High Court endorses restrictions on teenager

Family Law|April 1st 2015

The High Court has endorsed restrictions placed on the liberty of a 15 year-old boy.

The teenager in question, referred to as ‘D’, had begun to display abnormal behaviour from a young age. Doctors diagnosed him with with no less than three conditions: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette’s Syndrome. Later a learning disability was also identified, albeit a mild one.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Keehan explained that the boy’s parents had “struggled for many years to care for D in the family home.”

The boy found social interaction difficult and often behaved in a challenging, aggressive way, also displaying paranoia and anxiety on occasion. Medication had only limited affects and D’s problems badly affected his younger brother.

Eventually, in 2013, a psychiatrist treating D referred him to a hospital specialising in mental health services for children and young people aged 12 to 18.

He was admitted and now both lives and attends school on the hospital grounds.

His family visit him regularly and he also enjoys supervised home visits at weekends.

Last year, the psychiatrist in charge of his case decided that D was now ready to be discharged from the hospital to a residential placement and he began searching for somewhere suitable. However the hospital trust decided to seek legal authorisation for D’s continuing accommodation at the hospital and subsequent placement. This followed the much discussed case of P v Cheshire West and Chester Council and Another, commonly referred to as ‘Cheshire West’. This ruling made the legal protections applied to situations in which someone’s liberty is restricted more stringent.

When someone’s liberty of movement is restricted, normally because they are thought to lack mental competence due to illness or disability, courts must examine the circumstances to ensure that they not breach their human rights and thereby constitute an unacceptable ‘deprivation of liberty’.

Mr Justice Keehan noted that:

“It is highly likely that D will be subject to a similar regime of supervision and control in [the new residential] placement as he is at the hospital.”

He concluded that D’s circumstances would constitute a deprivation of liberty if his parents did not consent to his stay at the hospital and his forthcoming placement. However, human rights legislation allowed parents to impose restrictions on the human rights of children.

“I am satisfied that, on the particular facts of this case, the consent of D’s parents to his placement at Hospital B, with all of the restrictions placed upon his life there, falls within the ‘zone of parental responsibility’. In the exercise of their parental responsibility for D, I am satisfied they have and are able to consent to his placement.”

The judgement, D (A Child), is available here.

Image by nyckelknippa via Flickr

Author: Stowe Family Law

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