Deprivation Of Liberty

LB Hillingdon v Neary [2011] EWCOP 1377

Sophy Miles was instructed by the Official Solicitor to act for Steven Neary in his claim that The London Borough of Hillingdon had unlawfully detained him in care for a year, depriving him of his liberty and failing to respect his right to family life.

Since 2009, Steven, who has autism and severe learning disabilities, has lived with his father Mark Neary and his life is structured around his home, with reassuring daily routines a weekly diary of regular outings.

Steven is a tall, heavily built young man and, though usually fun to be with, can become anxious when faced with unexpected change or made to do things that he dislikes and can lash out in the manner of a small child. Supported by daytime carers funded by Hillingdon Council, Mark Neary provides Steven’s round the clock care and constant supervision for his own safety and that of others when he is out in the community.

In December 2009, Mark needed a break and asked Hillingdon to take Steven into respite care for a few days. The council subsequently decided to keep Steven in a support unit amid concerns about his behaviour and weight gain. Mark Neary believed that Steven would be better cared for at home and challenged Hillingdon Council’s decision.

Sophy Miles, instructing Ms Aswini Weereratne of counsel, represented Steven as his case progressed through the Court of Protection, eventually reaching the High Court where the judge found that Steven had been deprived of his liberty since 5 January 2010. He also declared that Hillingdon had unlawfully breached Steven’s right to respect for his family life, contrary to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson noted that things had gone well since Steven’s return home on 23 December 2010, and he expected to approve plans for Steven’s support at a further hearing to bring proceedings to an end.

Mark Neary said he felt vindicated after the High Court ruling. “Hopefully people will read this judgment and be prepared to fight for the rights of their kids,” he said. He added that he would be looking at how to rebuild a relationship with the local authority.