Legal challenge lost over hybrid embryos

Pro-life groups will not be allowed to challenge the embryology watchdog for allowing research using animal-human embryos before Parliament legislated for it.

The Christian Legal Centre (CLC) and Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) have been refused permission to bring a test case application for judicial review.

Mrs Justice Dobbs, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled that the application was “totally without merit”.

Campaigners wanted to overturn a decision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) in January, when it granted animal-human embryo research licenses to scientists at Newcastle University and King’s College London.

Critics say the HFEA acted outside its jurisdiction by granting the licences before Parliament had decided whether this kind of research should be allowed.

Parliament only approved the practice last month in the controversial new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.

But the HFEA argues that since Parliament had not yet legislated either way it was right to grant the licences.

A spokeswoman for CORE, Josephine Quintavalle said the regulator is too “pro-embryo research” with no voice of opposition to balance the views of the regulator’s membership.

She expressed disappointment at the verdict and said: “The way the regulator works is not fair. No-one representing the interests of the embryo can sit on the committees that make decisions and once a decision has been reached we cannot appeal it.”

As a result, the campaign groups say, no licence application has ever been completely rejected.

Barrister Andrea Minichiello Williams of the CLC said: “The HFEA was fully aware that Parliament was about to debate the principles and practice of this highly controversial issue, and indeed that the legislation in force at the time could have been narrowed or widened, and yet they decided to go ahead.”

Speaking after today’s decision, Mrs Williams said: “This is a sad day for justice in this country.”