The Supreme Court has found that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) does impose an operational obligation on states to protect mentally ill patients who are not detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA 1983), where they are at a real and immediate risk of suicide.

The appellant parents had appealed against a Court of Appeal decision that the respondent NHS Trust did not have a duty under Article 2 to protect their daughter (M) from committing suicide. M had taken her life after taking two days’ leave from hospital, where she had been admitted following a previous suicide attempt.

The Supreme Court found that the NHS trust had assumed responsibility for M by admitting her to hospital in the first place, and should have exercised its powers under the MHA 1983 to prevent her from leaving hospital. There was a real and immediate risk that M would commit suicide during her two days’ leave, and the decision to allow her home was one that no reasonable practitioner would have made. M’s parents had also made a claim in negligence, which had been settled, but this did not prevent them from pursuing the Article 2 claim, for which they were awarded £5,000 each.