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Home Office Admits Unlawfully Detaining Person with Severe Mental Illness After Legal Claim (6 February 2024)

Date: 06/02/2024
Duncan Lewis, Main Solicitors, Home Office Admits Unlawfully Detaining Person with Severe Mental Illness After Legal Claim

The Home Office has admitted that it unlawfully detained an individual with severe mental illness and subjected him to inhuman and degrading treatment in breach of Article 3 ECHR.

It conceded the £105,000 claim brought by Duncan Lewis on behalf of a client a week before the scheduled two-day trial in the High Court in R(MT) v Secretary of State for the Home Department AC-2023-LON-001114.

The case arose from the botched November 2022 evacuation of Harmondsworth IRC following a catastrophic power failure. Detainees were effectively abandoned in the detention centre while a delayed evacuation was implemented. They also detained on a bus for over 24 hours without sufficient water or access to medication while being transferred to another centre. The Home Office conceded two similar claims during trial in November 2023 and acknowledged that the disorderly evacuation breached Article 3 ECHR and the Public Sector Equality Duty.

In MT, the Home Office agreed to pay damages of £105,000. It accepted liability for his entire period of unlawful detention (250 days), a breach of Article 3 ECHR through failure to ensure consistent access to anti-psychotic medication for mental illness, and a breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty through a failure to have due regard to the need for an evacuation plan adjusted for disabled detainees.

The claimant, a US national, was diagnosed with schizophrenia prior to entering immigration detention but the Home Office had failed to take adequate steps to confirm the seriousness of his mental illness and his suitability for detention. The Home Office accepted the claimant was unlawfully detained under immigration powers in breach of the Hardial Singh principles and because of a failure to follow policy in light of the Claimant’s medical circumstances for the entirety of his immigration detention.

Lewis Kett, the claimant’s solicitor at Duncan Lewis, said: “Our client was held in detention for over eight months despite significant mental illness and wanting to voluntarily return home. The Home Office should have properly informed themselves of his illness, and ensured he was never detained in the first place. Instead, he was exposed to conditions and treatment in detention that had a dangerous disregard for his well-being, and the Home Office have now rightly accepted that those failures caused inhuman and degrading treatment.

The claimant was represented by Nick Armstrong KC of Matrix Chambers and Alex Schymyck of Garden Court Chambers, instructed by Lewis Kett and Dominic Chambers, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors.

Lewis Kett is a solicitor in the public law immigration department at Duncan Lewis, specialising in judicial review challenges, especially regarding immigration detention's lawfulness and conditions. He notably served as lead solicitor for the Duncan Lewis clients in the Brook House Public Inquiry, investigating detainee mistreatment in 2017, and led the challenge against the Home Office's Rwanda deportation policy.

Dominic Chambers is a caseworker at Duncan Lewis, under the guidance of Lewis Kett in our public law team, specialising in judicial review claims with a focus on human rights. Before joining the firm in January 2023, he contributed to humanitarian efforts in the Balkans, including coordinating an aid project in Sarajevo, Bosnia, enhancing his expertise in human rights law.

About Duncan Lewis Solicitors

Duncan Lewis Solicitors, an award-winning law firm and the recipient of the Law Firm of the Year award at the Modern Law Awards 2023, is renowned for its exceptional legal services and dedication to social justice. With expertise in 25 diverse fields of law and a commitment to making justice accessible to all, our team of skilled solicitors ensures top-tier legal representation across the UK.



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