Councils are wasting court time by taking child anti-vaccination cases to court, senior judges have warned.
Last month The Telegraph reported on the case of a couple, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, who refused to have their son vaccinated because it would make him “a creature of the state”.
They took their case to the High Court, where it was thrown out by Justice Hayden who concluded that vaccinations were in the little boy's best interests and that his parents’ objections to them were “tenuous and tendentious”.
The couple then proceeded to take the case to the Court of Appeal, where not only did they lose their case, but senior judges warned that it was “neither necessary nor appropriate” for local authorities to bring every anti-vaccination case to the High Court.
The three leading judges also ruled that children in care can be vaccinated against their parents' wishes without courts having to intervene.
In a Court of Appeal ruling published on Friday, they said scientific evidence "clearly establishes" that it is in the best interests of children to be immunised - unless there is a specific reason for them not to be.
Lady Justice King, sitting with Lords Justice McCombe and Peter Jackson, said that, while parents' views must be taken into account, councils should not make decisions regarding vaccinations based on the strength of those views - unless they have a "real bearing" on the child's welfare.
The judge also said it is neither "necessary nor appropriate" for councils to go to court every time a parent objects to their child being vaccinated.
She said: "The administration of standard or routine vaccinations cannot be regarded as being a 'serious' or 'grave' matter.
"Except where there are significant features which suggest that, unusually, it may not be in the best interests of a child to be vaccinated, it is neither necessary nor appropriate for a local authority to refer the matter to the High Court in every case where a parent opposes the proposed vaccination of their child.
"To do so involves the expenditure of scarce time and resources by the local authority, the unnecessary instruction of expert medical evidence and the use of High Court time which could be better spent dealing with one of the urgent and serious matters which are always awaiting determination in the Family Division." The parents decided not to register their newborn son’s birth and later decided against getting him vaccinated. The 1953 Birth and Deaths Registration Act required a birth to be registered within 42 days of a child being born.
The couple, whose son - referred to only as T - was placed in foster care, had refused to agree to the child receiving his routine childhood immunisations.
Tower Hamlets Council went to the High Court arguing that, under the Children Act 1989, it had the power to arrange for the vaccinations to be carried out and, if this was not the case, then the court should grant an order authorising the injections as they were in the child's best interests.
In February, a High Court judge accepted the council's argument and said it did have the authority to arrange for the immunisations to take place.
The parents then went to the Court of Appeal, but at a hearing in April, they dropped part of the appeal, saying they were no longer challenging the merits of the High Court's order permitting the council to arrange T's vaccinations.
The healthy boy's immunisations are now due to go ahead.
The Court of Appeal was asked to decide whether a local authority has the powers to arrange for the routine vaccination of a child in its care where the parents have refused to consent.
Giving the court's judgment on Friday, Lady Justice King said: "The question that arises here is whether the local authority has the power to consent to vaccination in the best interests of the child, and thereby to provide lawful authority for something that is not compulsory."
She added: "Although vaccinations are not compulsory, the scientific evidence now clearly establishes that it is in the best medical interests of children to be vaccinated in accordance with Public Health England's guidance unless there is a specific contra-indication in an individual case."
She concluded that, under the Children Act, "a local authority with a care order can arrange and consent to a child in its care being vaccinated where it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of that individual child, notwithstanding the objections of parents".