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Private Eye Catch 22.pdf

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Private Eye, 'Mental Health: Catch 22' (Eye 1277, 10-23 December 2010)

Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE magazine - www.private-eye.co.uk

Related page: SSJ v RB [2010] UKUT 454 (AAC)

Article text

A young autistic man with "significant impairment of behaviour" is stuck in a secure mental hospital thanks to a ludicrous Catch 22.

David, whom we have chosen not to identify, has a history of making inappropriate sexual approaches to women. He was detained under the mental health act in a hospital where he could receive treatment to deal with his behaviour. Although he was not violent, concerns about "public safety" meant he was also made the subject of a restriction order which says he cannot leave the hospital without the approval of the justice minister - a move more often associated with the most dangerous violent offenders.

As a result David, who also has severe learning difficulties, has been locked away in a secure mental hospital for four years. Everyone involved in his treatment and acre now believes he could safely be cared for in the community with certain conditions, including that he always has an escort. But he cannot get out.

The last mental health tribunal to consider his case ruled that to impose such restrictions would in effect deprive him of his freedom, so he would not really be "discharged" from the mental health orders at all. This would breach article five of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to liberty and security, and would "thereby be impermissible in law".

As the last stands, David cannot be moved out of the secure mental hospital to a place where he would be happier and better cared for, and where he would pose no risk to anyone, because it is deemed that this would breach his own human rights!

According to Simon Burrows, a Manchester-based barrister, many others are in the same trap. While the doctors' proposals do indeed "restrict" liberty, he says, they do not amount to "deprivation" because David, and others like him, would be able to leave their new homes whenever they wishes, albeit under supervision. They would be able to go out to different places for treatment, therapy or work and to socialise with others outside the secure environment.

Mr Burrows is awaiting the outcome of a test case in the appeal courts. Meanwhile David's devoted mother told the Eye: "The situation my son is caught in is surreal - his fate governed by a legal system that is totally skewed against people with autism and bears no relation to events in the real world."

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