Newey J has held that the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA) do not exclude the availability of a private law claim for unjust enrichment. The matter came before the court following an application by the defendant local authority and CCG (the authorities) to strike out a claim for restitution. The claim was based on an alleged failure by the authorities to carry out their duties to provide free after-care services under section 117 MHA (the claimant having funded these).
The authorities argued that such a failure did not give rise to a private law cause of action. The authorities further argued that allowing a claim via a private law claim for restitution, rather than seeking restitution as part of a claim for judicial review, would deprive the authorities of the protection conferred on them by the strict time limits applicable to judicial review applications. Read the full judgment.
This judgment widens the pool of options for claimants seeking financial redress from public authorities. Accordingly, there is a greater risk to public authorities of exposure to litigation. However, there remain significant hurdles to overcome in pursuing private law claims of this nature. Whether this risk therefore has any significant effect in practice remains to be seen.