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Stephen Simblet QC makes submissions on behalf of Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission in important mental health case

Friday 13 November 2020

Stephen Simblet QC, of the Garden Court Chambers Mental Health Team, was instructed by Les Allamby of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

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Stephen Simblet QC provided written submissions as intervenor in this important case in the High Court in Northern Ireland. It concerns the compliance of Northern Ireland’s mental health legislation with human rights, and the responsibilities of the courts and health services to patients who have been conditionally discharged  by a Tribunal, yet who have not yet been released because a care plan has not been put into place. The case concerned the extent to which the authorities can simply allow an impasse to continue. It concerns the effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in MM v Secretary of State for Justice [2018] UKSC 60. 

There are some cases from England and Wales concerning patients in this position who lack capacity, but this case concerned patients who have capacity to choose whether or not to be in hospital and to abide by conditions imposed, and therefore concerned the extent to which positive action is required. Stephen’s submissions underlined that it would be wrong for the authorities to seek orders trying to re-detain the patients on a different basis just because the conditions for discharge were not in place, and he was able to assist the court with some of the important Strasbourg cases concerning Article 5 ECHR. The judge has adjourned the case generally for a practical solution to be imposed. The patients’ representatives may ask the higher courts to consider the whole structure of mental health legislation in Northern Ireland. 

A link to the judgment of Keegan J is here.

In addition to being in Garden Court’s specialist Mental Health Team, Stephen Simblet QC is a member of the Civil Liberties & Human Rights Team, the Public Law Team and the Court of Protection Team.

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