Government has no role in Charlie Gard case, says UK Justice Secretary

The British government has no role to play in the case of terminally ill baby Charlie Gard, the UK's Justice Secretary has said.

Lord Chancellor David Lidington expressed sympathy with the judges involved in the "heart-wrenching" case, which has seen the 11-month-old's parents in a protracted legal battle with hospital doctors.

His comments come after two United States congressmen said they would table legislation to give Charlie and his family US resident status in a bid to allow them to travel there for experimental treatment.

Connie Yates, Charlie's mother, has urged British Prime Minister Theresa May to support their case.

The boy's family are expected to join a demonstration outside Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) later after they vowed the "fight is not over".

Asked if it was right that judges could overrule the wishes of Charlie's parents, Mr Lidington told Sky News' Ridge On Sunday: "It is right that judges interpret the law, independently and dispassionately.

"As ministers and as a Government we have no role to play in the Charlie Gard case, as would be the case in any other proceeding in court."

Mr Lidington added: "I do not envy the judges who are having to take decisions on this.

"It must be incredibly pressured - probably emotional, under the judicial professionalism, a really emotional, heart-wrenching case for them to have to decide.

"But they are independent, they know their duty is to decide the case on the basis of what they genuinely consider to be in the best interests of Charlie himself."

The couple, both in their 30s and from Bedfont, west London, want to take their son to a hospital in the US for nucleoside treatment.

However, they lost a lengthy legal battle after judges ruled in favour of doctors at GOSH, who argued the therapy would not improve Charlie's quality of life.

Ms Yates and Charlie's father Chris Gard were buoyed by support from around the world, including from the pope and US president Donald Trump, and, in the latest twist, they have been offered the chance to become US residents.

In a joint statement, congressmen Brad Westrup and Trent Franks said: "Our bill will support Charlie's parents' right to choose what is best for their son, by making Charlie a lawful permanent resident in the US in order for him to receive treatments that could save his life."

Under a High Court ruling, GOSH is forbidden from allowing Charlie to be transferred for nucleoside therapy anywhere.

The case will come back to the High Court on Monday to hear fresh arguments following claims of "new information" from researchers at the Vatican's children's hospital.

Meanwhile, supporters of the family will deliver a petition of more than 350,000 signatures on Sunday calling on doctors at GOSH to allow the baby to travel and receive experimental treatment.

Charlie inherited the faulty RRM2B gene from his parents, affecting the cells responsible for energy production and respiration and leaving him unable to move or breathe without a ventilator. The therapy is not a cure.

GOSH describes experimental nucleoside therapies as "unjustified" but its decision comes after two international hospitals and their researchers contacted them "as late as the last 24 hours" to say they have "fresh evidence about their proposed experimental treatment".

GOSH also points out that the court ruling calls for Charlie's artificial ventilation to be withdrawn and he should receive palliative care only.

Ms Yates has said her son was "not in pain or suffering" and she had been given hope by international attempts to come to Charlie's aid.

Previous legal attempts by Charlie's parents failed as judges in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in London ruled in favour of GOSH doctors, while the European Court of Human Rights declined to hear the couple's appeal.

Charlie's case will be heard by Mr Justice Francis on Monday at 2pm, according to a High Court listing.


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