MS v UK 24527/08 [2012] ECHR 804, [2012] MHLO 46

MS was taken to a police station under s136 having assaulted his aunt, but the FME assessed him as not fit for interview. The local psychiatric intensive care unit refused to admit him on the basis that he required a medium secure unit but, for various reasons, there was a delay in transferring him there. (1) The delay led to detention beyond the 72-hour limit of s136, but he did not make any claim under Article 5. (2) His claim was instead in negligence and breach of Article 3 and, as the case was summarily dismissed in the domestic proceedings, the Article 3 aspect of the case proceeded to the ECtHR. The ECtHR made no criticism of the initial detention under s136 in a police station, the attitude of the authorities or the material conditions (food and liquid) of detention. It did, however, conclude that - because MS was in a state of great vulnerability throughout his detention, as manifested by the abject condition to which he quickly descended inside his cell, and that he was in dire need of appropriate psychiatric treatment - the conditions which the applicant was required to endure were an affront to human dignity and reached the threshold of degrading treatment for the purposes of Article 3. (3) There was no breach of Article 13 as an appropriate remedy was available in domestic law, notwithstanding the fact that he had been unsuccessful. (4) Compensation of €3,000 was awarded.

External links


Rosalind English, 'Delay in transferring mental health patient for treatment amounted to "inhumane treatment"' (3/5/12). This article concludes: 'This is a prime example of using Article 3 as a social and economic right, not a basic civil right, and thus extended leaves publicly funded authorities to carry out difficult jobs with threats of litigation looming on all sides. The UK courts recognised this claim for what it was, and dismissed it. Strasbourg should have done the same.'

Mental Health Cop Blog, 'MS v UK' (4/5/12). This article is in favour of the judgment and makes points in relation to (1) place of safety arguments, (2) accessing psychiatric beds, (3) media coverage, and (4) implications

ECtHR, 'Prolonged police detention of mentally-ill man without adequate medical care violated his Convention rights' (Press release ref ECHR 195 (2012), 3/5/12). This is the court's summary of the judgment

Martha Spurrier, 'European Court got it right on mental health detention delay' (UK Human Rights Blog, 7/5/12)