The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that the detention of an autistic British man in a UK hospital under common law violated his human rights. The detention of the man, identified only as HL, under English common law meant that he could be detained based on the recommendation of a single doctor if it was determined that he could not consent to treatment.
According to the court, the man's detention, which began in July 1997, violated Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF] due to a lack of fixed procedures and means to appeal detentions. Despite the existence of the Mental Health Act of 1983, which does allow for appeals of detentions, thousands are still treated under the common law in the UK. The full court opinion is available here. Read a court press release on the ruling. The UK Department of Health has more on mental health and related laws. BBC News has more.