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Oliver is a human rights lawyer focusing on healthcare law and disability rights

Oliver's public law practice involves judicial reviews of state actions, as well as Human Rights Act claims. He is on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s panel of counsel.

His practice includes negligence and other claims involving failures by organisations to provide adequate care and support. His cases often have a discrimination angle under the Equality Act 2010. He has experience conducting confidential independent investigations for healthcare entities.

In inquests, Oliver represents interested persons where the death touches on healthcare or disability issues. He is on the counsel team instructed by the “Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice” in the forthcoming national Covid public inquiry.

Appearing regularly in the Court of Protection, Oliver represents a range of local authorities, healthcare bodies, the Official Solicitor and family members. Oliver has represented restricted patients in the Mental Health Tribunal and has appeared in the Upper Tribunal. He is ranked as a leading junior in Court of Protection:

  • "An excellent barrister who is very good at identifying novel arguments." - Chambers & Partners 2022
  • "He is incredibly approachable, very client-focused and able to grapple with complex issues." - Chambers & Partners 2022 
  • “Oliver is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable people and will always provide advice based on that objective. He is always prepared and provides in-depth advice considering a range of options.” - Legal 500 2021

Oliver is a member of Doughty Street International, focusing on children's rights and disability rights. He spent 15 years in Budapest working in international human rights law before returning to the UK Bar in 2017. He has experience litigating at the European Court of Human Rights as well as conducting advocacy before UN and Council of Europe bodies. He participated in the negotiation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and has written widely on its implementation.

Oliver is Visiting Professor of Law and Social Justice at the School of Law at the University of Leeds. He is the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Respond, a national charity that helps people with learning disabilities who have experienced trauma, and Chair of the Board of Trustees of Bristol Law Centre.

Court of Protection and Mental Health

Oliver is ranked as a leading junior in Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners in Court of Protection.

  • “Oliver is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable people and will always provide advice based on that objective. He is always prepared and provides in-depth advice considering a range of options.” - Legal 500 2021
  • "An excellent barrister who is very good at identifying novel arguments." - Chambers & Partners 2022
  • "He is incredibly approachable, very client-focused and able to grapple with complex issues." - Chambers & Partners 2022 

Oliver has a busy Court of Protection practice across a range of cases including residence, care, contact, social media, and international protection and cases that touch on the Human Rights Act. He is regularly instructed by the Official Solicitor, and also represents family members, local authorities, CCGs, NHS Trusts and other bodies. He has experience of vulnerable adult cases under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. He is often instructed in cases where relationships between public bodies and families have broken down.

Oliver advises on judicial reviews and civil claims arising from unlawful deprivation of liberty and inappropriate treatment in healthcare and social care.

He accepts instructions in relation to the Mental Health Act 1983, including applications by detained patients to the First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health), appeals to the Upper Tribunal and applications to displace nearest relatives.

Oliver has a special interest in helping autistic people and people with learning disabilities, including those detained in Assessment and Treatment Units. An instructing solicitor commented, "he has been fab and extremely attentive and mindful of the client." He is Chair of the national charity Respond, which provides psychotherapy to autistic people and people with learning disabilities who have experienced trauma.

Oliver 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.

  • Re PH, HHJ Rogers in Lincoln, December 2021. Oliver represented the Official Solicitor and successfully argued that HM, a young woman with learning disabilities, should receive Covid vaccinations and not visit her mother at Christmas. Reported by Open Justice Project.

  • Re Tony Hickmott, HHJ Hilder in London, Aswini Weereratne QC and Oliver represent the parents of Tony Hickmott who has spent 21 years detained in an 'assessment and treatment unit' under the MHA, eight of which he has been fit for discharge but the local authority and CCG have not identified a discharge destination. Two years after the application was made, on the parents' request, the judge in November 2021 listed monthly hearings to oversee the discharge. The BBC and Sky made an application to lift the reporting restriction, which was granted: PH & Anor v Brighton And Hove City Council [2021] EWCOP 63. News item here.

  • Re X, HHJ Owens in Oxford, December 2020. Oliver represented the parents of X, a young woman with brain injury, who wanted to move from a care home to live at home with 2:1 care, which was resisted by the local authority. After a 2-day best interests hearing, the judge agreed with the parents.

  • A County Council v LW & Ors, HHJ Rowland sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge in Birmingham, December 2020. Oliver represented the local authority in a 2-day fact-finding hearing. The court found P's son controlled and coerced P, and made the injunctions sought.

  • DP v LB Hillingdon [2020] EWCOP 45. Hayden J. Interim declarations in s.21A MCA applications. Oliver represented DP. First reported case bought by an accredited legal representative. Led by Victoria Butler-Cole QC.

  • Cornwall Council v NP and BKP [2020] EWCOP 44. DJ Taylor sitting in Truro. Oliver represented an older man NP, by his litigation friend, the Official Solicitor. The judge decided that it was in NP’s best interests to return home after a period in a rehabilitation unit.   

  • QJ v A Local authority & Anor [2020] EWCOP 3 and 7. Oliver represented the litigation friend of an 87-year-old man with dementia who had been interviewed by police in relation to historic child sex offences and had then stopped eating in his care home. Hayden J found that QJ had capacity to make decisions about nutrition and hydration. Press report here.

