Legal wrangle over Ashya King case ‘makes city look stupid’

A family picture of Ashya King in Southampton General Hospital last month
A family picture of Ashya King in Southampton General Hospital last month
File photo of public toilets at Eastney in 2013 when toilets in Portsmouth and Southsea were facing closure.

Picture: Malcolm Wells

Portsmouth could soon see more public toilets built

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PORTSMOUTH City Council is at the centre of a storm over a legal order preventing Ashya King from having crucial treatment for a brain tumour.

The authority obtained an order on Friday making the UK’s High Court the boy’s legal guardian the day after he was taken by his parents from Southampton General Hospital (SGH).

It means any decision over his medical care must be approved by a judge.

But councillors dismayed that the family have been restricted by a legal barrier have criticised officers for going to the courts before consulting them.

And supporters of Ashya say it is a ‘disgrace’ the council has not demanded the legal barrier be lifted now Ashya has been reunited with his parents, who are desperate to find alternative treatment.

The council applied for the order on the back of concerns raised by SGH about Ashya’s welfare and said specialist employees had to act quickly to protect him.

It has argued that as it has no parental responsibility over Ashya, it does not have the power to lift the order.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said he was told by the council’s chief executive, David Williams and city solicitor Michael Lawther, that they couldn’t get the order removed yesterday as it is down to the High Court to decide.

‘It’s making the council and the city look really stupid that we are not trying to help the family and we are personally trying to hurt them,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said. ‘That is a disgrace.’

Ashya’s grandmother Patricia King, of Southsea, told The News she has turned down a meeting with council officers over the situation because she is so appalled that restrictions are in place.

‘We as a family were all against the order, and the people who have done this should be sacked,’ she said.

‘I have never heard anything like it in all my life. The council went way over the top, and then they have the nerve to ask me to have a meeting. The council is a disgrace.’

Councillors were not told until Monday in an email from Julian Wooster, director of children and adults’ services, about the order, and council leader, Cllr Donna Jones, was not briefed until the next morning.

Only Cllr Neill Young, cabinet member for children and education, was told of the situation and the legal steps being taken on the day of the High Court hearing as it concerned his portfolio.

Tory councillor Alistair Thompson, has called for an emergency scrutiny panel meeting questioning the action taken and whether there was an alternative solution. ‘I am completely horrified councillors were not notified,’ he said.

‘Members are being treated with absolute disdain.

‘Did the council act appropriately in getting this order? I just don’t know.

‘What councillors need to understand is whether the council had to do this.

‘There have been massive, massive failures in communication.’

Cllr Jones said she was fully aware officers would bring her up to speed at some point. She added she has done all she can to raise awareness of the court needing to drop its restrictions.

‘I was aware of the Ashya King case from Thursday night and was given a full briefing on Tuesday,’ she said. ‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson is trying to make a political football out of a sick little boy and he should hang his head in shame.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said that she believed council officers had acted in good faith.

Mr Wooster said in a statement to The News: ‘Child protection issues are highly sensitive and confidential, dealt with by specialist officers.

‘When necessary the cabinet member for children’s services would be briefed, as happened in the case of Ashya King.

‘The leader was also briefed fully and regularly about this issue, and as the situation developed we informed the wider council.’

As reported, Ashya’s parents were arrested near Malaga, Spain, on Saturday and were separated from their son – who was taken to a hospital – until the arrest warrants were dropped on Tuesday.

The family have are awaiting to see if the order will be lifted prior to a hearing at the UK’s High Court on Monday.

Debbie Bulmer, head of Hampshire firm Verisona Law’s family department, said the situation was now out of the council’s hands and the responsibility of the court.

Councillors were due to be briefed about the case today in a meeting separate to the scrutiny panel debate.

n An overwhelming number of people taking part in The News’ online poll on whether Ashya should have been taken out of hospital by his parents have backed Brett and Naghmeh King. Almost 80 per cent (1,981 respondents) said ‘yes,’ with 535 saying ‘no.’