MDAC's Executive Director chairs event on 'Deprivation of Liberty' at Doughty Street Chambers, London

Yesterday evening, MDAC Executive Director, Oliver Lewis chaired a seminar at Doughty Street Chambers in London, entitled Deprivation of Liberty. The seminar explored the important recent UK Supreme Court decisions in two conjoined cases known as the Cheshire West Case. It also examined what happens when international law is not applied in the domestic context, and the need for change.

Speaking at the event were Paul Bowen QC (who represented the Equality and Human Rights Commission in the case), and Martha Spurrier (who represented the National Autistic Society and Mind, and who carried out an internship with MDAC in 2009!) Paul and Martha outlined the facts and importance of the case, which can be found in this paper they prepared for the event.

Doughty Street ChambersDoughty Street Chambers. Source:

In the Cheshire West Case, the Supreme Court cited three leading cases which MDAC was involved in: Shtukaturov v. Russia, Stanev v. Bulgaria and Kędzior v. Poland. The judgments from these cases before the European Court of Human Rights played a direct and influential part in the way that the Supreme Court was able to find that placement in a specific living arrangement without providing people the ability to choose constitutes a deprivation of liberty. In the three European Court cases, MDAC took the lead to bring the jurisprudence of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within the European framework, and this has now filtered down into the UK Supreme Court judgment in Cheshire West.

In his remarks at the seminar, Oliver said: 

It was pleasing to see the UK Supreme Court cite the CRPD but in future cases it would be good to see some more analysis. There is curiously little discussion about the CRPD in the UK. The legal community – right up to the highest court in the land - seems to be hampered by the fact that only the European Convention on Human Rights has binding effect here. Across the rest of Europe not only the ECHR but the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is binding international law, so there is a rich engagement in how CRPD provisions can be implemented. There's a clear conflict of international law, wherein the ECHR says people of "unsound mind" can be detained, and the CRPD says that disability cannot be used as a ground to deprive someone of their liberty. It's unfortunate that the European Court of Human Rights is citing the CRPD but not applying it yet, despite MDAC's best efforts. 

Oliver also outlined the wider context in which deprivations of liberty are taking place, a problem which still receives too little attention across Europe. He referred to the European Commission's funding of institutions in Romania, where people with disabilities are frequently places for the rest of their lives, without the option of moving into living in the community. Despite MDAC raising this at the highest levels fo the European Commission, it has belligerently refused to engage with the need to provide reparations to the 18,000 people whose institutionalisation it has directly funded.

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