130,000 people call for Ashya's parents to be reunited with terminally ill son
Call for Ashya action to be dropped
Published 02/09/2014 | 14:25
The council that began legal action after brain tumour patient Ashya King was removed from hospital without his doctors' consent has joined mounting calls for extradition proceedings against his parents to be dropped.
Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, urged the Crown Prosecution Service to review the case "urgently" so the five-year-old's parents can be reunited with him.
Brett and Naghmeh King, who were arrested in Spain after Ashya was taken from Southampton General Hospital without doctors' consent, have spent another night away from him.
A judge in Madrid ruled that they must be held for up to 72 hours while the court considers whether to grant a British extradition request.
Ms Jones said: "Like others who have been watching this upsetting case unfolding in the media, I have been moved by the plight of the King family and am most concerned about Ashya. I believe what he needs now is to be with his family.
"That's why I am urging the CPS to urgently review the case involving Ashya King's parents and remove any extradition proceedings, so the family can be reunited with their five-year-old son."
She added: "As Ashya is now receiving medical care, I believe the priority should be to reunite him with his family and resolve this distressing situation and I will be doing what I can to ensure that happens."
The council made an application to make Ashya a temporary ward of court on Friday at the request of the hospital.
This resulted in a court order directing that he should be taken to the nearest appropriate hospital, Ms Jones said.
She added: "I am clear the council was correct in its actions.
"As Ashya is now receiving medical care, I believe the priority should be to reunite him with his family and resolve this distressing situation and I will be doing what I can to ensure that happens."
A hearing will take place at the High Court in London later this afternoon.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said earlier that he believes it is "not appropriate" to "throw the full force of the law" at the Kings.
He told BBC Breakfast: "We can debate whether it is or is not but that seems to be their motive and those are not motives I can argue with.
"That's why I personally think that throwing the full force of the law at Mr and Mrs King, who appear to be doing what they believe to be best for their own family, I don't think is an appropriate thing to do. But that, at the end of the day, is for the police and the CPS and others to decide."
Downing Street said there was little difference between David Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister's views on the situation.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman also said that the Home Office and Department of Health had been in contact with police and hospital chiefs over the case.
"The DPM spoke at some length on this and I don't think there is a great deal of difference there with the PM at all.
"At the heart of this story is a very sick little boy and I think everyone's response when you see that is we want to make sure that everything is being done to help him."
He added: "I think people would say if you have a sick child the first thing you would want if for their mum and dad to be at their bedside if at all possible. That's where every parent would want to be as well.
"I think the PM's view here is very much that the right thing to do is put Ashya at the centre of everything that is done.
"That's why the CPS is urgently looking into this. I know that the Home Office has been in touch with Hampshire police force, the Department of Health has been in touch with the hospital in the UK that had previously been treating him and UK embassy officials are providing his family with consular assistance."
An online petition calling for Ashya to be reunited with his parents has now attracted more than 130,000 signatures.
Ethan Dallas, 16, who started the petition, delivered it to Downing Street today.
He appealed to the Prime Minister to personally request that Mr and Mrs King are immediately released from custody in Spain so they can get the best treatment for their five-year-old son.
Ethan, a friend of Ashya's brother Naveed, said the case had "touched the heart of nations".
It also emerged today that the family are planning legal action against Southampton General Hospital.
The couple were arrested in Spain after Ashya was taken from a hospital without doctors' consent.
A judge in Madrid has ruled that they must be held for up to 72 hours while the court considers whether to grant a British extradition request.
Juan Isidro Fernandez Diaz, the couple's lawyer in Spain, said they are "so sad", adding: "They are going to prepare legal demands against the hospital in Southampton. Legal action will be against the hospital."
Mr Diaz told BBC's Radio 5 Live that the couple "wanted the very best for their child".
He said: "They never thought that they committed any crime in the UK.
"The child is in perfect conditions. All the doctors said (there was) no problem with the child to travel from England to Spain because the father knows (how) to give treatment to the child.
"We are saying the boy is not in danger. The big brother is with the boy and he is in perfect conditions."
The CPS said yesterday that the case is under "immediate review" and a decision will be made whether to prosecute once the evidence as been examined.
A string of politicians have called for the case to be dropped.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham tweeted: "Enough is enough. Ashya King should be reunited with his parents today. Basic humanity demands it."
Former children's minister Tim Loughton said the biggest outrage was that Ashya's case had almost become a child protection issue and his parents were being criminalised when that was "clearly not the case".
The Tory MP said an arrest warrant should not have been issued and that Mr and Mrs King should not be in custody.
He said: "The CPS needs to drop this and make sure the parents come out and go and see their child.
"A very urgent conversation needs to be had with the NHS as to whether they will entertain grounds of them coming back here and going to a private clinic for proton beam treatment, which should be NHS or privately funded, or they should be allowed to take Ashya to Prague."
Former children's minister Tim Loughton added his voice to the calls for charges against Mr and Mrs King to be dropped.
He told BBC Radio 4's The World At One programme: "They should be out of jail straight away. The CPS should drop any investigation and charges and the parents and family need to be reunited with this five-year-old.
"The five-year-old wasn't allowed to see any members of his family, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language. The poor child must be absolutely petrified."
The Conservative MP said the Prime Minister must intervene if the authorities fail to act today.
He said: "I would hope they would do it without the Prime Minister. If they still haven't done it by later on today, then certainly I think the Prime Minister needs to kick some backsides and then, when we get all this sorted out, the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary need to knock some heads together because this is not remotely in the interests of a very sick five-year-old child and criminalising the parents for trying to do the best thing for their child in desperate circumstances is not the best way to go about things."
A spokesman for University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said it had been willing to support the family's wish to go to Prague for treatment.
He said: "While Ashya was under our care, we discussed the option of treatment in this centre with the family and made contact with them at that point.
"We were willing to support the family's transfer to Prague for proton beam radiotherapy, although we did not recommend it.
"The Proton Therapy Centre has been in touch again yesterday afternoon to inquire about Ashya's potential future care and confirm that they would be keen to treat him if he is suitable according to the relevant criteria.
"We have of course been open to discussing this; however, since Ashya is a ward of court, at this stage it is for a judge to make all future decisions regarding his treatment.
"The decision to apply for ward of court was made by Portsmouth City Council with our support and on the advice of Hampshire Police."