Detained for most of his adult life, and having been fit for discharge since 2013, Bindmans client Tony Hickmott has finally been discharged from secure hospital, and has moved into his home in the community.
Mr Hickmott, who has autism and learning disabilities, has been detained for the past 21 years under the Mental Health Act 1983.
He was not discharged before now simply because there was no appropriate community placement for him to be discharged to.
Sadly, Mr Hickmott is not alone. A BBC investigation in 2021 found that 2,000 people with learning disabilities or autism are detained in specialist hospitals across the country, and that 100 of those individuals have been held for over 20 years. And that is despite the fact that it is almost ten years on since ‘Transforming Care: A national response to Winterbourne View Hospital’ was published in December 2012, a report that brought the issue of people with learning disabilities and autism living in hospitals inappropriately to the fore.
However, changes are afoot. Last year, the government published its response to the consultation about reform of the Mental Health Act, which proposed limiting the power to detain people with a learning disability and people with autism under the Act. Many people question, however, whether more needs to be done to get the thousands of people inappropriately detained in hospital discharged and living in the community.
Emma Varley, solicitor in our Public Law and Human Rights team, acts for Mr Hickmott (taking instructions from his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) in ongoing Court of Protection proceedings concerning his health and welfare, along with Laura Hobey-Hamsher of Bindmans LLP, and Alexis Hearnden of 39 Essex as counsel.