Mental health patients may sue for unlawful detention

Thousands of mental health patients may be able to claim
compensation following high court test case rulings that the
government breached the human rights of people compulsorily
detained in psychiatric hospitals, writes Katie

A judge found that breaches occurred because patients sectioned
under the Mental Health Act did not receive speedy reviews of their
detention, and may have been wrongly deprived of their freedom.

Lawyers for the seven test case patients, who will be applying
for compensation within the next few months, said the ruling
“potentially affects thousands of people throughout England and
Wales”. The patients, who cannot be identified for legal reasons,
complained they suffered long delays, in one case up to 27 weeks,
and frequent and repeated cancellations of their hearings.

Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said they had a right to speedy
hearings in case they were being wrongly detained. That right was
protected by article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human
Rights, and had been infringed because of the delays and repeated
adjournments the patients had suffered because of central
government failures.

“On the evidence before me, the principle causes for
cancellations and delays were the shortage of tribunal members,
particularly medical members, and shortage and lack of training of
staff,” he said. “The state has not established that it has taken
appropriate action to ensure that tribunals are adequately

The health secretary must now provide “such resources as will
provide speedy hearings”.

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