Charlie Gard’s parents should have had legal aid, judge says
Charlie Gard’s parents should have been granted legal aid, the judge hearing their case said yesterday as the couple dropped their attempt to be allowed to take the terminally ill 11-month old son to the US for experimental treatment.
Paying tribute to Connie Yates and Chris Gard in the High Court in London yesterday, Mr Justice Francis said that lawyers had represented Charlie without charge. In a strong criticism of cuts that left them relying on lawyers doing the case for free, the judge suggested that they should have been entitled to legal aid.
The parents withdrew their application after hearing that their son had suffered irreversible muscular atrophy. Yates read out an emotional statement in court, insisting that she and Charlie Gard’s father had only ever wanted to give their “sweet, gorgeous innocent little boy” a chance of life. She said that had they been allowed to take Charlie for treatment sooner, it would have had the potential to enable him to be a “normal, healthy little boy”.
Mr Justice Francis had been scheduled to analyse what the couple had said was new evidence at a hearing in the Family Division. However, Grant Armstrong, the barrister from Six Pump Court chambers for Charlie’s parents, told the judge that they accepted that “time had run out”.
Struggling to control his emotions Armstrong told the court: “This case is now about time,” but “sadly, time has run out.” He said that Charlie’s parents had made their decision after seeing the latest medical reports and scans, which confirmed that damage to Charlie’s muscle and tissue was irreversible. “The parents’ worst fears have been confirmed,” he said. “It is now too late to treat Charlie.”
The barrister said that Charlie’s parents hoped to set up a foundation and that they wanted lessons to be learnt. “Dark days lie ahead for these parents,” he said. “The parents wish to treasure their remaining time with Charlie, however short that may be.”
Katie Gollop, QC, of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, counsel for Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, which has been caring for the child, said: “The hearts of all at GOSH go out to Connie Yates and Chris Gard. The agony, desolation and bravery of their decision command GOSH’s utmost respect, and humble all who work there.”
She said it was hoped that in the days ahead it would be possible to “extend to the parents the same quality of care with which Charlie has been provided and to concentrate on the family as a whole”.
Mr Justice Francis paid tribute to Charlie’s parents and said that no one could comprehend their agony. The judge said the couple now had to face reality and he praised Great Ormond Street staff who had worked “tirelessly”. He said it was a “disgrace” that staff had been subjected to abuse and threats.