This week's human rights news includes an Equality & Human Rights Commission report, an update on the Ockenden review and a new team member!

News from BIHR

We welcomed our new Human Rights Officer, Lauren!

Our team is growing! This week, we welcomed a new Human Rights Officer: Lauren. Lauren has a professional background in casework, housing, and migrant rights as well as human rights law.

We're also still recruiting for a new Admin Assistant to join us part-time! Click here to find out more about the role and apply before 10am on 04 April 2022.

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We spoke to social care staff in Somerset about human rights in practice

On Thursday 31 March 2022, our Assistant Human Rights Officer, Katie met with staff working in adult social care to discuss human rights in practice. They covered the rights to privacy, liberty and to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment as well as freedom from discrimination.

Katie finished up with our top tips for embedding a rights-based approach, including considering and monitoring the impact on the individual person and communicating with the people being supported.

We completed a report on social care reform for the Equality & Human Rights Commission

We worked with the National Development Team for Inclusion to create a report for the Equality & Human Rights Commission. The report identifies key aspects of proposed social care reforms and the ways they might impact on equality, diversity, and human rights across three nations. We looked at the ways any proposed changes may impact people using social care, their relatives and the social care workforce and made suggestions on potential areas of work.

News from elsewhere

The Ockenden Review’s final report into maternity care was released

The Ockenden Review is an independent inquiry into maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. It was commissioned in 2017 following the deaths of new-borns Kate Stanton-Davies and Pippa Griffiths. The inquiry looked at more than 1800 cases of serious clinical incidents in relation to maternal deaths, stillbirths, neonatal deaths and Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (lack of oxygen to the brain). It produced its initial report on 10 December 2020.

On Wednesday 30 March 2022, the final report was released and included 15 “immediate and essential” actions that need to be taken by the NHS, including training, an escalation policy, risk assessments and clearer accountability. The report also included over 60 “local actions for learning” including patient and family involvement and staff support.

You can read the report here.

A survey of mental health patients found 48% had been told they have capacity to end their lives

On Tuesday 29 March 2022, independent researcher and activist Wren Aves has published a report into mental-health patients who have been told by treatment teams and services that they have “capacity to choose to end their life” when seeking help for suicidal thoughts. Of 211 respondents, 48% said they had experienced this 1 – 4 times. 83% said they subsequently had care withheld from them and 78% said it subsequently contributed to a suicide attempt.

Source: Aves W. “If you are not a patient they like, then you have capacity”: Exploring Mental Health Patient and Survivor Experiences of being told “You Have the Capacity to End Your Life” [Internet]. Psychiatry is Driving Me Mad. 2022. Available from: www.psychiatryisdrivingmemad.co.uk/post/if-you-are-not-a-patient-they-like-then-you-have-capacity

The House of Lords voted against “prospective only quashing orders” in the Courts Bill

A quashing order is an order made by a court that says a public body decision found to be unlawful is void, so it’s as if the decision was never made. This applies retrospectively, so any impact the decision had before it was found unlawful is void as well as any impact or action taken after.

The Judicial Review and Courts Bill that is currently being read by the House of Lords contained a proposed new section that would allow “prospective only quashing orders”. This would mean that the decision is only void from the time it is found unlawful and that any impact or action taken before that point would stand. Critics have argued that this would limit people’s access to justice for actions taken before the case reached court.

The House of Lords voted to remove this section.

Source: Hansard

The High Court found the Home Office unlawfully seized thousands of phones from people seeking asylum

Between April and September 2020, the Home Office seized the phones of three asylum-seekers immediately upon arrival into the UK. The Home Office later admitted that they had a “blanket and unpublished” policy of seizing all phones that year and further that they extracted a “huge quantity of personal data” from all phones seized until at least July 2020.

The Home Secretary argued that this was lawful under Section 48 of the Immigration Act 2016 but the court found that this section could not be used to carry out personal searches.

On Friday 25th March 2022, the Court ruled that the Home Secretary had breached Article 8 of the Human Rights Act as well as data protection laws. The Court also ruled that demanding PIN numbers under threat of criminal sanctions was a breach of Article 8. There will be a further hearing to discuss remedies.

You can read the case here.

Source: Privacy International

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee said artificial intelligence technology in the justice system has serious implications for human rights

On Wednesday 30 March 2022, the Justice and Home Affairs Committee published its report, “Technology rules? The advent of new technologies in the justice system.” This comes following its inquiry into new technologies and the application of the law. It discussed the impact on “the right to freedom of expression; the right to freedom of assembly and association; and the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion” as well as the potential to “directly affect freedom of expression; equality and non-discrimination; social and economic rights; fair trial; right to privacy; physical, psychological and moral integrity”.

The report concluded that, “the use of advanced technologies in the application of the law poses a real and current risk to human rights and to the rule of law. Unless this is acknowledged and addressed, the potential benefits of using advanced technologies may be outweighed by the harm that will occur and the distrust it will create.”

You can read the report here.

The Care Quality Commission issued a warning to a children’s mental health unit in Hertfordshire

Following an inspection at Forest House in Radlett, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust’s child and adolescent mental health wards inadequate. Concerns included that there “weren’t effective systems in place to ensure young people were given routine medication safely”, “therapists didn’t always have rooms available to conduct therapy sessions” and “patients told us they felt unsafe”.

However, the CQC also found “"most staff" treated patients with kindness and compassion and developed "patient care plans that were holistic and person-centred".” The Trust has stated that it has “already taken action and are determined to improve the service”.

Source: BBC News

The High Court will hear the case of an Afghan family unable to get to the UK because they can’t get biometrics done

The High Court will hear a legal challenge brought by a family including a British man, his wife and two children. The family were unable to board an evacuation flight out of Kabul because of limited space, but the man was able to return to the UK alone as a British passport holder. His wife and children are not able to get to the UK without getting biometrics done but the closest place to do so is at a visa centre in Pakistan. They would have to travel 300 miles and pass many Taliban checkpoints. Their lawyer has stated that the same rules should be applied to Afghans as have been to Ukrainians, who “are not required to provide their biometric information from overseas when making applications under the Ukraine Family Scheme.

Source: The Guardian

A school apologised for using mechanical restraint against two autistic twin boys

Kent County Council has admitted that the school breached policy by using mechanical restraint chairs against autistic twin boys, Sa and Jacob, when they were aged between 5 and 8. Neither boy had any physical need for the chair and their use had been objected to by the boys’ parents.

After becoming aware of the routine use of the restraints, their parents brought a case against under the Human Rights Act for inhuman treatment (Article 5), depravation of liberty (Article 5) and a breach of their right to private life (Article 8). The council admitted the school failed to get consent, consider less restrictive options or to keep records and breached its own policy. They agreed to pay Sam and Jacob £40,000 compensation each.

Source: Leigh Day

Lancashire Council agreed to pay compensation to an autistic man who was unlawfully detained

In 2010, a 24-year-old autistic man was removed from his family home and move to a care home 45 minutes away. His accommodation was locked and his access to the internet, social media and email was restricted. His family brought a case against Lancashire County Council for unlawfully detaining him without referring the case to the Court of Protection to determine whether it was in his best interests.

On Monday 28 April 2022, the council agreed to pay a £200,00 settlement.

Source: BBC News