Gajcsi v. Hungary

CASE OF GAJCSI v. HUNGARY
Download Judgment: English
Country: Hungary
Region: Europe
Year: 2006
Court: The European Court of Human Rights
Health Topics: Health care and health services, Health information, Mental health, Public safety
Human Rights: Right to liberty and security of person

The applicant was a Hungarian national. On 4 November 1999, he was taken to a psychiatric department of a Hungarian hospital which had notified the district court of the same the next day pursuant to the Hungarian Healthcare Act (the Act). By then, an opinion from appointed expert psychiatrist found that the applicant was admitted to hospital due to his erratic, pyromaniac behavior, and the state of mind he was in justified his compulsory psychiatric treatment in a closed institution. On 8 November 1999, the court heard the applicant’s case and ordered his treatment under the Act. On 21 January 2003, the District Court, for the third time, reviewed the applicant’s psychiatric detention  and heard an expert psychiatrist’s opinion which confirmed that the applicant’s admittance and prolonged treatment at the psychiatric department was justified because of his pathological mental status, and that the treatment had to continue. The court, hence, decided that the prolonged treatment of the applicant was justified and lawful; that the treatment had to continue for an indefinite period of time subject to a 60 days review as to its necessity.

The applicant appealed to the Somogy County Regional Court stating that the district court’s reasoning was substantially deficient and applied a provision of the Act for prolonging the applicant’s treatment when it was only in another provision of the Act that such treatment was authorized. On 28 February 2003, the Regional Court upheld the decision of the district court stating that it complied with the relevant provisions of the  Code of Civil Procedure and of the Act, that nothing changed in the applicant’s condition to justify his release and thus, his detention was necessary and justified.

On 15 May 2003, the applicant petitioned for review by the Supreme Court. He claimed that   the reasoning of the first-instance decision was insufficient, and that the lower courts’ decision violated  his constitutional right to a fair hearing. The applicant argued that the Act hadn’t provided a ground for compulsory psychiatric treatment due to a patient’s ‘pathological mental status’. He pointed that such mental status had erroneously been considered by the time the expert psychiatrist was appointed. The applicant stated that the expert’s opinion were irrelevant as the grounds for psychiatric confinement were provided under the Act. He argued that detailed reasoning is required of coercive measures for such measures to be fair. The applicant also argued that failure to inform a patient of the reasons for his involuntary psychiatric treatment would violate his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention).

On 27 October 2004, the Supreme Court rejected the petition as inadmissible due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under the Code of Civil Procedure. On 24 April 2003, the applicant was released from hospital.

The applicant complained to the European Court of Human Rights (the ECHR) that his right to liberty and security under Article 5 (1) of the Convention had been violated. He stated that his involuntary psychiatric treatment wasn’t justified, his detention wasn’t ordered in accordance with the procedure provided under Article 5 (1)(e) of the Convention, and that he had not been informed of the reasons for his confinement.

Article 5 (1)(e) of the Convention provides for conditions where a lawful detention is justified of persons in order to prevent the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants.

 

 

The ECHR held that the district court's reasoning was insufficient to show that the applicant's behavior was dangerous to justify making the decision for his prolonged psychiatric detention under the Act. The court's decision failed to meet the exceptional requirements under Article 5 (1) of the Convention.

The ECHR held that the government viewed the applicant’s detention as an urgent hospitalization necessitated under the the Act than an act of compulsory treatment. The ECHR noted that the government took the opinion of the professional and hadn't assessed whether the applicant’s dangerous conduct truly justified his prolonged compulsory treatment. The government admitted that the Act, in governing compulsory  psychiatric treatment, had not been applied in a way that fully complied with the requirements under the Convention.

The ECHR reiterated that that any deprivation of liberty needed not only to be effected in accordance with national law but also in line with Article 5 of the Convention to protect an individual from arbitrariness. The ECHR noted that domestic court decisions were not based on an assessment of the applicant’s potentially dangerous conduct under the Act, making it a compulsory treatment not prescribed by law and thus, violating Article 5 (1) the Convention.

The ECHR held that Hungary should pay to the applicant EUR 7,350 (seven thousand three hundred and fifty euros) as a non-pecuniary damage.

 

 

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