Two high-profile legal battles involving parents who wanted doctors to keep treating their severely-ill children have left the taxpayer with lawyers’ bills in the region of £500,000, figures show.
NHS hospital trusts say they spent more than £420,000 in total on lawyers during disputes centred on Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) – a taxpayer-funded organisation which represents the interests of children embroiled in family court cases, says it spent just under £50,000 in total.
Bosses at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, where Charlie was treated, at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool – where Alfie was treated, and at Cafcass provided figures after the Press Association asked questions under freedom of information legislation.
Journalists asked the trusts and Cafcass how much they had run up in legal fees, over and above money routinely spent on salaried, in-house lawyers during litigation centred on Charlie and Alfie.
Great Ormond Street said £205,000, Alder Hey said £218 000 – that figure did not include VAT, Cafcass said nearly £32,500 in Charlie’s case and almost £17,000 in Alfie’s case.
Charlie, who suffered from rare inherited disease – infantile onset encephalomyopathy mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS), died in July 2017 a few days short of his first birthday after his parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, of Bedfont, west London, lost a legal battle lasting several months.
Great Ormond Street specialists said further life-support treatment was futile and should end.
A High Court judge ruled in their favour after a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
Charlie’s parents mounted repeated appeals, but failed to persuade judges in the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights to overturn Mr Justice Francis’s ruling.
Alfie, who suffered from a degenerative neurological condition doctors could not definitively identify, died in April 2018 shortly before his second birthday after his parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, from Liverpool, lost a legal battle lasting several months.
Specialists at Alder Hey said further life-support treatment was futile and should end.
A High Court judge ruled in their favour after a trial in the Family Division of the High Court in Liverpool.
Alfie’s parents also mounted repeated appeals, but failed to persuade judges in the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights to overturn Mr Justice Hayden’s ruling.
The bosses at the hospitals and Cafcass gave figures in written answers to Press Association questions.
– Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust said it could not provide a breakdown of costs for each “court process” because “they were too entwined”. The trust said: “We can only provide a total figure of £205,225.00 inclusive of VAT”.
– Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust said external lawyers had been employed to represent bosses in multiple sets of court proceedings concerning Alfie and to provide related legal advice and support.
Alder Hey said: “The trust’s records indicate that a total sum of £218,110.77 (excluding VAT) including disbursements such as counsel and court fees has been invoiced in relation to both the court proceedings and related legal advice and support.
The invoiced costs can be split by: legal advice and support and court proceedings – £102,546.00: counsel fees for further court proceedings – £115,564.77.
– Cafcass said it had run up bills of £32,488.36 in Charlie’s case and said the vast majority of that had been spent on barristers. It said bills of £16,815 had been run up in Alfie’s case – all on barristers.