Mum defiant as son's cannabis medication is seized at airport
The Co Tyrone mother of a boy with a deadly form of epilepsy has said she will continue to treat her son with cannabis oil despite his medication being seized by airport officials.
Charlotte Caldwell arrived in Heathrow yesterday morning and declared to customs that she was carrying cannabis oil that had been prescribed to 12-year-old Billy by doctors in Canada.
The mum-of-two from Castlederg had been hoping to be allowed to continue her journey home with the medication, but after the six-month supply of cannabis oil was seized, she said she would return to Canada to get more.
"Billy will get his medication," she commented. "I'm absolutely devastated but I won't give up."
She said the border officials who seized Billy's medication were polite and "doing their job", and claimed one welled up with tears while doing so.
Charlotte was not arrested as a result of bringing the cannabis oil - a controlled substance - into the UK.
After leaving the airport, she pleaded for the drug to be returned in a meeting with Home Office Minister Nick Hurd. However, her request was denied.
"It's Billy's anti-epileptic medication that Nick Hurd has taken away, it's not some sort of joint full of recreational cannabis," she said. "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."
Billy was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy when he was just a few months old. Doctors in Belfast were unable to bring the condition under control. At its worst, Billy suffers up to 100 seizures a day - any one of which could be fatal.
In addition to campaigning for the right to treat Billy's seizures with cannabis oil, Charlotte is also determined the drug should be available to anyone in the UK who could benefit from it.
"We're not looking to make it legal for people to use cannabis recreationally," she said. "This is completely different. What we want is the right for our children to receive a treatment that is life-saving in their own country.
"We will not stop ... we are not going to give up."
Billy made history when he became the first person in the UK to be prescribed medicinal cannabis by the health service.
But Charlotte was forced to travel to Canada with Billy last week after officials warned her GP that he faced serious consequences if he continued to write prescriptions for it.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "The Home Office is sympathetic to the difficult and rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with.
"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."