Ashya King’s parents released from prison as arrest warrant is terminated
Brett and Naghmeh King are released from prison and head for Málaga, where their son is being treated.
The parents of Ashya King have been released from prison and heading to be reunited with their desperately ill son after the Crown Prosecution Service bowed to mounting political pressure and withdrew its arrest warrant.
Brett and Naghmeh King were released from separate wings of a Spanish jail hours after prosecutors in London made a U-turn and said the couple would face no charges.
A Spanish judge rushed to authorise their release and the couple were then free to leave Soto del Real prison near Madrid and make the five-hour journey to be reunited with Ashya, who is receiving urgent medical care for a brain tumour at a children’s hospital in Málaga.
As they left the prison Ashya’s parents said they were tired, relieved and looking forward to seeing their son. Mr King told reporters: “We’re very relieved to be free.”
Speaking in both Spanish and English he said: “We are very grateful to Spain for the support and help we have received. We will go to see my son as soon as possible, we have been dying to see his face for so long.
“Thank you to Spain for helping us and thank you to England too.” He added: “I’m sorry we can’t say more, I’m very tired.”
Ashya’s brother Naveed, asked his reaction to his parents being freed, told Sky News: “When I first heard the news, I wanted to cry, but at the same time I was so happy. We are thrilled to be able to see them, and hopefully soon we will be able go and see Ashya together.”
Before their release, on Tuesday, Nick Clegg and David Cameron’s spokesman both intervened to condemn the situation.
The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also announced he was offering to send a top cancer specialist to Spain to advise the family. Hampshire police, who had asked for the arrest warrant, said they accepted the position the family were in was “not right”.
The CPS said that “there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for any criminal offence”.
Evidence showed the parents had taken steps to safeguard Ashya’s health and two independent medical experts had indicated the risk to Ashya’s life “was not as great as had been originally thought”. A source at Spain’s Audiencia Nacional – the country’s central criminal court – said they had been “working at top speed to make sure the Kings do not have to spend another night in prison”.
Ashya’s eldest brother, Danny, 23, visited him in hospital on Tuesday morning, escorted by police officers, after a Málaga-based judge gave him permission.
Outside the hospital, Danny King said: “I want to spend as much time as possible at his bedside and make sure he gets the best possible treatment – he is my main priority at the moment. He is exactly how he came in, which is perfectly healthy.
“I have not been getting much sleep, but the hospital are allowing me to stay as long as I want past visiting hours, which is great. We want to thank everyone for their incredible support, it’s been a great help and means a lot to the family.”
Police sought the couple’s arrest after they removed their son from a Southampton hospital against medical advice last week.
Ashya could now be taken to the Czech Republic for proton beam treatment, the specialist form of radiotherapy sought by the parents. The judge indicated that he could sanction the boy being moved to Prague if the Kings, Southampton hospital trust and Portsmouth city council agree a treatment plan.
Vikram Sachdeva, representing the Southampton University hospital trust at a hearing of the family court in London on Tuesday, said Ashya needed immediate treatment following the removal of the tumour six weeks ago.
His doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiotherapy – which ideally should start by tomorrow – but the family had strong views on proton beam therapy. Though the doctors did not believe it had “any benefit” for Ashya, the trust had no objection as it was “no better or worse than radiotherapy”.
A spokesperson for Southampton University hospital trust said: “We are pleased that Ashya’s parents will be released and will be able to see their son. When Ashya went missing last week we had no option but to call the police because we did not know where he was or what his parents’ intentions were.
“The police asked us to make statements about his clinical condition and need of medical care and we stand by the accuracy of the information we gave them. No hospital should be deterred from raising the alarm when they have doubts about the safety of a child.”
After the hearing Hunt said the NHS did fund proton beam therapy. He added: “It’s not always appropriate, it’s not always safe. But we are arranging for an independent expert, one of our top oncologists, to fly to Spain, if the family would like, to give them advice as to exactly what the right course of action is for Ashya going forward.”
On the decision of the Southampton hospital to initially alert police, Hunt said: “I think it has been a very unfortunate sequence of events and there have clearly been misunderstandings along the way.”
The CPS’s change of heart also follows interventions from police and the council which first sought action against the parents over fears their removal of Ashya potentially constituted child cruelty by denying him treatment.
The chief constable of Hampshire police, which asked the CPS for the arrest warrant, described the current situation as “not right”. Andy Marsh said: “Irrespective of what has happened it is our view that Ashya needs both medical treatment and for his parents to be at his side. Our intent was to secure his safety, not to deny him family support at this particularly challenging time in his life.”
Donna Jones, the leader of Portsmouth city council, which applied for wardship of Ashya last week at the request of the Southampton hospital, 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.”
Earlier, Cameron’s spokesman said the Home Office had been in touch with Hampshire police force over the case, while the Department of Health contacted Southampton hospital. The hospital first raised the alarm on Thursday after Ashya was taken away.
Clegg, meanwhile, questioned why the “full force of the law” was being used against the parents and called for the family to be reunited. “A little boy is on his own in a hospital, doesn’t speak Spanish, is cut off from his parents and his siblings and I would like to see him together with his family as soon as possible,” he told BBC Breakfast.
The Kings took Ashya from the hospital and travelled to France with him and his six siblings before heading to the Costa del Sol in southern Spain.
Brett, 51, and Naghmeh, 45, were arrested in Vélez-Málaga on Saturday night, and taken to Madrid pending extradition hearings. The couple hope to sell an apartment they own near Málaga to raise funds for the proton beam therapy.
The family court hearing was informed that Ashya is currently unable to swallow or move independently. When he went missing doctors were concerned that he did not have a “safe swallow” and that his feeding tube would be empty by 11pm that night, leaving him at risk of dehydration. There was also concern that he should be lying flat, and would be unable to do so if travelling by car.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the case in Spain, the relatives of children on the same ward as Ashya were being asked to produce proof of their identity to get past security inside the Málaga children’s hospital.
- The Guardian,