An appreciation of the life of Graham Enderby

This is the first time an obituary has appeared on our website.

Graham Enderby has tragically died on 20 January aged only 67. He was a remarkable man. Here was an ‘ordinary’ family who have unexpectedly played an important role in fighting for the rights of those who lack capacity. He and Wendy made such a difference.

HL was ‘fostered’ by Wendy and Graham who took this stranger into their own home, a man with a significant learning disability and who had spent most of his life in institutions. He was treated as a member of their family.

HL had been readmitted to hospital and all Wendy and Graham wanted was for him to come home to them. This simple wish, frustrated by the system with no right of challenge, caused them to play a very significant role in the development of human rights and safeguards for those who lack capacity and are deprived of their liberty.

In 1997 they began a challenge that would end up in the European Court of Human Rights. HL was unable to speak up for himself, but in Wendy and Graham he found two formidable champions. Undaunted by the loss of their habeas corpus application in the High Court, they won in the Court of Appeal and he was returned to their care, where he has lived happily ever since and recently celebrated his 70th birthday!

Essentially the case turned on whether our then common law ‘doctrine of necessity’ provided adequate safeguards for those who lacked capacity and were deprived of their liberty. It seems bizarre these days that the UK government would try to argue that it did. However the Department of Health appealed and won in the House of Lords, but Wendy and Graham took the case to Strasbourg where they won and the court (HL v United Kingdom (2004)) ruled that adults who lack capacity may only be detained in accordance with a legal procedure and they must have the right to challenge detention, themselves or on their behalf.

Following this landmark decision, they then busied themselves ensuing that the safeguards introduced to implement this ruling (DoLs) were adequate to give protection for people lacking capacity. Graham, although very disappointed by what the government introduced, was a vivacious and eloquent speaker, and became a leading spokesman for the rights of mentally disabled people and their carers. He was profoundly disappointed by the proposed Liberty Protection Safeguards and his death has removed an effective campaigner.

Various programmes have been made about the Bournewood story, as well as a radio play and follow up, This can be listened to here. I even found myself defending their position in an exciting interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.

Right to the end of his life he stood shoulder to shoulder with Wendy, tireless champions of the rights of disabled people against overweening professional power. They were a formidable team, in the struggle for disabled peoples’ rights, and lovely friends. Graham will be sorely missed by all of us and our thoughts are with Wendy and their family. HL will miss him.

It was Graham’s wish that if any of you wish to mark his passing you could make a charitable donation to the charity of your choice.