HAMPSHIRE'S Police and Crime Commissioner has defended the county's police force against accusations of heavy-handedness over the case of missing Ashya King.

Simon Hayes said that Hampshire Police has “no option” but to apply for an European arrest warrant when trying to find five-year-old Ashya and his family, when they had fled to France from Southampton General Hospital.

He added that Ashya had “rights to the complex medical treatment that he needs and he also has the right to the support of his parents”.

Daily Echo: Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes

Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes

However, Mr Hayes also said that he did not think it was “good at all” that the five-year-old was on his own in hospital in Spain since his parents Brett and Naghmeh were arrested on Saturday night.

He said he hoped the boy would be reunited quickly with his parents in the UK.

But asked if police had been “heavy-handed”, Mr Hayes said: “I think if Hampshire Constabulary had ignored the professional medical advice and opinion, then they would have been negligent in their responsibilities to safeguard Ashya in this case and young children in general.

“I think the reality is that Hampshire have no jurisdiction to operate outside the UK, so once Ashya's parents had taken him across the Channel, there was no option but to apply for a European arrest warrant to secure the support of other national police forces.”

However, UKIP'S South East MEP Janice Atkinson believes Hampshire's Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead should apologise to Ashya's parents, who she believes should be released immediately.

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UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson

She said: “I am appalled that Ashya's parents have been arrested. This little boy needs his mother at this time. He is five years old, probably doesn't speak Spanish, and will be lying in a hospital bed in distress.

“I call on the Home Secretary to contact the Spanish authorities so that Ashya's parents are released immediately.

“Then she should ask the Assistant Chief Constable of Hampshire, Chris Shead, why he 'made no apology for the police being proactive' to find Ashya.

“Then I would ask her whether she now thinks that pernicious European arrest warrant works in the hands of over-zealous policemen in the interests of British citizens?”

It comes as extradition proceedings were due begin in Spain today to force the parents of little Ashya King to return to the UK to be questioned by police.

Officers from Hampshire arrived in Malaga yesterday and were expected to speak to Brett and Naghmeh King, hours after they were found and arrested on suspicion of neglect of their son.

Five-year-old Ashya, who had been at the centre of an international search over fears he might die without specialist care, meanwhile spent a second night in a children's hospital and was said to be doing well.

An application to extradite the couple, who had fled to Spain with Ashya and his six siblings on Thursday afternoon, is expected to be made before a presiding judge in a court in Malaga at some point today.

However, should the King family choose to lodge an appeal against the proceedings, there could be a delay in the courts of up to 40 days.

The developments came as questions were today asked of Southampton General Hospital about whether they had over-reacted, causing a desperate family to feel they were being hounded and had kidnapped their child.

Since Ashya vanished at 2.15pm on Thursday hospital chiefs have said very little - and are yet to explain why it took them more than six hours to raise the alarm with police despite repeated requests.

However Hampshire police has moved to defend its role in leading an international search to find the sick little boy, who was diagnosed with a Grade 4 brain tumour in July, saying they were led to believe he could die.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead, said the force made "no apology" for being proactive.

He said: "I think it's safe to say that faced with the situation we were, we had medical experts telling us that Ashya was in grave danger.

"Medical experts were saying to us if he didn't get the care that he needed there was a potential threat to his life.

"Faced with those circumstances, I make no apology for the police being as proactive as we possibly can to actually find Ashya and ensure that he gets the help he needed.

"I would much sooner be standing here facing criticism for being proactive than to stand here and face criticism for doing nothing and potentially having to explain why a child has lost his life.”

He had previously said that a decision to use a European Arrest Warrant to arrest Naghmeh and Brett King was simply a measure to enable them to get the youngster help. It is not yet known if this will result in the couple facing criminal charges - that, he said, was a matter for the Crown Prosecution Service at a later date.

Responding to a question about Mr King's claims they had been subjected to a "ridiculous chase" and left feeling like "refugees" and who were being "persecuted", Ass Chief Const Shead added: "All along I've said this has been a terribly difficult time for Ashya's family and I don't deviate from that.

"Heaven knows what they've been going through, it must be a terrible situation for anybody who's got a small child with that type of illness and I fully get that.

"But the reality of it is from the police and myself when we are told by medical experts that they have got grave concern for the health and wellbeing of a child because they feel that he has been taken from a safe environment in the hospital, is not getting the care that they actually need to give to ensure Ashya's health then we have to act.”

The family were found after a hotel worker in the Marbella area saw the global media appeal, backed by an alert from Interpol issued in 190 countries, and called police.

Spanish officers then stopped the family car, found Ashya and his parents inside, and arrested them.

The couple's six other children were staying at a hotel nearby.