The Claimant who had a history of mental illness was involved in a disturbance at his flat. His daughter had called the police to his flat after he had become agitated, following a heated argument with his son. The police attending recognised immediately that the Claimant was mentally ill and for his own protection he was arrested on suspicion of affray and taken to Wimbledon Police Station.
At the station the Claimant was assessed by the on duty Mental Health Assessment Team who considered the Claimant to be a risk to himself and possibly others and in need of compulsory hospital admission.
The Claimant was escorted from the custody suite to an ambulance waiting in the rear yard, on leaving the building he ran away from his escort. He was subsequently detained, handcuffed and placed in the ambulance. Whilst in the ambulance the Claimant suffered a fit and was therefore diverted to the local A&E department at the Defendant hospital, the police escorted the Claimant to hospital.
At A&E the Claimant was placed in a cubicle where two security guards were looking after him, having relieved the police officers.
The Claimant escaped the cubicle, ran out across the ambulance roadway to the top of a ramp before climbing over low railing onto a ledge, then fell down a 15 foot drop. In addition to various fractures and internal injuries he sustained a serious head injury.
The Claimant pursued a claim against both the police and the hospital.
The Claim against the police was pursued on the basis they were negligent in not passing on information to the hospital about the Claimant’s volatile behaviour in the previous 24 hours, in particular the fact that he had attempted to escape in the police yard, and that the failure of passing on this information let to the A&E staff being insufficiently aware of the risk of the Claimant escaping.
The Court found that the police and/or London Ambulance staff who arrived at the hospital with the Claimant had told the sister on duty that the Claimant was a high risk patient who was likely to abscond, and they would not leave him until they had handed him over to security staff. Therefore, the Court dismissed the claim against the Metropolitan Police.
The Court found that the hospital had failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the Claimant and that this failure had caused him to suffer injury. The issue was the 2 security guards were observing the Claimant rather than actively guarding him. There were 2 doors to the cubicle the Claimant was in, however, the guards, who had been properly briefed about the risks of the patient and were on the alert for a sudden move by the Claimant, had not covered both of these doors.
Judgment was awarded by the Claimant against the NHS Trust with damages to be assessed.