High Court says no to disabled man’s damages claim

deprivation of liberty

A man with learning difficulties has failed in his bid to sue a council for damages.

Via intermediaries, the 29 year-old claimed Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council had unlawfully restricted his freedom of movement for two and half years – treatment legally known as a ‘deprivation of liberty’ – and he wanted to sue them under the Human Rights Act for as much as £150,000.

However, the placement in question ended in 2013 and the Human Rights Act specifies that legal action must begin within a year of the incident complained of. Any extension beyond this must be authorised by a court and they will only do so if they believe it would be “equitable”.

The case dated back to 2011 when the man was taken from his home and placed in special accommodation after a so-called ‘safeguarding incident’ – a term which suggests his health or wellbeing as a vulnerable adult had been compromised or was under threat. He remained there until August 2013.

The man brought the claim in February last year, via his brother who acted as his ‘litigation friend’ (courtroom representative).

His legal team insisted that he had been subjected to ‘unlawful detention’ without legal authority from the Court of Protection. The Council had not made adequate efforts to assess whether or not he had the capacity to make decisions about his own welfare.

They applied for an extension to the usual one year deadline, saying the case had been delayed by various factors, including the need to secure funding and  failed negotiations with the Council over compensation.

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council countered that he had suffered no loss and therefore any damages awarded should be nominal they claimed. They had already admitted to “deficiencies” in the case following an earlier independent investigation six months after the man was released.

Sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court, Mr Justice King concluded that the man’s lawyers had had the information needed to bring their claim since February 2014 at the latest. Allowing the claim to proceed would place the Council at a “a distinct trial disadvantage if it now has to try and garner the necessary evidence to meet this claim in a trial which is likely to occur in 2017 or 2018, some, at least some 4 – 6 years after the relevant events.”

The Judge concluded:

“Through those representing him [the man] had the opportunity to bring his claim within time or shortly thereafter…That he did not do so has to be laid squarely at the door of those looking after his interests and no adequate reason in my judgment has been put forward for their failures, sufficient to make it equitable as between the claimant and the defendant public authority to grant him an extension of time to bring his human rights claim against them.”

Read the full ruling here.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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