R (Allman) v HM Senior Coroner for Liverpool and Wirral.  CO/3230/2018 decision here 25.9.18

The short and desperately tragic life of Alfie Evans, and his parents’ heart-rending fight to have him transferred to Rome for continuation of his life sustaining treatment, has recently been fully played out in the public arena.   

The public hearings in the High Court[1] and the four appearances in the Court of Appeal[2] were not only all open to the public but the details were widely reported throughout the print and digital media.  On two occasions the family sought permission to take the case to the Supreme Court[3] and the European Court of Justice[4] but on each occasion those applications were dismisssed.  Those hearings were on paper without any oral submissions but once again the determinations were made public.

The relevant clinical information and extracts of the various expert opinions relied upon by the Courts at each stage are set out in the judgments.  They each confirm the unanimous agreement between all of the medical experts involved – including specifically all of the experts instructed by the family – as to the catastrophic and untreatable, progressive, neurodegenerative condition from which Alfie suffered; there can be no question that Alfie’s death on 28 April 2018 was the result of a naturally occurring condition. 

Against that background it is difficult to understand what more about the facts of Alfie’s death might be learned by those who have since called for an inquest to be held. Unsurprisingly, a judicial review claim challenging the decision of the Liverpool Senior Coroner that an inquest was not required in law has now been considered “totally without merit” in the High Court.

Background

On 14 May 2018, the morning of Alfie’s funeral, Mr Allman, who appears to have no connection to Alfie or his family, made an unsuccessful High Court application seeking an injunction to prevent Alfie from being buried or cremated.[5]   Undeterred by Mr Justice Garnham’s refusal of that application with the warning that his case was “hopeless”,  Mr Allman continued to press for an inquest into Alfie’s death by issuing a Judicial Review claim against the Senior Coroner.  That too has now been met with short shrift from Mr Justice Cockerill who has held that not only does Mr Allman have no locus standi to bring the claim but that the contention that an inquest should be held is “unarguable”. 

Mr Allman’s position seems to have been that an inquest was mandatory because, in his view, Alfie was in state detention at the time of his death.   This was a brave assertion to make when the Supreme Court had already refused permission in the parents’ habeus corpus action stating that that “a person who is unable to move because of the measures which are being taken in intensive care to keep him alive is not deprived of his liberty” [6].  Similarly, the European Court of Human Rights had found the parents’ challenge inadmissible when they sought to raise the argument that the prevention of Alfie’s transfer from Alder Hey Hospital was a violation of Article 5.

In refusing permission to now challenge the Senior Coroner, Cockerill J noted that Mr Allman had no entitlement to interested person status, there were no rights engaged under Art 10 ECHR and his argument, which amounted to an assertion that anyone had locus standi to challenge a coroner’s decision, was flawed on basic public law grounds.

The Coroner had been provided with a medical cause of death for Alfie. Any claim that Alfie was in state detention was "unarguable", being based on a position that had already been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Application totally without merit

The 'totally without merit' designation not only makes clear the court's view of this case but, by virtue of CPR 54.12(7), has the practical effect of now precluding Mr Allman from making any further application for an oral permission hearing.  It can only be hoped that this unmeritorious interference has not added to the distress of Alfie’s parents as they deal with their own bereavement.

 

[1]  [2018] EWHC 308 (Fam)  Judgment here

[2]  [2018] EWCA 984 (Civ) Judgment here

[3] Supreme Court decision here

[4] ECtHR decision here

[5] Mr Allman v Mr Evans [2018] EWHC 2404 (QB) Judgment here and a link to Mr Allman's own blog regarding the hearing can be found here

[6] Supreme Court permission decision at §12

 

Michael Mylonas QC (instructed by Hill Dickinson) represented Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. Sophia Roper was instructed by CAFCASS to act for the Child’s Guardian.