Regina v Ashworth Hospital Authority (Now Mersey Care National Health Service Trust) ex parte Munjaz: HL 13 Oct 2005

The claimant was detained in a secure Mental Hospital. He complained at the seclusions policy applied by the hospital, saying that it departed from the Guidance issued for such policies by the Secretary of State under the Act.
Held: The House allowed the Hospital’s appeal. The policy was lawful. Seclusion was to be seen as part of a patient’s treatment, and therefore the code had a statutory if not binding basis. Before departing from the guidance, a hospital should qive cogent reasons. The court had given more weight to the Guidance than was intended by Parliament. (Lords Steyn and Scott dissenting)
Lord Bingham said that the legality requirement under the Convention: ‘is directed to substance and not form. It is intended to ensure that any interference is not random and arbitrary but governed by clear pre-existing rules, and that the circumstances and procedures adopted are predictable and foreseeable by those to whom they are applied.’
As to Article 8 and seclusion, he said: ‘It is obvious that seclusion, improperly used, may violate a patient’s Article 8 right in a serious and damaging way and may found a claim for relief . . I have, for my part, some difficulty in appreciating how the seclusion can be said to show any lack of respect for a patient’s private and family life, home or correspondence, if it is used as the only means of protecting others from violence or intimidation and for the shortest period necessary to that end.’
As to the Code of Guidance: ‘It is in my view plain that the Code does not have the binding effect which a statutory provision or a statutory instrument would have. It is what it purports to be, guidance and not instruction. But the matters relied on by Mr Munjaz show that the guidance should be given great weight. It is not instruction, but it is much more than mere advice which an addressee is free to follow or not as it chooses. It is guidance which any hospital should consider with great care, and from which it should depart only if it has cogent reasons for doing so.’
any interference with the article 8 rights of patients was justified under article 8(2). Seclusion under the policy was necessary for, among other things, the prevention of disorder, the protection of health and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, and if properly used it would not be disproportionate. The procedure adopted by the authority did not permit arbitrary or random decision making and the rules were accessible, foreseeable and predictable. In these circumstances, it could not be said that they were not in accordance with or prescribed by law.
Lord Bingham of Cornhill, with whom Lord Hope and Lord Scott of Foscote agreed, rejected a submission that the interference was not in accordance with the law because it was not prescribed by a binding general law: ‘I cannot for my part accept this. The requirement that any interference with the right guaranteed by article 8(1) be in accordance with the law is important and salutary, but it is directed to substance and not form. It is intended to ensure that any interference is not random and arbitrary but governed by clear pre-existing rules, and that the circumstances and procedures adopted are predictable and foreseeable by those to whom they are applied.’


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Steyn, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Scott of Foscote, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood


Times 18-Oct-2005, [2005] UKHL 58, [2005] 2 WLR 695, [2006] 2 AC 148, [2006] Lloyds Rep Med 1, [2006] 4 All ER 736, [2005] MHLR 276, [2005] HRLR 42, (2005) 86 BMLR 84


House of Lords, Bailii


Mental Health Act 1983, European Convention on Human Rights 3 5 8 A6 A5(1)(e)


