Mother Proved Right As Son Freed From Padded Room Hell Makes Progress

Court Anonymity Order Lifted Naming Wigan Borough Council As Local Authority Which Locked Up Her Autistic Son


A mother who took her local authority to court after her severely autistic son was locked in a padded room several times a day says the ‘remarkable’ progress he has made since winning the case nine months ago has vindicated their battle for justice.

Her comments came as a judge lifted an anonymity order preventing Wigan Borough Council being named as the local authority concerned in the Court of Protection case, where it had been ruled that it was wrong to lock the 19-year-old boy in the so-called ‘Blue Room’ more than six times a day to control his behaviour without seeking a court order to deprive him of his liberty.

The family of the boy – know only as C – contacted experts at law firms Irwin Mitchell and Hogans Solicitors after becoming concerned over his treatment at Beech Tree School and having repeated pleas ignored by officials, with the case culminating in Mr Justice Ryder ruling the borough council’s treatment was unlawful.

Now, C’s mother says the progress he has made since the ruling last March has vindicated the family’s battle. She said the situation for C whilst at Beech Tree School was harrowing and his plight had fallen on deaf ears until the intervention of the Court adding that his presentation speaks volumes. C now enjoys regular walks in the countryside and is using transport to go swimming; both his attention span and vocabulary have dramatically increased, but perhaps most tellingly of all C has started to laugh again.

She said: “This entire period has been extremely traumatic for my sons and I and it’s with a feeling of immense joy and relief that we feel C can now begin to lead the fulfilling and enjoyable life he should have done previously.

“It is a sad situation that the very people we should have been working in cooperation with in order to provide the best care for him are the ones that let us down and failed to meet their minimum duty of care to him, the ‘professionals’ within the named organisations each had the authority to halt the tragic existence of my sons’ incarceration within the Blue Room but failed in their duty to do so over a considerable period of time.

“His elder brother and I have witnessed the practice of seclusion enough to know that it is unnatural, particularly cruel to someone with the diagnosis of C and serves only to dehumanize and there should be no place for its use in 21st century ‘care’.

“I thank the legal teams who represented me and my son, Irwin Mitchell, Kevin Lloyd of Hogans, Katie Scott, Sam Karim and all those within the Court who fought to ensure justice. Without the ruling by Mr Justice Ryder the remarkable progress C has made in the past year could not have happened.

“I just hope that others in an extremely vulnerable position may be spared the harm that he was forced to endure and we were forced to witness prior to the judgment."

Mathieu Culverhouse, a specialist in cases related to the human rights of vulnerable members of society at Irwin Mitchell, helped the family win its battle for justice.

He said: “His life has dramatically improved and it’s a triumph for C, the family and the Judiciary who were involved in this case to hear that he is now enjoying his life.

“This shocking case is one in which the responsible authorities failed to obtain the legal authorisation needed to deprive someone of their liberty.

“It’s clear from the progress C has made over the past 9 months that the unlawful treatment he was receiving was not working. Thankfully now, C is beginning to move on from his ordeal and the family can enjoy time with him."

C’s brother added: “He has gained weight, grown taller and shows affection to those around him. I can now enjoy a relationship with him where we laugh and have fun which is something I hadn’t seen my brother do for some time. It is however ironic and rather perturbing to think my brother now has greater liberty and quality of life under the restrictions of the MHA, than he did in a school setting. Even now, we have not received an apology from those responsible.”

An anonymity order in respect of both the boy and the organisations responsible was put in place to protect C’s identity but it is now considered an appropriate time for this to be lifted and name the school and local authority involved.

At the time C attended Beech Tree School for young people with learning difficulties run by the charity Scope and overseen by Wigan Borough Council.

Mathieu Culverhouse added: “A large number of families and individuals rely heavily on the care provided by specialist homes, hospitals and school, so it is crucial that important lessons are learnt from the failings identified in this case. The most vulnerable members of society must have access to the care and support which is best suited to their needs and we will continue to fight for justice on behalf of our clients.

“I hope that this case serves as guidance to all professionals across the county to ensure that no individuals or families face the same problems as C in the future. Proper planning with expert advice could well have avoided the distress which was evident in this case substantially affecting both C’s and his family’s lives.”

This case is one of many high-profile cases that Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law specialists have acted in, following on from their successful legal challenge over Birmingham City Council’s plans to cut their adult social care budgets early in 2011.