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Oliver Lewis is a human rights and public law specialist. He accepts instructions in Court of Protection matters, mental health law, inquests, judicial reviews and civil claims.

He also practices in the field of international human rights law and has experience litigating at the European Court of Human Rights. He accepts instructions in matters relating to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, having participated in its drafting. Oliver is currently carrying out a project for the United Nations Development Programme about the right to vote for people with disabilities.

Oliver holds a part-time position as Professor of Law and Social Justice at the School of Law at the University of Leeds, where he is a member of the University’s Centre for Disability Studies. He teaches on the LLB and LLM disability law modules and convenes the LLM module on global human rights advocacy. Having grown up in Bristol, he is proud to be a trustee of the Bristol Law Centre.

Court of Protection and Mental Health

Oliver accepts instructions across a range of applications in the Court of Protection. He most often represents the person lacking capacity, and is regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor. He also represents family members, local authorities, CCGs, NHS Trusts and other bodies. Oliver has experience of vulnerable adult cases under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. Oliver advises in judicial reviews and civil claims arising from unlawful deprivation of liberty and inappropriate treatment of disabled people.

He accepts instruction in any matter relating to the Mental Health Act 1983, including applications by detained patients in complex First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health) hearings, appeals to the Upper Tribunal and displacement of nearest relative proceedings.

Oliver has a special interest in helping families who have relatives with learning disabilities and/or autism who are detained in Assessment and Treatment Units. He has extensive experience of strategic litigation, having spearheaded a series of successful test cases in the European Court of Human Rights from countries in central and eastern Europe, including Shtukaturov v. Russia (2008) and Stanev v. Bulgaria (2012), both cited by the UK Supreme Court.

Recent cases include:

Among Oliver’s recent cases are the following. By their nature, most Court of Protection cases are unreported.

  • CB (by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) v Medway Borough Council and Anor (Appeal) [2019] EWCOP 5: Oliver represented the Official Solicitor on behalf of a 91-year-old woman who had been deprived of her liberty in a care home. Hayden J held that the Court of Protection should never summarily dismiss s.21A applications.

  • Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council v (a) Julie X (2) Jeremy X (3) Bethany X (a minor acting via her guardian), Keehan J in the High Court (Family Division). Led by Victoria Butler-Cole QC, it was argued that the local authority should not attempt to injunct the father of a 17-year-old girl who had lived in a hospital seclusion room for nearly 2 years. Press coverage can be found here. Oliver is instructed in the follow-up judicial review, funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

  • RH v (1) Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and (2) Medway Borough Council (DLA) [2018] UKUT 48 (AAC). Oliver represented Medway in an Upper Tribunal social security appeal. He raised human rights points and argued that the UK had not fulfilled its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

  • Milton Keynes Council v (1) PS (by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) (2) RS HHJ Hildyard QC in Luton. Oliver represented the husband of P who been removed from the marital home by the local authority because of bruises on her body. After a fact-finding hearing, the court declined to make any findings of fact against Oliver’s client and ordered that it was in P’s best interests to be returned home.

  • SB (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) v West Sussex County Council, HHJ Thorp, Worthing, July 2018. Oliver acted for SB, who had alcohol-related dementia, and the issues were evidence of capacity and searching for a placement that could best meet his needs and respect his Article 8 rights.

  • A Council v (1) XX (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) (2) XX. HHJ Davies in Peterborough, 2018-19. Oliver represented P, a young man with Prader Willi Syndrome, in a case concerning where he should live and receive care, as well as contact and sexual relations with his girlfriend. There were several hearings in 2018.

  • COM (by her litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) v Brighton and Hove City Council, May 2018, HHJ Farquhar in Brighton. Oliver acted for COM, a lady in her 80s who had been placed against her will in a care home for several months. At a final hearing, the judge directed that it was in COM’s best interests to live in her flat with a package of support.

  • Milton Keynes Council v (1) WT (2) IT, Cobb J in the Family Division of the High Court, 2018. Oliver acted for WT in several directions hearings and a final hearing. The local authority claimed WT was coercing her elderly mother by blocking visits by social workers.

  • RO (by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor) v (1) London Borough of Newham (2) JA. DJ Eldergill, First Avenue House, March 2018. Oliver represented JA, the older brother of RO who had learning disabilities and schizophrenia and was removed from his home by the local authority. Oliver successfully argued RO should return to the family home, which was opposed by the local authority and the Official Solicitor.

