In the July 2010 edition of our Health legal update, we reported on a case where the court considered T’s claim for damages in respect of an alleged unlawful detention under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).

T argued that the approved mental health professional (AMHP) had wrongly concluded that the nearest relative, T’s brother, did not object to T’s admission for treatment under the MHA.

The judge concluded that the AMHP had made an honest mistake in failing to realise T’s brother’s continuing objections. Whilst an honest mistake can still be negligent, the judge did not find negligence in this case. He concluded that compensation for unlawful detention should only follow if there was negligence or bad faith so did not award any damages here.  

T appealed the decision and the Court of Appeal has decided that the local authority is liable to pay compensation to T as his brother had objected to the admission under section 11 (4)(a) MHA.

As a result of the objection, the detention was contrary to the MHA and Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.

The local authority could not escape liability simply because the NHS trust, which ran the hospital, had acted lawfully in detaining T by virtue of section 6 (3) MHA. The trust was entitled to rely upon section 6(3) MHA which provides that an application for admission which appears to be duly made may be acted upon without further proof of signature or qualification of the person making the application.  

The full judgment can be accessed here.