The applicant, Mr. Mihailovs, was found to be suffering from epilepsy with psychotic syndromes and symptoms, but the doctors noted that he did not suffer from ‘a mental illness’. He was found to be legally incapable by a court, and his wife was appointed as his guardian. By the request of Mr. Mihailovs’ wife he was admitted to special social care institution, which he could leave only by a permission of the manager of the institution. Seven years later Mr. Mihailovs required to the court to restore his legal capacity, but to no avail. Due to the lack of the legal capacity he also could not ask for a release from the social care institution.
Mr. Mihailovs complained that he had been held against his will in the social care institution without possibility of release.
The Court noted several important principles regarding the requirements of the review of an involuntary placement.
A person who is involuntary placed for a lengthy period must be entitled to challenge the lawfulness of his or her placement before a court at reasonable intervals if there is no automatic review of such lawfulness.
The procedure must have judicial character and the individual must have necessary guarantees during the procedure, appropriate to the type of involuntary placement in question.
The procedural guarantees do not always need to be the same as in the case of criminal and civil litigation (fair trial guarantees). But the person must have access to the Court, be heard in person or where necessary through a representative.
In the present case:
The Court noted that as Mr. Mihailovs could not leave the institution on his own, he was deprived of his liberty. The Court found that Mr. Mihailovs was prevented from challenging his involuntary placement in the social care institution as he did not possess the legal capacity to do so. Also Latvian law at that time did not provide for an automatic judicial review of the lawfulness of admitting and keeping him in the social care institution. Thus, the Court found a violation of Article 5(4) of the Convention.