Unconstitutional Ruling in Review of Detention Case Welcomed by Human Rights and Equality Commission  

Commission Exercised Amicus Curiae Role in Court of Appeal

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has today welcomed the ruling of the Court of Appeal in a case concerning the right of a man detained in a psychiatric institution to initiate a review of his detention on foot of a twelve month renewal order.

The man at the centre of the case was initially detained in St. Loman’s Hospital on foot of an admission order. His detention was then renewed for further periods of six weeks, three months, and later twelve months. While he was able to initiate reviews of the early periods of detention, he was unable to challenge the legality of his twelve months detention, even if his mental health improved.

The Commission exercised its function as an amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in this case, in which it identified significant human rights issues including the right to personal liberty, and the right to effective remedy under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court of Appeal ruled today that an involuntary patient detained under section 15(3) of the Mental Health Act 2001 does not have an effective means of vindicating his right to personal liberty by securing an independent review of his detention. The State had therefore failed in its duty to vindicate the man’s right to personal liberty by failing to provide for an effective opportunity for him to review his detention within a reasonable time. It followed that s.15(3) was unconstitutional. The Court has suspended making a formal declaration of unconstitutionality for a period of six months until November 2018.

Acting as amicus curiae (friend of the court), the Commission did not take any side in the case, but rather advised the Court in respect of the human rights and equality issues involved.

In its May 2017 judgment, the High Court stated that a person detained under the Mental Health Acts for a lengthy period was entitled to challenge the lawfulness of their continued detention at reasonable intervals before a court, citing Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The State appealed the High Court ruling.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

 “The right to liberty is expressly protected under our Constitution, and the protections provided under that right have been further clarified by the Court of Appeal today. This decision underlines the need for people to have reasonable and timely opportunities to have their detention reviewed, as their circumstances may change.

“The Commission has exercised our amicus curiae function in this case in light of the significance of the human rights and equality issues involved, and welcomes today’s ruling.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note

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

https://www.ihrec.ie/documents/ab-v-clinical-director-st-lomans-hospital-march-2018/

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.

 

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