Police defend actions over Ashya King search

Ashya King with his mother Naghemeh King
Ashya King with his mother Naghemeh King
QA Hospital. Picture: Will Caddy

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HAMPSHIRE police say they make no apologies for their actions to track down the parents of Ashya King.

As a team of officers from Hampshire Constabulary head to Spain today to speak to the parents of Ashya King, the force said it does not apologise for its actions.

Ashya, five, of Southsea, has a brain tumour and was operated on less than 10 days ago.

His parents Brett, 51, and Naghemeh King, 45, took him from Southampton General Hospital on Thursday afternoon, which prompted an international search and arrest warrant for the parents.

Last night Mr King released a video on YouTube explaining he took Ashya so he could be treated with proton beam therapy (PBT).

As reported, last night at about 8pm, hotel staff in Malaga, Spain, recognised Ashya and his family as a result of high levels of publicity in the media.

The hotel staff then contacted Spanish police and Ashya’s parents were arrested.

Police said that Ashya was then taken to a high-dependency unit at Materno Infantile Hospital in Malaga, where he is now in a general ward.

Contact between the lead consultant in Spain and the lead consultant at Southampton General Hospital has been made.

Now police have come under criticism from the public in the way matters have been handled.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead said: ‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the search – our own teams, the National Crime Agency, all police agencies in Europe and, specifically, both police agencies in Spain - the Spanish National Police and the Guardia Civil.

‘All of our efforts resulted from explicit medical advice that Ashya’s life was in danger.

‘I’m very aware there are comments about the rights and wrongs of our approach but when we are told by experts that any child’s life is at risk we will make no apologies for being as proactive as possible.

‘We now need to properly understand the parents’ motivation and engage with colleagues in the Crown Prosecution Service, who would lead on managing the extradition proceedings.

‘It is only when we have done this that we will make a decision on what happens next.

‘For that reason this is the last statement that we will be making until further notice.’

PBT is a precise form of radiotherapy, which is used to help treat cancers.

It works by using charged particles instead of X-rays to deliver a dose of radiotherapy for patients which is more precise to the tumour, and causes minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

An advisory group has recommended there are around 1,500 patients in England each year – including 250 children – for whom PBT would be the best treatment.

But the treatment comes at a price and is said to cost around £100,000.

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Decisions on treatment for individual patients are made by doctors who are best placed to know what their patient needs.

‘We are investing £250m in new proton beam therapy facilities, in Manchester and in London, and more people are being funded to go overseas until facilities are available in the UK.’