BBC and Sky News successfully apply to lift reporting restrictions in case of man detained in hospital for over 20 years

The BBC and Sky News, represented by Claire Overman (instructed by RPC), have successfully applied to lift reporting restrictions in the case of Tony Hickmott, a 44-year-old man with learning disabilities and autism who has been detained in a hospital over 100 miles away from his parents for over 20 years.

Tony Hickmott’s parents, Pam and Roy, are represented by Aswini Weereratne QC and Oliver Lewis (instructed by RKB Law) acting on a pro bono basis.  They supported the application which has now enabled them to tell the story of their struggle to bring their son closer to home.

Under the terms of a standard Transparency Order imposed at the outset of Court of Protection proceedings in 2019, disclosure or publication of information likely to identify Mr Hickmott as the subject of those proceedings, or his parents as parties, was prohibited.  However, the BBC and Sky successfully argued that, given the extent of information already in the public domain about Mr Hickmott as a result of previous media reporting and judicial review proceedings, the prohibition imposed a disproportionate restriction on the exercise of the media’s, the public’s and the parents’ right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr and Mrs Hickmott also argued that their and Tony's Article 8 right to respect for family life was engaged by the application, as they considered that media coverage had previously had a beneficial impact on their efforts to have their son relocated closer to home.

Her Honour Judge Hilder (Senior Judge of the Court of Protection) described "egregious" delays and "glacial" progress in finding Tony Hickmott the right care package which would enable him to live in the community.  She has now ordered the authorities involved in his care to work together to move him back to Brighton by May.  Her judgment will be published shortly.

The case was reported on BBC News at 6 and News at 10 on 24th November 2021. Further reporting on the case from the BBC’s Jayne McCubbin and Sky’s Rachel Lucas can be found at the links below: