X v. The United Kingdom

App. No. 7215/75, 4 Eur. H.R. Rep. 188 (1982).
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The applicant, a United Kingdom national who had previously been diagnosed with having a paranoid psychosis, claimed that the United Kingdom unlawfully deprived him of his liberty when authorities forcibly recalled him to a hospital for the criminally insane in which he had completed a prior sentence for a violent crime. At the time of the applicant’s forced return to the facility, he was living with his wife and had committed no further criminal offenses. Nevertheless, the Home Secretary sought a warrant to recall the applicant when his wife complained to her husband’s probation officer that her husband remained verbally and physically threatening to her. She also complained that she feared her decision to imminently leave him would cause him to react with violent behavior. The applicant specifically claimed that his subsequent forced return to the mental health facility constituted inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Convention). He also claimed that his arrest and return violated his right to personal liberty under Article 5, paragraph 1 of the Convention; that he did not receive prompt and sufficient reasons for the action in violation of Article 5, paragraph 2; and that the United Kingdom violated his Article 5, paragraph 4 right by not providing the applicant an opportunity to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed by a court. The European Commission of Human Rights did not find the applicant’s Article 3 claim admissible; however it did find violations of Article 5, paragraphs 2 and 4. In the European Court of Human Rights, the Home Secretary maintained that the arrest and return to the mental health facility was justified insofar as it had found the applicant’s continued liberty to constitute a danger to his wife and to the public. It also claimed that the orders made following the applicant’s original criminal offense sufficiently determined the lawfulness of the Home Secretary’s later actions.

The United Kingdom did not breach Article 5, paragraph 1 of the Convention because the Home Secretary had sufficient reason to believe that the protection of the public required emergency detention of the applicant. The opinion of the mental health facility’s medical officer, specifically, that the applicant remained in a psychotic state, justified his further detention within the purview of paragraph 1. However, the United Kingdom violated the applicant’s Article 5, paragraph 4 right to have the lawfulness of his return judicially determined insofar as it found reliance on the original orders made following the applicant’s criminal offense insufficient for purposes of guaranteeing continued judicial review of the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention as paragraph 4 required. The applicant’s Article 5, paragraph 2 claim did not require examination independent of Article 5, paragraph 4.

"46. While these considerations were enough to justify X's recall as an emergency measure and for a short duration, his further detention in hospital until February 1976 must, for its part, satisfy the minimum conditions described above (at paragraph 40). These conditions were satisfied in the case of X: having examined X after his readmission to Broadmoor, the responsible medical officer was of the opinion that he should be further detained for treatment. This opinion was maintained until December 1975 when an improvement in his condition was noted; up till then the medical reports indicated that he continued in a psychotic state (see paragraph 30 above). Like the Commission (see paragraph 96 of the report), the Court has no reason to doubt the objectivity and reliability of this medical judgment.

47. In conclusion, there was no breach of Article 5 par. 1 (art. 5-1)." Page 18.

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