Inquests

Oliver is instructed in inquests that raise concerns about failures about the provision of health or social care.

Recent cases include:

  • Inquest into the death of Molly Frank, St Pancras Coroner’s Court, April 2018, Oliver represented the family of a care worker who was likely struck on the head by the 95-year old service user she was caring for. The jury found she died due to natural causes. Press report here.

  • Inquest into the death of PC, West London Coroner’s Court, October 2018, Article 2 inquest before a jury. Jury found suicide contributed to by neglect of an NHS Trust and a GP, due to lack of discharge planning and communication. Coroner made a prevention of future deaths report.

  • Inquest into the death of PL, Bedfordshire Coroner’s Court, June 2018. Misdiagnosis by a GP of a heart attack.

  • Inquest into the death of JM, Hertfordshire Coroner’s Court, January 2018: Young man with Asperger’s died from taking heroin he bought on the dark internet.

  • Inquest into the death of AN, Suffolk Coroner’s Court, December 2017: Man with learning disabilities and autism died in a care home by choking on his dinner. Coroner made a prevention of future deaths report in respect of national guidelines on first aid training of care home staff.

At the international level Oliver oversaw a third party intervention in Centre for Legal Resources v. Romania (2014), a case brought by a Romanian NGO in the European Court of Human Rights. This is a leading case on the right to life under Article 2 of the ECHR and access to justice for people with mental disabilities. The Court found that an NGO could pursue an application on behalf of a man who died in a psychiatric hospital and had no next of kin.

International Human Rights Law

Oliver is currently instructed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on an 18-month-long project about political participation of people with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. He is drafting UNDP’s guidance to governments, electoral commissions and civil society on how to bolster participation in elections.

Oliver has carried out human rights monitoring and delivered training in over twenty countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. Drawing on his experience as Legal Director then Executive Director of the international charity Validity (formerly the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre) from 2002 until 2017, he can be instructed to provide law and policy reform advice as well as training services to bodies committed to implementing human rights standards including governments, NGOs, inspectorates, philanthropic organisations, corporations and development agencies.

Oliver has litigated, trained and written about children’s rights, mental health law, monitoring closed institutions (e.g. social care institutions and psychiatric hospitals), equality and non-discrimination, community living, guardianship and legal capacity, political participation, access to justice, and combatting torture and ill-treatment – including sexual violence, psychiatric coercion and conditions of detention.

At MDAC Oliver oversaw the world’s largest multi-country docket of disability rights test cases. Under his leadership MDAC represented applicants or acted as amicus curiae in cases before the European Court of Human Rights,

  • Gajcsi v. Hungary, 2006: fresh evidence needed for mental health detention

  • Shtukaturov v. Russia, 2008: guardianship cannot be used as a backdoor to psychiatric detention

  • Alajos Kiss v. Hungary, 2010: legal capacity and the right to vote

  • Stanev v. Bulgaria, 2012: social care detention and degrading conditions

  • Bures v. Czech Republic, 2012: physical restraint

  • Sykora v. Czech Republic, 2012: detention and guardianship

  • ZH v Hungary, 2013: reasonable accommodations to a disabled prisoner

  • Lashin v. Russia, 2013: right of person under guardianship to marry

  • Mikhailenko v. Ukraine, 2013: guardianship

  • Centre for Legal Resources on behalf of Valentin Campianu v. Romania, 2014: right to life, standing of NGOs to represent a deceased person

  • Stankov v. Bulgaria, 2015: guardianship and social care detention

  • Blokhin v. Russia, 2016: unlawful detention in prison and abuse of boy with disabilities

  • Kocherov and Sergeyeva v. Russia, 2016: disability and parenting

  • Cervenka v. Czech Republic, 2016: detention and guardianship

  • Usmanov v. Russia, 2016: conditions of psychiatric detention

MDAC achieved numerous successes in constitutional courts and other domestic proceedings, including in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Russia and Slovakia. Working in partnership with the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Oliver initiated the first case in central and eastern Europe concerning disability discrimination in the provision of education (MDAC v. Bulgaria, 2008, European Committee of Social Rights). This case helped to ensure that abusive children’s institutions in Bulgaria were closed down. 

