Those detained under the Mental Health Act during the current pandemic are at increased risk from COVID-19; we continue to represent those patients who appeal their detention and have successfully secured immediate discharge from locked psychiatric units to the safety of their own homes.

In a recent article Oliver Lewis, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers highlights the risks identified to those detained…

On 25 March 2020 Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned that coronavirus has begun to strike prisons, jails and immigration detention centres, as well as residential care homes and psychiatric hospitals, and risks rampaging through such institutions’ extremely vulnerable populations,”

In addition, responding to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has published a statement of principles relating to the treatment of people deprived of their liberty. The CPT calls on all relevant authorities to take concerted efforts to find alternatives to deprivation of liberty, including reassessing the need to continue involuntary placement of psychiatric patients and, wherever appropriate, discharging residents of care homes into community care. Similarly, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has called on states to “accelerate measures of deinstitutionalization of persons with disabilities from all types of institutions.”

Furthermore, the state (which includes local authorities and all organs of the NHS such as clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts) has an ongoing duty to protect each person’s right to life, under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The state must not only refrain from taking life, but it must proactively take steps to protect people against threats to life. Given that coronavirus threatens the lives of everyone in long-term care facilities, the state has a duty to reduce that threat, and has a duty to take action now.

Southerns mental health law team remains dedicated to this specialist area of law.   By way of recent examples, in two telephone hearings on 14 April 2020 and 20 April 2020, Neil Cronin successfully secured the discharge of two clients who were appealing their section 2 detention.

Within the hearing on 20 April, Neil highlighted the fact that the main risk to his client was Covid-19 (which was a greater risk on the ward and in relation to which the patient had been identified as high risk) and her need to self-isolate.  In this case it was conceded by the care coordinator in attendance that the patient would be safer at home than on the ward in terms of the risk presented by Covid-19.  Having considered all of the written and oral evidence, and contrary to the views of the clinical team who sought further detention, the Tribunal was not satisfied that the patient had a mental disorder of either a nature or degree which warranted her continued detention in hospital for assessment.  The client was discharged from section 2 and able to return to the safety of her own home.

Similarly, at the hearing on 14 April the Tribunal found, having considered all of the written and oral evidence before it that the statutory criteria for the section 2 were not met. The tribunal was not satisfied that the client is currently suffering from a mental disorder and on that basis discharged the section 2.  The Tribunal added, for the sake of completeness, and notwithstanding the finding that currently the client is not suffering from a mental disorder, even if the tribunal had been satisfied that he is suffering from a mental disorder it would not have been satisfied that it was of a nature (degree was not argued) which warrants detention for assessment or assessment followed by medical treatment or that detention was justified in the interests of the client’s own health and safety or with a view to the protection of others.

Should you, your family member, friend or service user need any assistance from our mental health specialists at this time please contact us on 01282 422711. 

Non means tested legal aid remains available to patients appealing their detention in addition to many other mental health issues we are able to assist with.