  • 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 and Inquiries

Oliver is regularly instructed in inquests that raise concerns about the provision of health or social care, often involving complex medical evidence. He is adept at judicially reviewing Coronial decisions to ensure that inquests are carried out fairly, as well as representation in civil claims.

Oliver is instructed in several ongoing inquests, including Article 2 and jury inquests that touch on learning disability, mental health, personality disorder, respiratory disorders, cardiology and neurology. He is representing several clients whose loved ones died from Covid-19 and where national and local failures arguably contributed to the deaths. In the forthcoming national Covid inquiry, Oliver is part of the counsel team representing the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice.

Recent cases include:

  • Inquest into the death of Matthew Caseby, Birmingham Coroner's Court, Article 2 with a jury over 2 weeks in April 2022. Narrative conclusion critical of the Priory Woodbourne Hospital whose neglect contributed to Matthew's death. PFD reports to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care as well as to the Priory Group. News item here.

  • Inquest into death of Aaron Clamp, Reading Coroner's Court, Article 2 with a jury, February 2022. Narrative conclusion that Chris died while on 1-to-1 observation in long-term segregation in Broadmoor Hospital, and that there was "a serious failure in the timely manner to recognise and reduce the level of risk and a serious failure to recognise and execute the steps" to reduce the risk. News item here.  

  • Inquest into the death of RM, Gateshead Coroner's Court, March 2022. Narrative conclusion critical of community mental health services to a young woman in mental health crisis.

  • Inquest into death of Manon Jones, Pontipridd Coroner's Court, January 2022. Critical narrative conclusion in an Article 2 case that 16-year-old Manon Jones died in a CAMHS unit on 15-minute observations when she "ought to have been on 1:1 observation levels pending a further assessment”. News item here.

  • Inquest into the death of John Ashley, West Sussex Coroner’s Court, December 2019. Oliver represented the sister of a man with longstanding mental health issues. The Coroner found that he died by suicide contributed to by the neglect of the local mental health Trust. Press report here.

  • Inquest into the death of Molly Frank, St Pancras Coroner’s Court, April 2019, 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 issued a PFD report.

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.

Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury

Oliver regularly advises on health and social care provision and accepts instructions in clinical negligence cases across the range of medical specialisms. 

His niche practice is in relation to HRA and negligence claims about the care and treatment of people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and/or autism in schools, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, care homes and the community. 

He has conducted confidential independent investigations for health and social care entities. Supplementing his legal analysis, he has a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and draws on his experience as a charity CEO for over a decade and his experience as a trustee. He therefore understands governance, human resources, communications and management problems in organisations.

Oliver has a strong health-related inquest practice, as well as a Court of Protection and mental health law practice, including medical treatment cases. He has a part-time role as Chair of Independent Review Panels in relation to NHS Continuing Healthcare. 

Administrative and Public Law

Oliver is regularly instructed to advise on judicial reviews, including those related to provision of healthcare and social care and compliance with the Equality Act 2010. Through drafting Letters Before Claim, Oliver has successfully reversed several case management decisions by Coroners. During the Covid-19 pandemic he has been instructed to challenge restrictive visits policies of NHS Trusts and care home providers. He is also instructed by the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, a group calling for a statutory inquiry into the UK government’s response.

International Human Rights Law

Oliver is a leading expert on international disability and mental health law and policy. He participated in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and has written extensively on its implementation, and on ECHR and disability. Oliver advocates with organisations of persons with disabilities around the world; advises governments on their mental health and disability laws and policies; works with UN bodies and national human rights institutions; and has litigated landmark disability rights cases. Since 2016 Oliver has been Visiting Professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Leeds where he is a member of the Centre for Disability Studies.

In 2021, Oliver was the lead author on UNDP's "Political Participation of Persons with Intellectual or Psychosocial Disabilities". Among his instructions in 2022 are advising NGOs in Mauritius on a Disability Bill and conducting training for judges in Georgia on CRPD standards. He is on UNDP's panel of experts on mental healthcare, and on the OSCE panel of political participation of persons with disabilities.

Among his recent publications are “Supranational Human Rights Bodies and Protecting the Rights of People With Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic” in the European Human Rights Law Review in 2020; with Soumitra Pathare “Chronic illness, disability and mental health” in Foundations of Global Health and Human Rights, Benjamin Meier and Lawrence Gostin (eds), OUP 2020; and with Genevra Richardson "The right to live independently and be included in the community", International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol 69, March-April 2020.

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.

Publications

For a full list of Oliver’s publications, see ResearchGate. Oliver blogs here. Recent publications include:

Oliver Lewis (2020) “Supranational Human Rights Bodies and Protecting the Rights of People With Disabilities in the COVID-19 Pandemic”, European Human Rights Law Review, September

Oliver Lewis and Soumitra Pathare (2020) “Chronic illness, disability and mental health” in Foundations of Global Health and Human Rights, Benjamin Meier and Lawrence Gostin (eds), OUP

Oliver Lewis and Genevra Richardson (2020) The right to live independently and be included in the community, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol 69, March-April 2020

Oliver Lewis (2018) “Council of Europe” in Lisa Waddington and Anna Lawson (eds) The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Practice, OUP

Ann Campbell and Oliver Lewis, “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, Volume 53, July–August 2017, Pages 45-58

Felicity Callard and Oliver Lewis (2017) “The World Psychiatric Association’s “Bill of Rights”: A curious contribution to human rights”, International Journal of Mental Health, 46:3, 157-167