Winch v Jones: CA 1986

The court asked as to the criteria which should be applied when considering an application by a mental patient for leave to bring proceedings under section 139: ‘section 139 protects the defendant unless and until the applicant obtains leave. This in itself is an added protection of considerable value [over and above the ordinary strike out provisions]. As I see it, the section is intended to strike a balance between the legitimate interests of the applicant to be allowed, at his own risk as to costs, to seek the adjudication of the courts upon any claim which is not frivolous, vexatious or an abuse of the process, and the equally legitimate interests of the respondent to such an application not to be subjected to the undoubted exceptional risk of being harassed by baseless claims by those who have been treated under the [Mental Health] Acts. In striking such a balance, the issue is not whether the applicant has established a prima facie case or even whether there is a serious issue to be tried, although that comes close to it. The issue is whether, on the material immediately available to the court, which, of course, can include material furnished by the proposed defendant, the applicant’s complaint appears to be such that it deserves the fuller investigation which will be possible if the intended applicant is allowed to proceed.’ and ‘To be more specific, there are two fundamental difficulties. First, mental patients are liable, through no fault of their own, to have a distorted recollection of facts which can, on occasion, become pure fantasy. Second, the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is not an exact science and severely divergent views are sometimes possible without any lack of reasonable care on the part of the doctor.’

Sir John Donaldson MR
[1986] QB 296
Mental Health Act 1983 8139
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedSeal v Chief Constable of South Wales Police HL 4-Jul-2007
The claimant had sought to bring proceedings against the respondent, but as a mental patient subject to the 1983 Act, had been obliged by the section first to obtain consent. The parties disputed whether the failure was a procedural or substantial . .
CitedAdorian v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis CA 23-Jan-2009
The claimant received injuries when arrested. He was later convicted of resisting arrest. The defendant relied on section 329 of the 2003 Act. The claimant said that the force used against him was grossly disproportionate. The commissioner appealed . .
CitedJohnston v Chief Constable of Merseyside Police QBD 20-Nov-2009
The proposed claimant sought leave under the 1983 Act to bring an action for assault and false imprisonment, and further a disapplication of the limitation period to allow a claim out of time. The defendant said that the proposed claimant had been . .
CitedTW v London Borough of Enfield and Another QBD 8-May-2013
The claimant sought damages after being detained under the 1983 Act, and a declaration that the section used was incompatible with her human rights.
Held: The test for allowing proceedings was set at a low level, and even if section 139 does . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Health, Litigation Practice

Updated: 25 November 2021; Ref: scu.226022