County council agrees £200k settlement over unlawful deprivation of liberty claim

A man with learning disabilities has received a six-figure settlement from Lancashire County Council after being unlawfully detained in a care home for more than seven years.

The local authority agreed to pay the man, who is known as CHH, a £200,000 settlement. It has also agreed to pay £155,000 towards the cost of a deputy to manage CHH's funds on his behalf as he lacks the mental capacity to manage his property and affairs.

CHH, who has autism, was removed from his family home aged 24 and placed in accommodation by the local authority.

Between February 2010 and April 2017, he lived in a care home that was a 45-minute drive away from his family. The accommodation was locked with an alarm on the door and the man was under one-to-one supervision for up to 14 hours a day.

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He was prevented from or heavily restricted in accessing the internet, social media sites and email.

His family instructed public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the decision to place him in the care home and to keep him there, saying it unlawfully deprived him of his liberty.

Solicitors issued a case in the Court of Protection, leading to an agreement that CHH could leave the care home and return to live with his family.

Following this, the council accepted it had breached CHH's human rights and apologised to him. The High Court has approved the settlement.

According to Fiona McGhie, Senior Associate Solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, CHH and his family "repeatedly stated that he was unhappy and he wanted to live nearer to his family".

She said: "Given his strong objections to his placement, the local authority should have referred his case to the Court of Protection to determine where it was in his best interests to live. It didn't do that and so CHH was denied the opportunity of being able to challenge the deprivation of his liberty in a court."

She later added: "This case acts as a stark reminder to all local authorities of the need to ensure that the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are followed, and that those objecting to their placements are supported to challenge them in the Court of Protection."

Speaking on behalf of the family, CHH's mother said after the hearing: "When our son was removed we thought it would only be a short-term measure. Little did we know it would turn into years of him being deprived of his liberty.

"When he was in the care home you could see a real difference in him and not for the better. His development went backwards, he became more withdrawn, wouldn't communicate with people and his mental health suffered. It was heartbreaking to see.

"For years we asked the council for more to be done to help our son but we felt that every time we asked nothing was done. Since he's come home he's a totally different person. His quality of life has improved beyond all measure.

She added: "We'd rather not have found ourselves in the position of having to contact lawyers but we felt we were left with no other choice when nothing was changing for CHH and he was being treated so unfairly.

"We just hope that speaking out we can raise awareness of what it means to be unlawfully deprived of your liberty so more families feel able to challenge placements they feel are wrong for their loved one."

Louise Taylor, Lancashire County Council's executive director of adult services and health and wellbeing, said: "We never take the decision to deprive someone of their liberty lightly, and our sole focus is always the best interests of the individual concerned. In this case, we clearly didn't get everything right and we have offered our sincere apologies. We continue to support this man and his family to help them live a good life."

Lancashire has improved its procedures to help prevent similar situations in the future, Taylor added.

"New measures are being introduced into this complex area of law that will provide more safeguards for individuals and better clarity for councils and other responsible bodies, which we welcome."

Adam Carey

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