Commission Welcomes Court of Appeal Determination on Deprivation of Liberty

Commission Exercised Amicus Curiae Role in Case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) welcomes today’s final order of the Court of Appeal, in which it appeared as amicus curiae (“friend of the Court”). The case focused what it means to be a “voluntary patient” in a psychiatric hospital.

The core issue in this case was when a voluntary patient may leave a psychiatric institution having regard to the provisions of the Mental Health Act 2001. The man at the centre of the case “PL” had been refused permission to leave St Patrick’s University Hospital, while a voluntary patient.

In its judgment, delivered by Mr Justice Hogan, the Court found that “PL” had been prevented from leaving the hospital, in a way which interfered with his personal liberty without a legal basis.

In ruling on the case, the Court could not agree that without the use of a statutory power under the Mental Health Act the decision to restrain the applicant from leaving the hospital on the 21st of November 2011 was a lawful one, in ruling the Court also noted that “voluntarism remains a cornerstone of our system of medical treatment.”

The Court, in reaching its conclusions, referenced the rule of law based democracy envisaged by the Constitution, and the fundamental constitutional premise that the deprivation of personal liberty must be in accordance with law.

The Commission’s involvement as amicus is part of its wider work on safeguarding the rights of people in care facilities, including those who, because of mental health or capacity issues, require higher levels of protection of their rights and interests. This is reflected in the work also being done by the Commission on ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and in relation to proposed legislation on the deprivation of liberty.

With reference to the provisions of the Constitution, national law and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Commission had argued that “PL” was unlawfully deprived of his liberty.

In its legal submissions to the Court of Appeal ahead of the ruling, the Commission stated that “looking at (PL’s) subjective situation in context, and placing special weight on his repeated instructions to his solicitor that he wished to leave the hospital, the Commission concludes that, in all the circumstances, it is difficult to see how (PL’s) consent to remain in hospital can be said to have been both truly voluntary and fully informed.”


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

The case was listed in the Court of Appeal as: “PL -v- Clinical Director of St. Patrick’s University Hospital & anor (Ireland & Attorney General Notice Parties).” Record no. 2014/881

The Commission’s full written amicus curiae submissions are available at the following link:

The amicus curiae function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.

Section 10 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act sets out the functions of the Commission and Section 10(2)(e) provides that the IHREC shall have a function:

“to apply to the High Court or the Supreme Court for liberty to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, as the case may be, as amicus curiae in proceedings before that Court that involve or are concerned with the human rights or equality rights of any person and to appear as such an amicus curiae on foot of such liberty being granted (which liberty each of the said courts is hereby empowered to grant in its absolute discretion).”

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.