The Home Office is returning a severely epileptic boy’s medicinal cannabis oil after confiscating it from his mother at Customs
Charlotte Caldwell tried to bring the medication into Heathrow Airport in a last-ditch effort to treat her 12-year-old son Billy, but it was removed by border officials.
After a week of pleading with the Home Office during which she accused a minister of probably signing the boy’s “death warrant”, the government has relented.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced yesterday that he has used his powers to “urgently issue” a licence to treat Billy with cannabis oil.
“This is a very complex situation, but our immediate priority is making sure Billy receives the most effective treatment possible in a safe way,” he said.
“We have been in close contact with Billy’s medical team overnight and my decision is based on the advice of senior clinicians who have made clear this is a medical emergency.
“The Policing Minister [Nick Hurd] met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”
A family spokesman said the medication was on its way to London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital early on Saturday afternoon.
On Monday, Caldwell, 50, from Castlederg, Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, flew with the boy and a six-month supply of the medication used to treat up to 100 seizures a day into the UK airport from Toronto, Canada.
She went on to accuse Hurd of having “likely signed my son’s death warrant” ahead of a meeting.
Yesterday, she said the boy’s condition had worsened since the medication ran out and warned that his seizures had intensified, pushing him into a “crisis situation”.
But, she added, the Home Office had been working with the family “extremely hard” throughout the night to negotiate access to the medication.
Speaking outside the hospital before the Home Office decision yesterday, Caldwell said: “Unfortunately, Billy had two more seizures overnight which has pushed him more into a crisis situation.”
She added: “The Home Office, myself and my team have been working extremely hard throughout the night to make this happen, which is truly amazing, but there can only be one conclusion here: that my beautiful sweet little boy, who has a life-threatening form of epilepsy and one seizure can kill him, he needs his medicine back today.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy around this and we are working towards obviously Billy getting his medicine and it’s just one step at a time but we are confident the Home Office is working with us and we are going to get this done.”
Caldwell has said the Home Office will be held accountable if Billy dies, calling its actions “beyond cruelty”. Keen to get back to her son’s bedside, she said: “I am full of hope – this is my little boy’s anti-epilepsy medication. I am hoping the common sense will prevail.”
Caldwell credits the oil with keeping the boy’s seizures at bay, saying he was seizure-free for more than 300 days while using it. Billy started the treatment in 2016 in the US, where medical marijuana is legal.
He became the first person in the UK to receive a prescription after his local GP in Northern Ireland, Brendan O’Hare, began writing scripts. O’Hare was summoned to a meeting with Home Office officials recently and told to stop.
A number of parents around the UK are campaigning for cannabis-based drugs to be prescribed for children suffering from seizures, including Karen Gray, from Edinburgh, who has said she is prepared to try anything to help her five-year-old son, Murray, who suffers from “nightmare” seizures.