Human rights are universal; every person has them all of the time. Our Human Rights Act makes sure that each us are valued as an individual, recognising that officials should place the person at the centre of decision-making.  So for example, if I was kept in a police cell overnight, I would be miserable but no worse the wear. But in the case of Ms Price (Price v UK) a UK court ordered a disabled woman who uses a wheelchair to be kept in a police cell overnight. It was decided that because she was unable to keep warm or move to the bed, this was inhuman and degrading treatment and a breach of the Human Rights Act under Article 3.

Susan’s story

Human rights mean never losing sight of what makes a person unique. Susan Hearsey, a learning disabled woman, lived in an NHS hospital in Walsall. Susan had a baby doll, which she loved and treated as if it were her own child. Susan’s family were devastated when they found the doll on the floor of the hospital, missing an arm and badly damaged. Susan’s family believe the doll was damaged deliberately to punish Susan for not doing as she was told.

It was clear that staff at the hospital had no idea how to care for Susan, she was not being cleaned or looked after properly but added to this, it was the damage to her doll that devastated her so badly her family fear she may never recover. The hospital offered to replace the doll, but they would not investigate the incident, showing that they did not understand what made it so damaging to Susan in particular.

Susan’s family contacted the law firm Leigh Day, who challenged the hospital’s treatment of Susan. This included raising how Susan’s right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment under the Human Rights Act was being denied. The case was settled out of court and the hospital made a financial award  to enable Susan to move out of the hospital and help her continue her life. The hospital agreed to investigate the incident to make sure it did not happen to anybody else. Without the Human Rights Act argument Susan's lawyers were able to raise, Susan would only have been able to claim that the hospital was negligent. They would not have been able to gain an internal investigation and there would have been nothing to prevent what happened to Susan happening again. Susan’s lawyer, Merry Varney, said: “This case underlines the important protections afforded by our Human Rights Act, which we relied upon to argue for these wider outcomes for Susan.”

Protect what protects us all

The right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment goes to the heart of who a person is, protecting our human dignity. What might seem trivial to some could be life changing to somebody else. The Human Rights Act enables us to recognise and protect these differences in a way that no other piece of law can. If you think human rights are worth celebrating and protecting, join us in standing Together for Human Rights – protect what protects us all