Pictured: Rohan Wray and Chana Al-Alas
Published: 27 April, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
POLICE, social services and the health service will need to work more closely together and share information in order to avoid putting another couple through the ordeal faced by Rohan Wray and Chana Al-Alas, who were wrongly accused of murdering their baby and then had to fight to gain custody of their other child.
That is the likely finding of a review carried out in the aftermath of the case after Mr Wray, 22, and his partner, Miss Al-Alas, 19, who live in Islington, were finally reunited with their daughter last week.
The couple spoke this week of their heartache at having their daughter taken from them immediately after she was born because they faced unfounded charges of murder following the death of their eldest child.
Not only that, after going through the ordeal of a six-week Old Bailey trial – they were cleared in November last year – the couple then had to refight the case because Islington Council refused to hand their daughter, Jayda, back to them.
In a rare move, Mrs Justice Theis, who heard the case at the Family Divisional Court at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, released her judgment last Thursday and named all the parties involved so the couple could “sing their innocence from the rooftops”.
A review carried out by the council into the series of events that led to the case will be published next month. It is understood to find that all the official parties should work more closely together and communicate better.
Rohan and Chana’s difficulties began when their first child, Jayden, became ill in 2009. He had developed rickets, a bone-weakening disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. But when they took him to University College London Hospital doctors failed to identify rickets.
The four-month-old boy subsequently died of multiple fractures and brain damage at Great Ormond Street Hospital in July 2009.
His parents were immediately arrested and charged with murder the following the month. They were not allowed to see their baby son again.
Tragically, they were told they could not attend his christening, which they had requested before his life support machine was switched off. Nor were they allowed to say goodbye. Visits by any member of the family were vetoed by the council.
Miss Al-Alas was pregnant at this time with her daughter, Jayda. When she was born in 2010 she was immediately taken from her.
Mr Wray did not see his new baby girl for a month and Miss Al-Alas was only supplied with a photograph after the intervention of a nurse.
Although the couple were cleared of Jayden’s murder in November last year – the baby’s disease was eventually noted by a pathologist but his report was ignored by the prosecution – the council remained concerned about Jayda’s safety.
The trial collapsed because more than 60 expert witnesses could not agree. So the couple were forced to refight the case at the Family Division, eventually winning custody of their daughter after 18 months.
The family was reunited earlier last week.
Speaking this week of the ordeal, Mr Wray called for an inquiry. “There are medical staff who we believe should be disciplined at an inquiry,” he said. “These medical experts who judge parents are dangerous people. They base much of what they say on opinion rather than fact. We feel we were treated very poorly by the state authorities involved. We were viewed as guilty at the outset.”
The couple’s solicitor, Ann Thompson, of Goodman Ray, told the Tribune that without legal aid it is possible the couple would not only have been unable to fight their Old Bailey trial, but may very well have lost custody of their daughter, despite their innocence.
“The judge felt the parents needed to have some vindication – that they should be able to sing their innocence from the rooftops,” she said. “The main thing to be learned from this case is that people mustn’t rush to judgement in these cases. It’s important to have an overview.”
In a statement, she added that the judge had strongly encouraged more research into rickets in this country.