People may recall that Christopher Clunis (the mentally ill man
who killed Jonathan Zito) was excluded by the court of appeal from
suing Camden council for failing to provide services, pursuant to
section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983, which would have
prevented him committing the crime.
The reasons were firstly that parliament had not intended that
breaches of section 117 would lead to a right to compensation, and
that Clunis should not be able to be awarded compensation based on
his own wrongdoing.
Clunis took his case to the European Court of Human Rights on
the basis that there was a breach of article 6 (right to a fair
hearing) as he had been denied a trial, and a breach of article 8
(right to respect for private life), as the council had failed to
provide him with services he needed.
The European court ruled that Clunis’ application was
inadmissible. The court held that there had been no violation of
article 6 because the court of appeal had not excluded his claim by
applying a complete immunity, but had carefully considered the case
on the facts.
On article 8 the court held that the state had assumed a
positive obligation towards Clunis by agreeing he needed services,
but concluded that it could not be said that the health authority’s
failure to discharge its section 117 duty led inevitably to the
stabbing of Jonathan Zito.