Published on 21 Dec 2012 Sections ,

Neon Roberts’ mother loses radiotherapy court battle

A high court judge rules that seven-year-old Neon Roberts can have radiotherapy treatment, following surgery on a brain tumour, against his mother’s wishes.

Sally Roberts, 37, had said she feared that radiotherapy would cause long-term harm to Neon, and argued that “credible” alternative treatment was available.

Specialists treating Neon accepted that there were side effects to radiotherapy but said that without the treatment the youngster could die within a few months.

Mr Justice Bodey, who heard evidence at a hearing in the family division of the high court in London, said radiotherapy treatment could now begin.

“The mother has been through a terrible time. This sort of thing is every parent’s nightmare,” he said, “but I am worried that her judgment has gone awry on the question of the seriousness of the threat which Neon faces.”

Fighting for ‘love’

Ian Peddie QC, for Ms Roberts, told the judge on Friday: “Her stance merely reflects the love that she has for him.”

He said that Ms Roberts had given the question of radiotherapy treatment a lot of thought and “only wanted the best” for Neon.

“Why does this intelligent woman believe that it is not in Neon’s best interests for him to have radiotherapy?” asked Mr Peddie. “The mother, having considered the pros and cons of radiotherapy, does not believe it is in his best interests because of the significant and long-term consequences of this dramatic, powerful brain-altering treatment.”

When asked by the judge if she had “some sort of tie-up” with the media which was influencing her thinking, Ms Roberts told him: “My son is the only important thing to me.”

Channel 4 News yesterday spoke to a mother whose son four-year-old son had radiotherapy which resulted in serious side effects. He has stopped growing “upwards”, has to be injected with growth hormones, and his mental faculties have been affected.


Ms Roberts had earlier told the judge that she needed more time to research alternatives. “I strongly believe that there is many more things,” she said. “I would like to have time before presenting you with that because I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot.”

Victoria Butler-Cole, representing the doctors treating Neon, suggested to the court that Ms Roberts did not trust the hospital medical team.

But Ms Roberts said: “I think it is a very indoctrinated system. We are not exploring other alternative therapies.”

The judge was told that Neon’s father, Ben – who lives in London and is separated from Ms Roberts – was apprehensive but wanted radiotherapy treatment to go ahead.

‘Issues of trust’

Ms Roberts told the judge that she had lost confidence in him. But Sally Bradley, for Mr Roberts, said that Ms Roberts had been unable to identify “viable” alternative treatment.

“The mother is becoming increasingly implacable and that is a concern,” said Ms Bradley. “There are issues of trust.”

Doctors accept that there are side effects to radiotherapy but say that without the treatment Neon could die within two or three months. Miss Butler-Cole told the judge: “Putting together all of the risks, they don’t come close to suggesting that it would be better for him to die.”

She said Ms Roberts wanted time to find better alternatives, but added: “It’s not going to happen.”

Miss Butler-Cole said specialists treating Neon were involved in cutting edge research and would know if better options were available.