Chapter 5: Case studies

This chapter will help you start to put your learning into practice. Have a look at the five case studies below, and see if you can work out how you could apply human rights thinking to the issues they raise. For each case study it will be helpful to think about the following questions:

  • Which human rights are relevant, and who do they belong to? (use the rights in the European Convention on Human Rights for reference)
  • Who has duties under the Human Rights Act in this example?
  • Which of the rights you have identified are absolute and which are not absolute?
  • If the rights are not absolute, are they being restricted or limited in a lawful way? For example, for qualified rights is the ‘duty bearer’ acting in a proportionate way?
  • What should be done next? How would you challenge this using a human rights approach?

You might find it helpful to use the below table when noting your answers. We have given you model answers for each case study – try not to look at the answers before you have had a go yourself!

Human Rights Approach Case Study Worksheet

Relevant rights  
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)  
Absolute/non-absolute rights  
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?  
Suggested action?  

Please note that the suggested answers we have given are a guide only and should not be interpreted as legal advice for any situation. Each individual situation is very different and whether or not it would be found to be a breach of the Human Rights Act in a legal case would depend on the individual circumstances of the case. However, the vast majority of human rights issues are resolved long before they reach the courts, and we hope that this toolkit will encourage you to use human rights beyond the courtroom to find practical solutions to everyday issues as well as in your wider campaigns and advocacy.

CASE STUDIES AND ANSWERS

Click on Reveal answers for the corresponding case study to view the answers.

Tyrone (housing; anti-social behaviour; policing; racism)

Case Study - Tyrone

Tyrone and his family live in local authority housing and have been suffering serious racial abuse by their neighbours for the last six months. The abuse has involved verbal attacks, graffiti on their property and on two occasions Tyrone’s ten year old son Sean has been threatened with a physical attack on his way home from school. The family has complained to the authority on a number of occasions, both by telephone and in writing. They have also approached the police who have not taken any action. The housing department says it is impossible to move them at the present time. Tyrone becomes so scared for the safety of his family that he takes them to stay with friends.

Reveal answers - Tyrone

Relevant rights
  • Article 8: right to respect for private and family life and home (Tyrone and his family)
  • Article 14: Right not to be discriminated against (Tyrone and his family)
  • Article 1, Protocol 1: Right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions And potentially (if the situation escalates)
  • Article 2: Right to life (Tyrone and his family)
  • Article 3: Right not to be treated in an inhuman or degrading way (Tyrone and his family)
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)
  • The local authority and the police both have a positive obligation to protect Tyrone and his family from this kind of treatment.
Absolute/non-absolute rights
  • Articles 2 and 3 are absolute. The other rights are not absolute.
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?
  • The local authority and police have a positive duty to protect the rights of Tyrone and his family. Given that they have taken very little if any action to support the family it would be difficult for them to argue that they had taken adequate measures to protect their rights.
Suggested action?
  • Anyone facing a similar situation could point out in their complaints to the local authority and the police that this is a potential breach of the human rights listed above and explain why.
  • The local authority and police have a positive obligation to protect the family, and should step in before the situation becomes even more serious rather than waiting until further human rights issues arise.

Polly (education; young people; disability; participation)

Case Study - Polly

A teacher at a state primary school organises a series of class excursions to museums around London. As well as complementing history and other lessons, the excursions are designed to introduce the children to educational activities in the city and to encourage bonding between students outside of the classroom. Polly, a student in the class, is a wheelchair user. She is transported to and from school in a specially adapted vehicle provided by the local authority. Polly is keen to participate in the excursions, and asks the local authority if they can arrange transport for her. However, the local authority refuses, saying they only provide transport on a ‘home to school’ basis. As a result Polly is unable to participate in the series of excursions and instead spends the time alone in the school library. She feels dejected and isolated.

Reveal answers - Polly

Relevant rights
  • Article 8: The right to respect for private life (Polly)
  • Article 2, Protocol 1: The right to education (Polly)
  • Article 14: The right not to be discriminated against (Polly)
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)
  • The local authority
  • The school
Absolute/non-absolute rights
  • None of these rights are absolute.
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?
  • Article 8 is a qualified right. In order to respond in a proportionate manner the local authority should consider whether they could be flexible in this case. The school should also consider whether it is appropriate to continue with activities that not all students are able to access.
Suggested action?
  • The school could support Polly and challenge the local authority’s decision using the human rights listed above.
  • If the local authority cannot be persuaded the school could consider whether they can provide transport for themselves, or arrange alternative activities that Polly can take part in.

Clare (planning; environment; community life)

Case Study - Clare

Clare lives with her family near a busy airport. Recently the airport has started to run night flights with planes taking off and landing from 3am in the morning. From this time a plane takes off or lands approximately ten times per hour.

The increased noise levels are very disruptive to the family’s sleep patterns. Clare has two young children, Molly and Sam. Sam is two years old and is afraid of the sound the planes make. After six months the lack of sleep begins to affect Clare who is prescribed anti-depressants by her GP. She receives a letter from the council informing her that due to the success of the night flights and in particular its positive impact on the local economy they are planning on introducing flights 24 hours a day. They are consulting the local communities on this development and people have three weeks to voice any concerns.