England and Wales


Appeal fromMunjaz v Mersey Care National Health Service Trust And the Secretary of State for Health, the National Association for Mental Health (Mind) Respondent interested; CA 16-Jul-2003
The claimant was a mental patient under compulsory detention, and complained that he had been subjected to periods of seclusion.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The hospital had failed to follow the appropriate Code of Practice. The Code was not . .
At First InstanceRegina v Ashworth Hospital Authority, Ex parte Munjaz (No 2) Admn 5-Jul-2002
The court dismissed the claimant’s complaint that the seclusion policies operated at Ashworth Special Hospital infringed his human rights. The Special Hospitals operated policies for seclusion which differed from the Code of Practice laid down under . .
CitedHutchison Reid v Secretary Of State For Scotland and Another HL 5-Feb-1998
(Scotland) A detention in hospital which was capable of preventing the deterioration of a psychopathic disorder in a patient was sufficient to bring his detention within the requirement for treatment which might alleviate a condition, which phrase . .
CitedRegina v Broadmoor Special Hospital Authority and Secretary of State for Department of Health ex parte S, H and D (2) CA 5-Feb-1998
Persons detained under Mental Health Acts could be subject to random non-consensual searches even if this went against medical opinion. The power to seclude a patient within the hospital is implied from the power to detain as a ‘necessary ingredient . .
CitedAerts v Belgium ECHR 30-Jul-1998
A person detained as a person of unsound mind should not be kept in a prison, but if the institution concerned is within the appropriate category, there is no breach of Article 5. While measures depriving a person of his liberty often involve an . .
CitedRaymond v Honey HL 4-Mar-1981
The defendant prison governor had intercepted a prisoner’s letter to the Crown Office for the purpose of raising proceedings to have the governor committed for an alleged contempt of court.
Held: The governor was in contempt of court. Subject . .
CitedMiller v The Queen 1985
(Canadian Supreme Court) In a case of a prisoner where solitary confinement is unlawfully and unjustly superimposed upon his prison sentence the added solitary confinement can amount to ‘prison within a prison’: it is capable of constituting a . .
No longer authoritativeRegina v Deputy Governor of Parkhurst Prison, Ex parte Hague, Weldon v Home Office HL 24-Jul-1991
The prisoner challenged the decision to place him in segregation under Prison Rule 43. Under rule 43(1) the initial power to segregate was given to ‘the governor’. The case arose from the fact that the governor of one prison had purported to . .
CitedBollan v United Kingdom ECHR 1998
(Admissibility) The claimant was a prisoner who had been confined to her cell, unlawfully it was said, for some two hours. The evidence was that she was a heroin addict who objected to that restriction on her residual liberty.
Held: ‘It is . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State Home Department, ex parte Leech (No 2) CA 20-May-1993
Prison rules were ultra vires in so far as they provided for reading letters between prisoners and their legal advisers. Every citizen has a right of unimpeded access to the court. A prisoner’s unimpeded access to a solicitor for the purpose of . .
CitedRegina v Secretary of State for The Home Department Ex Parte Simms HL 8-Jul-1999
Ban on Prisoners talking to Journalists unlawful
The two prisoners, serving life sentences for murder, had had their appeals rejected. They continued to protest innocence, and sought to bring their campaigns to public attention through the press, having oral interviews with journalists without . .
CitedRegina v Islington Borough Council Ex Parte Rixon QBD 17-Apr-1996
The local authority regarded lack of resources or facilities as an insuperable obstacle to any further attempt to make provision under the 1970 Act.
Held: A Local Authority should allow for non-statutory guidance in assessing a disabled . .
CitedRegina (Daly) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 23-May-2001
A prison policy requiring prisoners not to be present when their property was searched and their mail was examined was unlawful. The policy had been introduced after failures in search procedures where officers had been intimidated by the presence . .
CitedStorck v Germany ECHR 16-Jun-2005
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) – Preliminary objection rejected ( res iudicata ); Violation of Art. 5-1 (placement in private clinic from 1977 to 1979); No separate issue under Arts. 5-4 and 5-5; No . .
CitedNowicka v Poland ECHR 3-Dec-2002
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 5-1 ; Violation of Art. 8 ; Pecuniary damage – claim rejected ; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award ; Costs and expenses partial award – . .
CitedOcalan v Turkey ECHR 12-May-2005
(Grand Chamber) – The applicant had been detained in Kenya. He had allowed himself to be taken by Kenyan officials to Nairobi airport in the belief that he was free to leave for a destination of his choice, but they took him to an aircraft in which . .
CitedB, Regina (on the Application of) v Ashworth Hospital Authority HL 17-Mar-2005
The House was asked whether a patient detained for treatment under the 1983 Act can be treated against his will for any mental disorder from which he is suffering or only for the particular form of mental disorder from which he is classified as . .
CitedWinterwerp v The Netherlands ECHR 24-Oct-1979
A Dutch national detained in hospital complained that his detention had divested him of his capacity to administer his property, and thus there had been determination of his civil rights and obligations without the guarantee of a judicial procedure. . .
CitedVan Der Ven v The Netherlands ECHR 4-Feb-2003
The applicant’s complaint was that the detention regime to which he was subjected in a maximum security prison, including the use of intrusive strip searches, constituted inhuman and/or degrading treatment and infringed his right to respect for his . .
CitedZ And Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 10-May-2001
Four children complained that, for years before they were taken into care by the local authority, its social services department was well aware that they were living in filthy conditions and suffering ‘appalling’ neglect in the home of their . .
CitedAshingdane v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-May-1985
The right of access to the courts is not absolute but may be subject to limitations. These are permitted by implication since the right of access ‘by its very nature calls for regulation by the State, regulation which may vary in time and place . .
CitedOsman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
CitedA v United Kingdom ECHR 1-Oct-1998
The beating of a child aged 9, by his father, with a cane repeatedly, and so as to leave bruising, was inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and was not capable of being reasonable chastisement. UK law failed properly to protect the child’s . .
CitedDhoest v Belgium ECHR 14-May-1987
The Commission considered the conditions of detention in solitary confinement in a mental institution.
Held: In assessing whether a measure may fall within the ambit of article 3 in a given case, regard must be had to the particular . .
CitedSilver v United Kingdom ECHR 1980
(Commission) Complaint was made as to the censorship of prisoners’ correspondence. The censorship of prisoners’ correspondence was ancillary to prison rules restricting the contents of correspondence. The Commission, therefore, and the Court had to . .
CitedHewitt and Harman v United Kingdom ECHR 1991
(Commission) When asking whether an action about which complaint is made is ‘according to law’, it is the quality of the law that matters rather than the form it takes which matters. As to the case of Malone, it ‘elucidated the concept of . .
CitedRaninen v Finland ECHR 16-Dec-1997
The complainant had been handcuffed unjustifiably and in public but not with the intention of debasing or humiliating him and not so as to affect him sufficiently to attain the minimum level of severity.
Held: The application was rejected The . .
CitedAdlard and Others, Regina (on the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and Regions and others CA 24-Apr-2002
It was argued that the Secretary of State should have called in a planning application so as to avoid the risk of the local planning authority acting incompatibly with article 6.
Held: The court considered the obligations of the Secretary of . .
CitedMalone v The United Kingdom ECHR 2-Aug-1984
COURT (PLENARY) The complainant asserted that his telephone conversation had been tapped on the authority of a warrant signed by the Secretary of State, but that there was no system to supervise such warrants, and that it was not therefore in . .
CitedIn Re L (By His Next Friend GE); Regina v Bournewood Community and Mental Health NHS Trust, Ex Parte L HL 25-Jun-1998
The applicant was an adult autistic, unable to consent to medical treatment. Treatment was provided at a day centre. He had been detained informally under the Act and against the wishes of his carers, but the Court of Appeal decided he should have . .
CitedAdlard, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and others Admn 17-Jan-2002
The court dismissed a claim for judicial review of the refusal by the Secretary of State to call in, and establish a public inquiry to consider, certain applications for planning permission and listed building and conservation area consents which . .
See AlsoRegina v Ashworth Special Hospital Trust, ex parte Munjaz 10-Oct-2000
The claimant was detained iin a secure mental hospital. He complained of being held in seclusion for a long period, and as to the hospital’s policy.
Held: The hospital’s policy, by reducing the frequency of review of a patient’s seclusion . .

