can take, is to severely punish those found to be falsifying evidence, misleading courts and filing vexatious opinions of families, that is the root cause of how it happens, maybe there is something in the Presidents passing comment about abolishing hanging …

      • No,a suspected criminal can be removed at once and charged with an offence so that any child would be out of immediate danger from any suspected perpetrator. .However unlike the family courts the criminal courts would return the child if the parents were both acquitted .Family courts do not care if a parent has been acquitted and nearly always say he or she was probably guilty anyway so the child gets adopted !
        Let criminal courts deal with child cruelty .The family courts did nothing for baby p as he was poor adoption material but still let his mother receive visits from her surviving children in jail before going of to live a new life under a new secret identity at vast public expense !

      • Ashamedtobebritish

        I already said that

  12. I remain alarmed about the EAW and hope this is resolved in public. I always say that if you just want a rubber stamp, you need not bother with a district judge, I can do it for a tenner.

    It is not doctors who are in charge of the law machine. That is done by dividing the duties up between the police – with their obligation to collect true evidence, not just what some doctor told them, meaning they have to test what they are told – and the judiciary making sure that the police and CPS have acted with due diligence.

    In respect of wardship, if Baker MJ is telling us that Judge Arthur was right to issue the wardship, then that will have to do in this case. However, it is not enough for Judge Arthur to rely on the Local Authority, who relied on the doctors. You can’t keep pointing down the chain and saying ‘that’s what he told me’ because, as I have already explained, if you want someone gormless to sign papers because somebody else told them to, I can do that job for much less than Judge Arthur charges. (Fifty quid to you, squire, and guaranteed no questions asked).

    The whole point of having qualified lawyers, judges and police is to ensure some quality control of decision making based on asking questions, assessing evidence and replies, and operating within the framework of law. It is a very wide frame including, as you pointed out, that a court can act on its own authority.

    But that has to mean more than hanging stage robes on people who have been flattered in to seeing themselves as child savers with cameo roles in a medical drama. If you don’t want real law, then just hire local actors and be done with it. They’ll be cheaper and look better.

  13. Graham Stuart MP can be contacted with any specific cases of abuse being ignored in East Riding of Yorkshire by children’s services at graham@grahamstuart.com . He appears to be concerned.

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