Reveal answers - Clare

Relevant rights
  • Article 8: the right to respect for private and family life (Clare, Molly and Sam – and potentially other members of the community)
  • Article 6: the right to a fair trial (all affected members of the community)
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)
  • The Council has a duty to consider the impact of its decisions on the rights of the local community. The right to a fair trial also needs to be taken into account in the consultation process. Is 3 weeks an adequate amount of time? How are they going to ensure all members of the community are involved in the process?
Absolute/non-absolute rights
  • Neither Article 8 or Article 6 are absolute
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?
  • Article 8 is a qualified right. The night flights are clearly having a strong impact on Clare’s private and family life and this is likely to be the same for other members of the community. The Council needs to take this into account in their decision making process and balance this with any positive impact it would have on the local economy. Have they considered any other options?
Suggested action?
  • In their submissions to the consultation local residents could raise human rights concerns.
  • The local residents could request that the council extend its consultation period in accordance with the principles of Article 6.
  • Clare and other members of the local community could start a campaign against the developments using human rights language.

Jackie (health and social care; older people; mental health)

Case Study - Jackie

Jackie is 82 years old and has been living in a local authority residential care home for five years. During this time she has been very happy at the home. There are regular social activities that she really enjoys such as day trips, dance evenings and a poetry group. However, recently these activities have been cut due to staff shortages.

Since this happened, Jackie’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic. She often leaves the home without telling anyone where she is going. One day she is returned to the home by police who are concerned for her welfare, having found her wandering in a local park. To stop this happening again, a lock with a pin code is placed on the door of the home. Only staff are given access to the pin code.

Reveal answers - Jackie

Relevant rights
  • Article 8: right to respect for private life (Jackie and other residents)
  • Article 5: right to liberty (Jackie and other residents)
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)
  • The residential care home
Absolute/non-absolute rights
  • Neither Article 8 or Article 5 are absolute
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?
  • The care home should consider whether it was really necessary to cut all social activities, and the effect this has on the private life of all the residents. A more proportionate response would be to consider whether some activities could be continued at a lower cost or at no cost. Involving residents in the decision-making could produce creative solutions.
  • The right to liberty is a limited right. One of the situations where it can be limited is if the person has mental health issues. However, the care home must not restrict Jackie’s liberty without following the proper processes (via the Mental Health Act or Mental Capacity Act). They are also acting unlawfully by depriving not just Jackie of her liberty, but also all other residents in the care home.
Suggested action?
  • The care home needs to ensure that all residents who are not covered by the Mental Health Act or Mental Capacity Act are given access to the pin code, and should consider whether the pin code is necessary.
  • The local residents could request that the council extend its consultation period in accordance with the principles of Article 6.
  • Jackie, the other residents (and/or advocates working on their behalf) could point out to the residential care home that the lack of social activities may infringe on their human rights.

Tomas (asylum; transgender; mental health)

Case Study - Tomas

Tomas is an asylum seeker from Iran. Before seeking asylum Tomas began to have operative treatment to become a man. He was in the middle of receiving hormone therapy when he had to flee Iran to seek asylum in the UK. Now in the UK, he is desperate for some follow up medical advice but cannot access this or continue his treatment due to his status as an asylum seeker. All the refugee and asylum support groups are ill-equipped to deal with transgender issues and one adviser told him that what he had done was ‘unnatural’. He also cannot find any transgender support groups in his area and is beginning to feel depressed and anxious. He also feels unsafe in his hostel, due to numerous threats from other male asylum seekers. Tomas has told the hostel staff and a local GP that he is depressed and considering suicide.

Reveal answers - Tomas

Relevant rights
  • Article 8, right to respect for private life (Tomas)
  • Article 14: right not to be discriminated against (Tomas)

and potentially

  • Article 2, right to life (Tomas)
  • Article 3, right not to be treated in an inhuman or degrading way (Tomas)
Duty bearers (e.g. local authority, NHS Trust, police)
  • Government in respect of policy on medical treatment
  • The GP and potentially the hostel guards (if publicly funded) have a positive obligation to protect Tomas.
Absolute/non-absolute rights
  • Article 3 is an absolute right. The other rights are not absolute.
Are limitations/restrictions lawful?
  • The fact that Tomas’s hormone treatment has been stopped midway through treatment will clearly have an impact on his right to respect for private life. The government currently has a policy only to provide emergency medical treatment to asylum seekers. Do you think this policy is proportionate?
Suggested action?
  • The local support groups do not have direct duties under the Human Rights Act. But there is clearly a support gap here for Tomas and they should consider using a human rights approach to look internally at their own services and staff attitudes.
  • Situations such as Tomas’s could be used in a campaign to highlight the lack of available medical advice and treatment for asylum seekers and the impact that can have on their human rights.
  • There may be potential for Tomas to use human rights in his asylum case to support him to stay in the UK – although we would need to know more about the particular case.