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Case admitted straight from the County Court reaffirms Rabone ruling that voluntarily detained patients can be covered by Art. 2 duties

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) admitted a case on appeal directly from the County Court in England and proceeded to affirm the UK Supreme Court’s ruling in Rabone v Penine Care NHS [2012].

The case was taken by the mother and sister of a man, Mr Reynolds, who had been admitted as a voluntary patient to a Council run support unit after hearing voices telling him to kill himself.  Mr Reynolds later fell to his death from his sixth floor window in the unit.  The inquest recorded an open verdict.  Mr Reynolds’ mother made a claim for damages under the Human Rights Act in the County Court but this was rejected because the case was pre-Rabone i.e. death by a person’s own hand or of someone not formally detained by the state was not considered to fall within the scope of Art. 2. Mrs Reynolds was advised by two barristers that domestic appeals were unlikely to be successful and her legal aid was withdrawn.  She decided to take her case to Strasbourg.

The ECtHR ruled the case to be admissible despite the fact that it came directly from the County Court, i.e. was not appealed to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, which would be the normal procedure.  This ruling was based on the fact that Mrs Reynolds had been advised that further domestic litigation would be hopeless (and expensive).

The ECtHR proceeded to uphold the UKSC’s decision in Rabone (which had been delivered after the County Court had given its decision in this case).  It ruled that the circumstances of Mr Reynolds’ death did engage the operational duty on the state under Art. 2 to take reasonable steps to protect him from a real and immediate risk of suicide, thereby extending the scope of Art. 2 to voluntary mental health patients.  The Court further found that the Art. 13 right of Mrs Reynolds to an effective remedy had been breached since there was no mechanism in domestic law for her to obtain compensation.

Read a full analysis of the case on the UK Human Rights blog here.

ECHR Art. 13, ECHR Art. 2, Mental Health, Suicide