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Judge overseeing treatment dispute raises concern about lack of legal aid

Brian Farmer, PA

A judge overseeing a dispute relating to the treatment of a severely-ill teenager has said he is astonished that parents involved in such cases cannot get legal aid.

Mr Justice Francis aired his thoughts when overseeing a preliminary hearing in the dispute in the Court of Protection, where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions, in London.

The judge, who has yet to make any rulings in the case, was told that barrister Jake Thorold was representing the teenager's parents for free.

He praised Mr Thorold and told lawyers: “Repeatedly, in these cases, I find myself expressing astonishment that legal aid is not available for people in the situation these parents find themselves in.”

The teenager, a woman in her late teens, has a genetic disorder and is being treated in a hospital intensive care unit.

Her parents have raised concern about her treatment.

Mr Justice Francis said she could not be identified in media reports of the case.

He said he might relax that restriction at a later stage of the litigation.

The judge raised similar concerns about the unavailability of legal aid after overseeing a high-profile treatment dispute centred on baby Charlie Gard in the Family Division of the High Court, in London, six years ago.

Charlie died after his parents, who wanted to take him to the US for experimental treatment, lost a legal fight.

UK News