Some common features of the Article 3 cases include ;
- There were very compelling medical grounds for release but the Home Office maintained detention meaning legal action (judicial review proceedings) were necessary to secure the release of the individuals. … In more than one case, it was clear at the outset of the detention that the person was seriously unwell, including one person who had a clear and documented history of serious mental illness.
- In many of the cases the detained person was so ill that they lacked mental capacity (to give instructions in a legal case) for some or all of the period during their detention.
Medical Justice continues to see many of the same problems that have not been remedied. Government bodies have echoed our concerns ; the Home Affairs Select Committee stated “we are concerned that the cases outlined … may not be isolated incidents but may reflect more systemic failure in relation to the treatment of mentally ill immigration detainees”
It is extremely rare for the UK Courts to make a finding that there has been a breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Case study : Ms MD – detention caused the onset of mental disorder
Medical Justice client, Ms MD, who had no history of mental illness before she (lawfully) entered the UK, was found by the High Court to have been detained unlawfully in conditions that amounted to ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’. She was detained for 17 months.
The judge wrote that after 4 months in detention Ms MD “was restrained, removed from association with other detainees and handcuffs were used to stop her harming herself. [Ms MD] self-harmed on at least eleven occasions … including occasions when she cut her forehead with the top of a sardine tin, when she again cut her forehead and the right side of her face this time with pieces of china, when she tried to strangle herself using a mobile telephone cable as a ligature and placed a pillow over her head, when she banged her head against the wall, when she cut her neck using pieces of china and occasions when she cut her stomach, neck and arm.” In response, she was subjected to force on many occasions, often by a number of male Serco officers. She was put in Isolation where she was handcuffed to stop her from self-harming.
Medical Justice sent a doctor to see Ms MD, followed later by a psychiatrist who diagnosed her as having a major depressive disorder with psychotic features and panic disorder. Medical Justice medico-legal reports documenting her deterioration were ignored and the ‘Rule 35’ safeguard failed.
Ms MD eventually lost mental capacity to instruct lawyers, so the Official Solicitor acted for her in a judicial review of her detention – she was released. Later, an independent psychiatrist concluded that “detention did not exacerbate a pre-existing mental disorder but caused the onset of the mental disorder”.