JUDGE SHOULD HAVE GRANTED PARENTS AN ADJOURNMENT: COURT OF APPEAL ORDERS A REHEARING
In A (A Child : Withdrawal of Treatment: Legal Representation)  EWCA Civ 1221 the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a refusal to grant an adjournment. It was held that an adjournment should have been granted and a rehearing ordered. This case also highlights the wholly inadequate nature of funding in this type of case. Parents whose children are likely to be taken into care are granted legal aid automatically. Parents in cases where doctors want to withdraw treatment (thus ending the child’s life) have no such automatic entitlement. This is a travesty.
“whilst … there is an apparent inconsistency in the approach to public funding as between a parent who is facing care proceedings concerning the welfare of their child brought by the State, in the guise of the local authority, and a parent who is facing proceedings of the instant nature brought by the State, in the guise of an NHS Trust, that is a matter for Parliament and not for the court.”
The appellants are the parents of a seriously ill child, kept alive on a ventilator. The treating medical practitioners came to the view that it was not in the child’s best interests to be kept alive by artificial means. An application was made to the court.
The parents sought legal representation for the hearing. They were not eligible for legal aid and were told, several days before the hearing, that the solicitors could not assist.
They sought an adjournment on the grounds that the needed legal representation and hoped to raise funds by crowd funding. Their application to adjourn was refused. The judge granted the application sought.
The parents appealed on the grounds that they should have been granted an adjournment. The Court of Appeal agreed and ordered that the matter be re-heard.
THE COURT OF APPEAL JUDGMENT ON THE APPLICATION FOR AN ADJOURNMENT
The Court of Appeal held that the refusal of the application for an adjournment was unfair.