Detention of vulnerable people

Posted: 25th November 2011

In June this year, a father won his battle against Hillingdon Council to be allowed to care for his autistic son at home.
The Council had sought authorisation to deprive 21-year-old Steven Neary of his liberty. His father pursued a public campaign to draw attention to his son’s plight and applied to the Court of Protection to challenge the Council’s decision.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled that Steven had been unlawfully detained. Hillingdon Council’s procedures had been wholly inadequate, with no balanced assessment as to whether he was in the right place. In the circumstances, keeping Steven away from home was a breach of his human rights.
Following the publicity surrounding this case, the number of challenges to deprivation of liberty orders has increased dramatically. There were only 17 cases between April and June, compared with 52 cases for the quarter July to September. In October, 22 challenges were made. The process can take a long time however, during which time the vulnerable person may still be detained in a care home.
A study by the Mental Health Alliance has found that the current system is ‘incredibly bureaucratic, wasteful, and the burdensome paperwork itself discourages many local authorities from using the legislation’.
Roger Hargreaves, the author of the report, said, “Although the Court does a very good job with these cases when it gets them, it’s basically not a satisfactory mechanism,” and recommends finding ways of dealing with them that are far more ‘user-friendly’.