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Public law and Regulation

Case reports and guidance on public law and professional regulation issues

09 OCT 2014

SA v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2570 (Admin); (2014) PLLR 098

SA v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2014] EWHC 2570 (Admin); (2014) PLLR 098
Queen’s Bench Division, Administrative Court, Mr C. M. G. Ockelton
31 July 2014


A detainee’s mental illness is managed satisfactorily where the detainee’s mental condition does not deteriorate as a result of detention. Further inquiries into the person’s mental state are only required where the Secretary of State has been put on notice of the need for them.


(1) The claimant, a Somalian-born Dutch national, challenged his detention by the defendant on the grounds that the defendant made public law errors in the application of her policy for detention of the mentally ill and that the claimant's detention was in breach of the Hardial Singh principles.

(2) The claimant had been living in the UK since 2000, where he had a number of family members. In April 2010, he attacked a hospital staff member, for which he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment following his plea of guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Towards the end of his custodial sentence, the defendant sought non-automatic deportation due to his criminal offence. He was in immigration custody from the end of his criminal sentence, 26 January 2011, until 22 March 2012.

(3) The claimant exhibited significant challenging behaviour throughout his time in detention and had previously been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. At the time of his criminal conviction, it was held that he was fit to reside on the prison estate, though concerns were raised about the risks he posed to others.

(4) The claimant stated that he heard voices, which psychiatrists described as pseudo-hallucinations occurring when the claimant is distressed and frustrated, often in relation to a lack of tobacco and frustration that his immediate needs are not met. On 21 October 2011, the claimant was visited by a psychiatrist, who diagnosed the claimant with paranoid schizophrenia and mixed personality disorder and stated that the claimant had ‘an unfortunate tendency to present himself as more disordered than he actually is.’ He concluded that prison detention was likely to have a detrimental effect on the claimant’s mental health.

(5) The defendant treated the psychiatrist’s report as an application for the claimant’s release on the grounds that his detention had become unlawful and declined to release him.

(6) HELD: The court did not find there to be any time when the claimant’s detention was not justified and necessary, and that the claimant would be removed in a reasonable period of time.

(7) Assessing the Hardial Singh arguments, the court found that the defendant was entitled to conclude that detention was justified due to the claimant’s risk of re-offending and absconding.

(8) The court found that throughout the period of detention the material available amply justified a view that the claimant would pose a risk of violence and threats of violence to his family and members of the public if released. Looking primarily to reports prepared in relation to his criminal sentencing, the court found that the claimant’s risk of re-offending could not be properly assessed based on the usual processes, as his behaviour had been under-reported by family members.

(9) In assessing the claimant’s risk of absconding, the court found the defendant was entitled to think that the claimant’s intention to resist deportation and lack of meaningful family ties due to his difficulties with his family in the past and his extended periods away from home in various institutions rose to the level where it counted towards a decision to detain. The risk of absconding from residential care also raised the risk of non-compliance with medication and possibly criminal behaviour.

(10) The court found that the 6-month delay in resolving the issue of the claimant’s nationality was not an excessively long period due to the Home Office’s consistent efforts to obtain answers from Dutch authorities with only modest delays.

(11) The claimant had no period of five years residence in the UK during which he had not been subject to the Mental Health Act, giving him no claim to resist removal, subject only to other factors such as a successful Article 8 claim.

(12) As an EU citizen, the defendant could not remove an individual solely because of a conviction, and there would need to be other factors present to justify the decision.

(13) Despite the claimant’s success in the First Tier Tribunal, effect of that decision did not have to be given while an appeal is pending. The court disapproved of the finding of the Upper Tribunal, finding that its decision could not be regarded as a decision that the claimant would have won an appeal on a proper legal basis during the time of his detention. There was nothing during the appeals process that should have led the defendant to believe that the claimant could or would not be removed.

(14) The court went on to assess the effects of the claimant’s medical condition on the lawful basis for his detention. While the court found it was clear that the claimant had serious medical issues, there was no indication that these problems were exacerbated by his detention, and were likely improved by the time of his release.

(15) The court assessed the effects of the claimant’s mental health condition on the lawful basis for his detention. The court found that the key question in considering whether detention of a mentally ill person is appropriate is whether the mental illness is serious enough that it cannot be managed satisfactorily in detention, following R(Das) v SSHD [2014] EWCA Civ 45. Only when an illness is of this description does the question of whether very exceptional circumstances exist necessitating the individual’s detention become relevant.

(16) The court found that there was not undue delay (approximately 3 weeks) in considering and acting upon the psychiatrist’s report, considering that the report took approximately one month to prepare. The evidence did not show that the claimant’s mental state deteriorated in detention, but that his detention may have exacerbated his mental disorder overall. The psychiatrist did not cite any specific decline in the claimant’s condition and could not say there had been one.

(17) The court noted that though the claimant’s mental disorder contributes to his challenging behaviour, it is not the only factor at play, and management of his behaviour is not the same as management of his mental health.

(18) The defendant was entitled to take the view that the claimant’s mental health could be adequately managed in detention. The court declined to find that the defendant was obligated to seek out further information where the claimant had a history of detention and regard was being paid to his mental health. In order to ‘manage’ a condition, it does not need to be ameliorated or improved. The defendant considered several alternatives to typical detention.

(19) In the absence of any warnings from responsible clinicians, the defendant was not obligated to make further inquiries for information about the defendant. This duty is not triggered by the mere diagnosis of a mental illness, but would only be present where the defendant had been put on notice of particular inquiries which are necessary.

(20) This case did not fall within Chapter 55.10 of the EIG, as the claimant’s mental condition could be satisfactorily managed in detention. The court expressed considerable doubts that it would have met the requirement of ‘exceptional reasons for maintaining detention.’

Claim failed.

Key Paragraphs

[11] – Detention of mentally ill individuals
[16] - EU citizens
[33] – Risk of reoffending
[36] – Risk of absconding
[37] – Risk of absconding from supervised residential care
[40] – Delay in determining nationality
[46]– Deportation orders and appeals
[57] – Medical conditions and detention
[73] – Mental health and detention
[75]- Mental health and detention
[77]-[78] – Duty to make further inquiries
[80] – Mental health and detention
[81] – Lawfulness of detention
[84] – EU citizens
[85]-[86] – Conclusion
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