Ashya King's parents 'should not have been locked up in a foreign country for caring about their child'

The European Arrest Warrant is draconian legislation

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The Independent Online

There are so many questions asked by the Ashya King story, not least about NHS oncology and if our services are up to scratch. I have been on the receiving end of cancer treatment, albeit many years ago, when there weren’t the treatment options available that are available now, and I know that we have ground to make up in this regard if we are to improve our survival rates in the UK.

But, without being a professional in the field, it’s very difficult to really know the ins and outs of this child’s medical case.

What I do know is that Brett and Naghmeh's unhappiness over their child’s treatment plan turned into an international manhunt, after an emergency protection order requested by the hospital. A sick child was unnecessarily separated from his parents – who evidently would do anything for him – and an international warrant put out for their arrest, on grounds of neglect.

Instead of a reasonable, sensitive response, a piece of legislation was activated which only sees cases in black and white. The end result was Mr and Mrs King being handcuffed and separated from their seriously ill child.

The European Arrest Warrant isn’t like any previous extradition treaties we have had across the decades. On the say so of a judge in one of the EU member countries, people can be chased across borders – without any prima facie evidence – and placed in custody until the legal system decides what to do with them. This was legislation designed to catch terrorists. It hardly works for that, and it certainly doesn’t work when dealing with a complex situation involving a sick child and parents who wanted to seek medical treatment outside of their local hospital.

Faced with a court order, Hampshire Police started the process of searching for the family outside of the UK’s borders, where they don’t have jurisdiction. But instead of using the international means available to locate the family, check that the child was as well as can be expected given his condition, and bring them back to the UK – the parents were put in a cell by Spanish police.

People in the UK started to wonder why the law was being so heavy handed. Hampshire Police went to great lengths to stress that criminal charges had not been brought, and nor were they saying that any crime had been committed. In the end it took the intervention of the Prime Minister, and other senior figures voicing their concerns, about the ongoing imprisonment of the Kings to secure their release.

But the European Arrest Warrant is an incredibly harsh measure to employ – and consequently it requires the intervention of politicians to try to inject some humanity and common sense into proceedings.

I am proud of the history of fairness and the common law which made this country a leading light over the centuries: carrying the beacon for free trade, abolishing slavery and, as we remember in this centenary year, defending democratic values at the cost of millions of lives.

Which is why this draconian legislation is so alien to our system of law and fairness. We do not expect loving parents to be locked up in a foreign country for caring about their child. This case has set a very worrying precedent. It questions the authority parents have over their own child – and the extent to which the state can interfere.


Calais Mayor should know who makes our laws

The Mayor of Calais has criticised the UK’s immigration policy. She says it has encouraged illegal migration, resulting in her town being burdened with insanitary camps as groups of wannabe immigrants make their base there.

She has claimed that our policy makes the UK seem like “El Dorado” to immigrants – but what she seems to be forgetting is that we don’t have our own immigration policy any more. Ours is the same as France, as Spain, as Poland. It’s just that we have a very generous social security system which encourages migration as well as the additional bonus of English being the most global language.

We have seen from latest migration figures that there is no way the Coalition is going to meet the targets it set itself – and they were only controlling non-EU numbers! But that was always inevitable given the free movement of people which is demanded by any member country of the EU. Don’t forget we can’t deny entry to murderers and rapists without breaching Brussels rules.

I can see why the Mayor of Calais has a problem with these camps – I think that anyone would. But her ire should be directed to Brussels – not to Britain – since that is where these rules are made.