Johnson v The United Kingdom: ECHR 24 Oct 1997

Mr Johnson awaited trial for crimes of violence. He was diagnosed mentally ill, and on conviction made subject to a hospital order, and restricted without limit of time. He made progress, but was not discharged or re-classified. At a fourth tribunal hearing in June 1989 the opinion was that he was no longer suffering from mental illness but needed supervision if released. He was ordered for conditional discharge, subject to psychiatric supervisiona residence. His discharge was deferred until for accommodation to be found. It was not found. In 1990, he sought an absolute discharge, but the tribunal again directed a conditional discharge until suitable accommodation was found. A trial in another hospital unsuccessful and he was returned to Rampton. Another review repeated the same order. At a final review in 1993, the tribunal ordered his absolute discharge on the basis that he ‘is not now suffering from any form of mental disorder and that it is not appropriate for the patient to remain liable to be recalled for further treatment’. Mr Johnson was accordingly released from hospital. He first contended was that the tribunal should have ordered his immediate and unconditional release. The Court rejected this contention, recognising the desirability of rehabilitation in the community and found no violation in the imposition of conditions to that end. Mr Johnson’s alternative submission was that conditions must not hinder immediate or near immediate release and certainly not delay it excessively as had occurred in this case. This argument succeeded. ‘It is however of paramount importance that appropriate safeguards are in place so as to ensure that any deferral of discharge is consonant with the purpose of Article 5(1) and with the aim of the restriction in [Article 5(1)] sub-paragraph (e) and, in particular, that discharge is not unreasonably delayed.’ The Court drew attention to the absence of power in the tribunal or the authorities to ensure that the conditions could be implemented within a reasonable time, and to the 12-monthly interval between tribunal reviews, and concluded: ‘In these circumstances it must be concluded that the imposition of the hostel residence condition by the June 1989 Tribunal led to the indefinite deferral of the applicant’s release from Rampton Hospital especially since the applicant was unwilling after October 1990 to co-operate further with the authorities in their efforts to secure a hostel, thereby excluding any possibility that the condition could be satisfied. While the 1990 and 1991 Tribunals considered the applicant’s case afresh, they were obliged to order his continued detention since he had not yet fulfilled the terms of the conditional discharge imposed by the June 1989 Tribunal. Having regard to the situation which resulted from the decision taken by the latter Tribunal and to the lack of adequate safeguards including provision for judicial review to ensure that the applicant’s release from detention would not be unreasonably delayed, it must be considered that his continued confinement after 15 June 1989 cannot be justified on the basis of Article 5(1)(e) of the Convention. For these reasons the Court concludes that the applicant’s continued detention after 15 June 1989 constituted a violation of Article 5(1) of the Convention.’ The lack of a system for discharging mental patients whose treatment was no longer necessary, was a breach of the convention.
The court awarded andpound;10,000 in damages.


Times 04-Dec-1997, 22520/93, (1997) 27 EHRR 296, [1997] ECHR 88, (1998) 40 BMLR 1, [2010] ECHR 1857, [2010] ECHR 1859, [1998] HRCD 41, (1999) 27 EHRR 296


Worldlii, Bailii, Bailii, Bailii


European Convention on Human Rights 5.1


Human Rights

Cited by:

CitedRegina (IH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another CA 15-May-2002
The applicant was a restricted mental patient. His conditional release had been ordered, but required a consultant psychiatrist to be found who would agree to supervise him. None such could be found, and his detention continued. After two years he . .
CitedRegina (W) v Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council Admn 13-Feb-2003
The claimant sought damages for false imprisonment. The mental health tribunal had ordered his release, but the respondent had delayed that release.
Held: False imprisonment is established on proof of imprisonment without lawful authority. An . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Another ex parte IH HL 13-Nov-2003
The appellant had been found unfit to plead after assaulting his son, and he had been detained under the 1964 Act. He alleged his detention was in breach of his right to a fair trial. His release had been authorised subject to the appointment of a . .
CitedRegina (on the application of K) v Camden and Islington Health Authority CA 21-Feb-2001
The duty of a local authority to seek to provide resources to care for a mental patient after release into the community, is not absolute, and is subject to the limitations of the availability of a sufficient budget. A continued detention in . .
CitedRegina v East London and the City Mental Health NHS Trust and Another ex parte Von Brandenburg (Aka Hanley) HL 13-Nov-2003
The patient was ordered to be discharged and released from hospital. The tribunal making the order had not accepted the medical recommendations. His release was deferred pending the finding of accommodation, but in the meantime, a social worker . .
CitedJuncal, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and others CA 25-Jul-2008
The claimant appealed dismissal of his claim for wrongful imprisonment having been detained in 1997 on being found unfit to plead to an offence of violence.
Held: Parliament had a legitimate concern for the protection of the public, and . .
CitedG v E and Others CA 16-Jul-2010
E, now aged 19, suffered a genetic disorder leading to severe learning disability and lack of mental capacity. He had been in the care of his sister, the appellant, but had been removed by the local authority when his behaviour became disturbed. G, . .
CitedFaulkner, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice and Another SC 1-May-2013
The applicants had each been given a life sentence, but having served the minimum term had been due to have the continued detention reviewed to establish whether or not continued detention was necessary for the protection of the pblic. It had not . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health, Human Rights

Updated: 04 June 2022; Ref: scu.165568