Following the Court of Appeal judgment dismissing the parents’ appeal in the case of Alfie Evans, an application for permission to appeal has been made at the Supreme Court.
In early December Alder Hey Hospital sought a declaration from the Court that it was in the best interests of Alfie, a 22 month old baby with a neurodegenerative condition, for ventilatory support to be withdrawn. Whilst the medical consensus is that Alfie suffers from an incurable condition, his parents seek to take him to well-respected hospitals in Italy and Germany, who have offered further treatment including a tracheostomy and gastronomy.
At first instance, when the parents were unrepresented, Mr Justice Hayden made the declaration sought by the hospital. The judge applied the conventional best interests test, namely a child’s best interests are a matter for the court and parental wishes have little (if any) weight. Following judgment, it also appeared a possibility that the withdrawal of life support would happen within 3 days of the judgment being given on 20 February 2018.
Following the instruction of the legal team, the matter was heard by the Court of Appeal on 2 March 2018. By this time the parties had agreed a longer timescale, which had been one of the grounds of appeal.
The parents also argued that, had the application for a declaration been made by a local authority, the Court could only depart from parental wishes where the child would suffer “significant harm” if the Court did nothing. That same threshold test applies where a local authority takes a child into care. The failure to apply an equivalent, or more stringent, test constituted a breach of the parents’ article 14 ECHR right because there was no objective and reasonable justification for the difference in treatment of parental wishes in these various situations where the state seeks to override those wishes.
The Court of Appeal (Macfarlane, King and McCombe LLJ) dismissed the argument in a judgment given orally on 6 March 2018. The written judgment is yet to be published.
The parents yesterday filed an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Stephen Knafler QC and Leon Glenister are acting for the parents, along with Sophy Miles of Doughty Street Chambers, instructed by Mary Holmes of MSB Solicitors.