Price v UK ECHR 2001


The applicant complained that she had been subject to degrading treatment, by virtue of the conditions under which she had first been held in a police cell, and subsequently in prison. She was very severely disabled, and the treatment was unsuitable for her needs, in that male officers had been used to assist her attend the toilet, and that she had been kept in conditions which, for her, had been dangerously cold, with a risk of developing sores, and left her unable to attend the toilet or keep herself clean. Though no intention had been shown to humiliate here, the question must be looked at in the light of her particular circumstances and needs, and the treatment had been degrading. ‘There is no evidence in this case of any positive intention to humiliate or debase the applicant. However, the Court considers that to detain a severely disabled person in conditions where she is dangerously cold, risks developing sores because her bed is too hard or unreachable, and is unable to go to the toilet or keep clean without the greatest of difficulty, constitutes degrading treatment contrary to Article 3.’
Judge Sir Nicolas Bratza, in which Judge Costa joined, made clear that the primary responsibility lay not with the police or the prison authorities: ‘but with the judicial authorities who committed the applicant to an immediate term of imprisonment for contempt of court.
While there appear on the material before the court to have been certain failings in the standard of care provided by the police and prison authorities, these stemmed in large part from the lack of preparedness on the part of both to receive and look after a severely handicapped person in conditions which were wholly unsuited to her needs. On the other hand, I can see no justification for the decision to commit the applicant to an immediate term of imprisonment without at the very least ensuring in advance that there existed both adequate facilities for detaining her and conditions of detention in which her special needs could be met.’

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