C and others v Brent, Kensington & Chelsea & Westminster Mental NHS Trust (unreported – judgment 13 February 2002)

The decision by a Mental Health Trust to move the residents of a home, in circumstances where there was no evidence of a promise of a home for life, nor a legitimate expectation that they would have a home for life there, was neither unreasonable nor irrational, nor a breach of art 8 of the Convention.

There was no duty on the Trust to consult the residents as their placement at the home had only ever been intended as an interim measure, to allow the health authority to develop more appropriate long term provision for them. To thwart the Trust’s policy, which had prevailed throughout, by holding that because the residents had enjoyed the benefit of the placement, they could not now be deprived of it without being consulted, strained the court’s perception of what fairness required.

The facts of the ex p Perry case were distinguished as there had been no promise of a home for life and the residents’ placement there had only ever been intended as an interim measure. Before authority was received to go ahead with the proposal to close the home, detailed assessments of the residents’ daily living activities and requirements and clinical needs had been carried out, and the residents had been given individual opportunities to discuss their care and suitable alternative placements at care planning meetings. The Trust had had sufficient regard for the needs of the residents and there was no question of oppression, abuse of power or unfairness in the decision making process.

A health authority with responsibility for the long term care of mental patients, and for their placement in suitable accommodation, had an obligation under art 8 of the Convention, when considering a home closure, to strike a fair balance between the residents’ right to respect for home and the requirements of other patients for whom it was responsible. In this case, the decision to refurbish the home and redesignate it as a rehabilitation unit for acute hospital patients (necessitating moving the current residents) would confer benefits on other members of the community to whom the Trust owed a duty and who also enjoyed rights and freedom which the Trust must protect. The Trust had carried out assessments and involved the residents in discussions about the planned move. The resident’s accommodation at this particular home had only ever been on an interim basis. In these circumstances, the Trust had acted honestly, reasonably and in a manner consistent with residents’ art 8 rights.

Like the Court of Appeal in the Cowl case, the judge again warned against a culture of litigiousness. He said, ‘in cases like this the exacerbation of the differences between the parties by the adversarial process gives rise to a need for restraint and a high degree of objective assessment of the merits of litigation’.

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