Anonymity lifted in the Blue Room case
The Court of Protection and Administrative Court lifted an anonymity order on 31st March 2012 preventing the local authority and a charity being named, in a case where it ruled that an 18-year-old man with autism and severe learning disabilities who was regularly placed in a padded seclusion room more than six times a day was unlawfully deprived of his liberty in  EWHC 1539 (Admin). The man, currently unnamed for legal reasons, was taken as a 16-year-old to a residential school for children with complex needs who regularly relied on a special isolation room known as "the blue room" to control his behaviour.
Sam Karim represented the man’s brother in the Court of Protection and Administrative Court. Sam is a leading expert in public law and human rights and is currently writing a book with the British Institute of Learning Disabilities on “ A human rights perspective on reducing restrictive practices in intellectual disability and autistic spectrum conditions”, which is aimed at a national (UK wide) and international audience, to promote best practice in reducing the use of restrictive practices in the support of people with intellectual (learning) disabilities and people with autism.
This case brings to the forefront, for the first time in the country, the unsaid secret prevalent in such cases: the use of an ‘isolation room’ to manage severe challenging behaviour, i.e. isolating somebody in a room and not allowing them to exit until their behaviour has improved. In doing so, Mr. Justice Ryder heard several specialist experts on the appropriateness of the use of isolation rooms generally, and referred to the current guidance available to help other schools and local authorities in the same situation. The Judge was also referred to the developments in the United States where many individuals tragically died whilst using such rooms.
Putting aside the serious conclusion that C was unlawfully deprived of his liberty (for a period to be determined), this judgment will be extremely welcomed by local authorities and special schools who accommodate and treat individuals with severe challenging behaviour. In a stark conclusion, the Judge said, "Despite this and despite the plethora of Government guidance and regulation, the court is left with a worrying impression that urban myth and so called ‘common sense’ rather than expert advice and multi-disciplinary working practices continues to be influential in some residential settings."
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