THE activist legal group representing Alfie Evans, a terminally ill child, has been strongly criticised by a judge, Mr Justice Hayden.
Lawyers and others from the Christian Legal Centre — connected to the conservative Evangelical lobby group Christian Concern — have been arguing on behalf of Alfie’s parents through a series of legal wrangles since last December.
Doctors at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool, requested permission to turn off the 23-month-old’s life support and allow him to die, as they believed that his condition — an unidentified degenerative neurological disorder — was untreatable. Prolonging his life would be “unkind and inhumane”, they argued.
Alfie’s parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, have repeatedly appealed against rulings given in favour of the doctors, and have taken the case to the Supreme Court. They have argued that Alfie should be transferred to the Bambino Gesu Hospital, in Rome, which is linked to the Vatican, to explore new treatment options.
Mr Justice Hayden castigated some of those from the Christian Legal Centre who have been making the parents’ case; and he accused others of exploiting the case for their own political ends.
One activist who has been with the couple in court, Pavel Stroilov, was described by the judge as a “deluded and fanatical young man” who had prepared witness statements “littered with vituperation and bile”.
Mr Stroilov, who is not thought to be a qualified lawyer, also advised Mr Evans that he could remove Alfie from the hospital, which would have breached a Court of Appeal ruling and risked imprisonment for contempt of court. Mr Stroilov has suggested pursuing a private prosecution for murder against the doctors who this week switched off Alfie’s life-support. At the time of writing, Alfie was breathing unaided.
Not everyone in “Alfie’s army” of supporters had the best interests of Mr Evans and Ms James at heart, Mr Justice Hayden warned the couple. During an earlier hearing, he said that he was worried about “those around that peck away at the good advice”.
Police had to form a protective cordon around the entrance to Alder Hey on Monday, after a group of the child’s supporters tried to storm the hospital in protest at the European Court of Human Rights’ refusal to take up his case.
The Christian Legal Centre has previously represented several Christians in prominent court cases. They have acted on behalf of a Christian nurse whom they said was fired after offering to pray with patients; a worker at Heathrow who said that anti-Christian discrimination forced her out of her job; a nursery employee fired after she told colleagues that homosexuality was a sin; and a family-court magistrate removed from office because he refused to approve adoptions by same-sex couples.
Alfie’s parents were earlier represented by MSB Solicitors. A lawyer there, Mary Holmes, has accused the Christian Legal Centre of exploiting the situation.
“These people I don’t believe are in it because they love Alfie,” she told The Times. “When this case is over, they’ll move on to the next. Or they’ll find some other cause they can ride on the back of. I just think they pick on the vulnerable, and they are easy prey.”
Ms Holmes also said that the activists were keeping Alfie alive “not for the right reason”, but to keep themselves in the public eye, noting that the publicity had even brought about a meeting with Pope Francis.
Mr Evans flew to the Vatican on 18 April, and was pictured meeting the Pope, who subsequently tweeted his support for the couple’s cause: “I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted.”
Earlier this week, Italy granted emergency citizenship to Alfie in an attempt to help push through his transfer to the Bambino Gesu Hospital.
A fresh appeal was due to be heard at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon, after the Church Times went to press.