The Supreme Court has today handed down judgment in Ecila Henderson v Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust. The appeal concerned the defence of illegality.
On 25 August 2010, the appellant, who had previously been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, stabbed her mother to death whilst expiring a serious psychotic episode. The appellant pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility and has been subject to a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983 and detention pursuant to section 41 of the same Act ever since.
Ms Henderson then brought a negligence claim against Dorset Healthcare, claiming damages caused by her killing of her mother under six heads: (i) damages for the depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder; (ii) damages for loss of liberty; (iii) loss of amenity; (iv) £61,944 being the share in her mother’s estate which she did not inherit due to operation of the Forfeiture Act 1982; (v) cost of psychotherapy; (vi) cost of a care manager/support worker. Her claim was dismissed by the High Court, and the appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was also dismissed.
She took her appeal to the Supreme Court who, today, unanimously dismissed her appeal, holding that her claim against Dorset Healthcare is barred by the illegality defence.
Judith Ayling acted for the successful respondent in Henderson with Angus Moon QC, Cecily White and James Goudkamp. Katharine Scott acted for the appellant with Nicholas Bowen QC and Duncan Fairgrieve.
You can read the full judgment here.