Cited by:

CitedB, Regina (on the Application Of) v SS (Responsible Medical Officer) and others CA 26-Jan-2006
The applicant had been detained after a diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder and convictions for rape. He had applied for discharge, but before the hearing the doctor had said he no longer opposed his release. After the hearing but before being . .
CitedSK (Zimbabwe) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 6-Nov-2008
Immigration detention proper after prison release
The Home Secretary appealed against a finding that he had unlawfully detained the applicant. The applicant had been detained on release from prison pending his return to Zimbabwe as recommended by the sentencing judge under section 6 of the 1971 . .
CitedBary and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice and Another Admn 19-Mar-2010
The applicants, incarcerated at Long Lartin pending extradition or deportation, challenged a decision further restricting their movements within the prison. All were unconvicted, and all but one were suspected of terrorist crimes. The changes were . .
CitedTTM v London Borough of Hackney and Others Admn 11-Jun-2010
The claimant had said that his detention under the 1983 Act was unlawful, and that the court should issue a writ of habeas corpus for his release. Having been released he sought damages on the basis that his human rights had been infringed. The . .
CitedKing, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Justice CA 27-Mar-2012
In each case the prisoners challenged their transfer to cellular confinement or segregation within prison or YOI, saying that the transfers infringed their rights under Article 6, saying that domestic law, either in itself or in conjunction with . .
At House of LordsC Munjaz v United Kingdom ECHR 20-Mar-2008
The applicant complained of his seclusion whilst being detaned at a secure mental hospital.
Held: The court referred several questions back to the parties to be answered. . .
At House of LordsMunjaz v The United Kingdom ECHR 17-Jul-2012
The applicant was detained in a secure mental hospital. He complained that he had been held in seclusion.
Held: The complaints under articles 5 and 8 were admissible, but there had been no violation of the applicant’s rights in these . .
CitedNzolameso v City of Westminster SC 2-Apr-2015
The court was asked ‘When is it lawful for a local housing authority to accommodate a homeless person a long way away from the authority’s own area where the homeless person was previously living? ‘ The claimant said that on applying for housing she . .
CitedHemmati and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for The Home Department SC 27-Nov-2019
The Home Secretary appealed from a finding that illegally entered asylum seekers had been unlawfully detained pending removal. The five claimants had travelled through other EU member states before entering the UK. The court considered inter alia . .
CitedGardner and Another, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Others Admn 27-Apr-2022
Patient transfer policy was unlawful
The claimants had relatives who died in care homes early in the COVID-19 pandemic. They said that the policy of moving patients from hospitals to care homes without testing had contributed to the deaths, and many others, and had been unlawful. The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health, Human Rights, Prisons

Leading Case

Updated: 28 April 2022; Ref: scu.231109