|Nobody should be kept at some place if they do not want to.
A woman with intellectual disability
was forced to stay in hospital.
The European judges decided
that this was against her rights.
The government should pay money to the woman
because she was forced to stay in the hospital.
The European Court for Human Rights ordered to UK government to pay legal costs and compensation to a woman with Down’s syndrome which was detained in hospital against her will. Following the judgement, the United Kingdom must ensure that special procedural safeguards are put in place to protect a right to liberty guaranteed by Article 5 (4) of the European Convention of Human Rights for all detainees, also for the ones who are not in a position to exercise these rights independently.
The woman named MH was taken to hospital on mental health grounds for an assessment in January 2003. She was entitled to challenge the decision for the first 14 days of detention but lacked the legal capacity to do so.
With the consideration that the woman would have been a danger to herself and others, social workers denied a request of her mother acting as the Nearest Relative, to have her discharged. Consequently, they managed to have her mother discharged as MH’s Nearest Relative ‘due to concern for their welfare’. By this action coming to the effect, MH detention could be extended indefinitely.
MH was eventually released in July 2003. Under the article 5 of the European Convention, she complained to the ECHR that her right of liberty had been violated as there are no provisions under UK law allowing for an automatic review of the detention of persons without legal capacity. Moreover, her lawyers addressed the complaint to the ECHR, because there are no provisions to take proceedings before the UK court in case of detention which had been prolonged indefinitely following the displacement of the nearest relative.
The ECHR decided that the state had breached women’s rights during the first 28 days of her detention. “It is clear that special safeguards are called for in the case of detained mental patients who lack legal capacity to institute proceedings before judicial bodies,” the court stated.
More information about the case is available at the website of the ECHR.
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