R on the application of A
The High Court has today approved a substantial financial settlement with an apology by the Secretary of State in the unlawful detention of case of A, a Kurdish citizen of Iraq who lacks capacity to make decisions about his own welfare owing to serious mental disorder.
A was detained under the Immigration Acts for a total of almost three years interspersed with repeated admissions to psychiatric hospital. During his last protracted period of immigration detention he became so ill with untreated psychosis that he suffered hallucinations and profound distress. His tendency to hide the severity of his symptoms and self-isolate were well known by his treating team at the hospital with responsibility for his care.
However an immigration officer decided to move him away from his treating team in an Immigration Removal centre in Manchester to 'unbalance him' in an attempt to secure his agreement to a voluntary removal to Iraq. But A had no capacity to consent to such removal . The nature of his condition was not known or understood by staff at the Immigration Removal centre where he was held for many months because no removals to Iraq were possible for Kurds like A at the time. Attempts by local in-reach psychiatrists to alert the Home Office to his deteriorating state were rejected on the grounds that they had come from 'third parties' with no authority to intervene on his behalf.
Finally after the intervention of specialist solicitor Julie Cornes at Simpson Millar LLP, A's detention was challenged by a judicial review which finally prompted a decision by the Home Secretary to transfer A to hospital. A was represented in his claim by his litigation friend , the Official Solicitor. A has now been diagnosed with 'treatment resistant schizophrenia' owing to his protracted period of untreated psychosis or, as the reporting psychiatrist put it 'brain scarring'. Following a hearing in summer 2012, the claim was adjourned and it was subsequently conceded by the Secretary of State that A's detention had been unlawful.
Julie Cornes said "This case throws into sharp relief the problems inherent in a policy of detaining people with serious mental illness in a completely inappropriate environment with little or no access to skilled diagnosis, care and treatment. Although it would of course have been better for A if he had not been treated this way, we are glad that through the hard work of our team and barrister Amanda Weston of Garden Court Chambers we have succeeded in securing a just settlement for a very vulnerable man ."