Oliver has developed and implemented advocacy strategies using international human rights mechanisms and the media. He is experienced in conducting negotiations with representatives of governments and intergovernmental organisations. Oliver has also facilitated complex and innovative multi-stakeholder discussions. For example, he worked to bring the disability and Roma rights communities together for the first time to advocate at the UN level for inclusive education for all children.

He has made many written and oral submissions to human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee against Torture, the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He has advised several UN Special Rapporteurs (on Health and on Torture), and he has worked on projects with OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF and the WHO.

In Europe, Oliver has conducted advocacy at the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and the Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2011, he led a successful international campaign to persuade the Venice Commission to reverse its position that people could be deprived of the right to vote on the basis of their mental incapacity.

Key Publications

Book

  • P Bartlett, O Lewis and O Thorold, Mental Disability and the European Convention on Human Rights, (Martinus Nijhoff, Brill Publishing, the Netherlands, 2007), foreword by Sir Nicolas Bratza

Book chapters

  • O Lewis, ‘The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Council of Europe Jurisprudence’ in A Lawson and L Waddington (eds) Interpreting and Domesticating the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Courts, OUP (2018)

  • A Hendriks, and O Lewis, ‘Disability and Medical Law’, in B M Knoppers and Y Joly (eds) Routledge Handbook of Medical Law and Ethics, Routledge, 2014 

  • O Lewis, ‘The Role of Global Psychiatry in Advancing Human Rights’ in Juan Mendez (ed) Torture in Healthcare Settings: Reflections on the Special Rapporteur on Torture’s 2013 Thematic Report, 2014

  • O Lewis and N Munro, ‘Civil Society Involvement in Mental Health Law and Policy Reform’ in M Dudley, D Silove, F Gale (eds) Mental Health and Human Rights, OUP, 2012

  • O Lewis and P Bartlett, ‘Human Rights and Community Mental Health’ in G Thornicroft et al (eds) Oxford Textbook of Community Mental Health, OUP, 2011

  • O Lewis, ‘The expressive, educational and proactive roles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, in B McSherry and P Waller (eds) Rethinking Rights-Based Mental Health Laws, Hart Publishing, 2010

  • J Fiala and O Lewis, ‘Investigations After Death and European Law’ in L Clements and J Read (eds) Disabled People and the Right to Life: the protection and violation of disabled people’s most basic human right, Routledge, 2008

Journal articles

  • O Lewis and A Campbell (2017) ‘Violence and abuse against people with disabilities: a comparison of the approaches of the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (forthcoming)

  • O Lewis and F Callard (2017): The World Psychiatric Association’s “Bill of Rights”: A curious contribution to human rights, International Journal of Mental Health, DOI: 10.1080/00207411.2017.1278963

  • O Lewis, ‘Disabling legal barriers’ (2017) 1 European Human Rights Law Review,   

  • O Lewis, ‘Case analysis: Nyusti and Takacs v Hungary: decision of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, (2013) European Human Rights Law Review, 4, 419-424

  • D Karsay and O Lewis, ‘Disability, torture and ill-treatment: taking stock and ending abuses’, (2012) International Journal of Human Rights, 16(6), 816–830

  • O Lewis, ‘Stanev v. Bulgaria: On the Pathway to Freedom’, Human Rights Brief, Winter 2012, 2-7

  • O Lewis, ‘Advancing legal capacity jurisprudence’, (2011) European Human Rights Law Review, 6, 700-714

  • N Drew, M Funk, S Tang, J Lamichhane, E Chávez, S Katontoka, S Pathare, O Lewis, L Gostin and B Saraceno, ‘Human rights violations of people with mental and psychosocial disabilities: an unresolved global crisis’, The Lancet, 17 October 2011

  • M Rasmussen and O Lewis, ‘Introductory Note to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’, 46 (2007) I.L.M. 441

  • O Lewis, ‘Right to life: European Convention on Human Rights: Case Commentary on Paul and Audrey Edwards v. The United Kingdom (2003) Journal of Mental Health Law, 75-84 

  • O Lewis, ‘Mental Disability Law in Central and Eastern Europe: Paper, Practice, Promise’, (2002) 8 Journal of Mental Health Law, 293-303, re-printed in J Peay (ed) Seminal Issues in Mental Health Law (Ashgate, London, 2005)

  • O Lewis, ‘Protecting the Rights of People with Mental Disabilities: the European Convention on Human Rights’ (2002) European Journal of Health Law, 9(4), 293-320