Four years on from Cheshire West – some brief reflections

This time four years ago, the world shifted on its axis as the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Cheshire West. It is undoubtedly far too early to tell its true impact, but it is an important coincidence that it is this week that the Joint Committee on Human Rights will start hearing oral evidence as part of its inquiry into DOLS reform, and to ask the question whether we should have a statutory definition of deprivation of liberty in the context of the delivery of care and treatment. Most of the written evidence submitted to the Committee can be found here (mine should be there shortly, but in the interim can be found here), and I will be giving oral evidence on 21st March in the very august company of Mr E, Mark Neary and Lucy Series.

Cheshire West has had a hugely important impact in shining a spotlight on restrictive (and often unthinkingly or administratively convenient restrictive) practices in a whole host of settings.  Its central message – that the right to liberty must mean the same for all, regardless of disability – is equally important.  However, for my part, I would respectfully suggest that a world in which the London Borough of Hillingdon is driven to conclude that Steven Neary is currently deprived of his liberty is one that has tilted significantly further on its axis than either the Supreme Court intended, or could be required by any sensible conception of human rights.   I give a very long answer to the question of how we might recalibrate things here, but in very short compass it can be reduced to the simple proposition that we need to find a better way in which to allow the law to listen to Steven.

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