Legal action over virus isolation advice to special needs boy

A boy from Belfast with special needs has launched High Court action over claims he was made to stay at home for 10 days when a classmate tested positive for Covid-19.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 4:00 pm
Laganside court complex in Belfast city centre.

The five-year-old’s mother is challenging the lawfulness of self-isolation advice issued by the Public Health Agency.

She is seeking a judicial declaration that individuals cannot be detained at home under the Coronavirus Regulations.

Her son, who has severe physical and mental disabilities, is not being identified.

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Proceedings centre on developments after someone in his school bubble tested positive in January.

According to court papers the principal contacted the boy’s mother, informing her that he should begin 10 days isolation.

A letter of advice from the Agency then stated: “Your child must remain at home.”

The family say they interpreted this as a requirement to detain the boy, without permission from the authorities to leave the house at any stage during that period.

Their stress at having to keep indoors a child who has no concept of the circumstances was exacerbated by seeing other children playing outside in the snow, it was contended.

Lawyers for the boy’s mother are attempting to judicially review the Department of Health in a bid to have the alleged obligation declared unlawful.

The direction issued breaches human rights, they claim.

In court today a judge asked for the Agency to be added to the case before deciding if the challenge should advance to a full hearing.

Later, the family’s solicitor, Michael Brentnall, confirmed: “We are seeking the appropriate remedies from the court, in which our client, a five-year-old child who has severe learning difficulties, a rare genetic disorder, and is visually impaired, endured mandatory isolation without any legislative provision to enforce that direction by the Public Health Agency.

“We have presented it to the court that this is a breach of our clients human rights, illegal and a breach of their own statutory duty.”