The Home Office has released the medicinal cannabis oil it confiscated from the mother of epileptic 12-year-old Billy Caldwell, a family spokesman said.
The government u-turn came after shortly the boy’s mother Charlotte Caldwell told reporters that she and the medical team were working closely with the Home Office to find a solution.
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.
Following intense pressure, the Home Office said it was “carefully considering” the options after he was hospitalised in a “life-threatening” condition on Friday night, as his “seizures intensified”.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This morning, I’ve used an exceptional power as Home Secretary to urgently issue a licence to allow Billy Caldwell to be treated 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.
“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 met with the family on Monday and since then has been working to reach an urgent solution.”
A family spokesman said on Saturday: “The medication that she brought into the country and was confiscated, this medication is on the way to the hospital.”
Speaking outside the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, Caldwell celebrated the decision, saying they had “achieved the impossible”.
She criticised the “dreadful, horrific, cruel experience” that has deeply affected 12-year-old Billy, saying: “His little body has been completely broken and his little mind.”
“I truly believe that somewhere in the Home Office there’s someone with a heart and I truly believe that Billy was pulling on their heart strings,” she added.
She vowed to keep up her fight to allow others in the UK to have access to the medication they need.
“My experience leaves me in no doubt that the Home Office can no longer play a role in the administration of medication for sick children in our country,” she said.
“Children are dying in our country and it needs to stop now.”
Before the decision, Caldwell said her son had had two further seizures overnight while being looked after in hospital.
Earlier she had 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 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.”
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.”