Hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets of Liverpool today for the funeral of Alfie Evans, the 23-month-old who died from a degenerative brain condition following a legal battle over his treatment.
A private funeral took place this morning and afterwards the procession passed crowds of supporters who had gathered outside Everton football team's Goodison Park stadium. Alfie's father, Tom Evans, had spoken of his desire to take his son to watch the team in action.
Alfie died on April 28 after a high court dispute that attracted international attention.
Alfie's parents, Tom Evans and Kate James, wanted to take their child to Rome for treatment at the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Hospital. But the courts ruled it was not in Alfie's best interests to travel and instead his life support should be removed and he put on a palliative care plan.
The Christian Legal Centre was engaged to fight the case and took it through a series of appeals which were rejected at every stage.
The case attracted international attention with Pope Francis meeting Mr Evans and offering his support. The Italian government also intervened, granting Alfie Italian citizenship to aid his transferral to Rome.
It has led to calls for an 'Alfie's law' to prioritise the wishes of the parents over the child's 'best interest' as a consideration in legal battles.
But the case also attracted negative attention with protesters gathering outside Alder Hey hospital where he was treated and staff being abused for not allowing Alfie to travel to Italy. At one point hundreds of protesters tried to storm the hospital only to be stopped by police.
The Christian Legal Centre was also heavily criticised in strong language from Judge Hayden who ruled on the case. He focused particularly on Pavel Stroilov, who is not a lawyer but gave incorrect legal advice to the parents on behalf of the Christian Legal Centre. Stroilov encouraged the parents to pursue a private prosecution of conspiracy to commit murder against three doctors at Alder Hey, a court heard, and also advised the parents they had a right to remove Alfie from Alder Hey's care directly after a court order stipulated the opposite.
Christian Today understands that this could lead to contempt of court charges being bought against Stroilov.
In strikingly strong remarks Justice Hayden described Stroilov as a 'fanatical and deluded young man'. He said his advice was 'inconsistent with the real interests of the parents' case'. Witness statements prepared for Tom Evans, Alfie's dad, were 'littered with vituperation and bile', he added, doing the parents 'far more harm than it does them good'.
Summing up the final court case, three Court of Appeal judges said: 'The representation of the parents may have been infiltrated or compromised by others who purport to act on their behalf.'
They added: 'It may be that some investigation of whether, in this country, at this time, parents who find themselves in these awful circumstances, and are therefore desperate for help and vulnerable to engaging with people whose interests may not in fact assist the parents' case, needs some wider investigation.'
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) confirmed it was looking into the Christian Legal Centre's role in the high-profile case and deciding whether to launch an investigation.