The Home Office is “carefully considering” allowing a 12-year-old boy with severe epilepsy to be prescribed cannabis oil after he was hospitalised in a “life-threatening” condition on Friday night.
Charlotte Caldwell attempted to bring a six-month supply of cannabis oil into the UK from Canada for her son Billy, but had it confiscated by customs officers at Heathrow Airport on Monday.
On Friday night a spokesperson for Billy’s family said the boy had been admitted to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital as “seizures intensify”.
Caldwell said: “If Billy dies, which is looking increasingly possible, then the Home Office, and Nick Hurd, will be held completely accountable.”
In response, a Home Office spokesman said: “We are deeply sympathetic to the extremely difficult situation that Billy and his family are in.”
He said Billy was in the care of medical professionals who are “best placed” to assess the care and treatment that he requires.
“The Home Office is contacting Billy’s medical team. If the team treating Billy advise a particular course of urgent action, the Home Office will carefully consider what options are available to help facilitate that advice.”
Billy’s family said he is now too ill to travel back to Canada for treatment and the “only effective medication is locked in secure storage in the Home Office in London”.
Billy suffered back-to-back seizures on Friday. When he was taking the medication with the banned THC component, Billy’s family said he was seizure-free for more than 300 days.
“This is beyond cruelty. We’ve now reached the point where Billy is too ill to travel [abroad] to get his medication, but his medication is stored minutes away from where we’re now living in London,” Caldwell said.
“Despite the best and honest efforts of the NHS, frontline doctors are fighting Billy’s condition with both hands tied behind their back because the only medication that will be effective is the cannabis oil with CBD and THC. Those meds need to be released immediately.
“The situation is now described by doctors in Canada and Northern Ireland familiar with Billy’s case as being life-threatening,” they said.
Billy has suffered a “sudden increase in frequency and intensity of seizures” since the medication was confiscated, the statement added.
Earlier on Friday, the Home Office defended seizing the cannabis oil, saying in a statement that it was “sympathetic to the difficult and rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with”.
It continued: “Whilst we recognise that people with debilitating illnesses are looking to alleviate their symptoms, Border Force has a duty to stop banned substances from entering the UK. Ms Caldwell has, therefore, had cannabis oil seized at Heathrow Airport upon landing from Canada.”
Policing minister Nick Hurd
Speaking outside the government department after a meeting with policing minister Nick Hurd on Friday, Caldwell said she had had an “honest and genuine conversation”.
She added: “I have asked him to give Billy back his medicines today, he said no. I’ve asked him to come up with a solution and have been assured I will receive a response by 5pm today.”
Earlier this week Caldwell, from Castlederg in Co Tyrone, vowed to return to Canada to get Billy more cannabis oil.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday after the confiscation, she said: “It’s Billy’s anti-epileptic medication that (Home Office minister) Nick Hurd has taken away, it’s not some sort of joint full of recreational cannabis, it is his anti-epileptic medication that he has taken off me at the airport today.
“I will just go back to Canada and get more and I will bring it back again because my son has a right to have his anti-epileptic medication in his country, in his own home.
“Let me tell you something now; we will not stop, we are not going to stop, we are not going to give up, we have love, hope, faith for our kids and we are going to continue.”