Tom specialises in Mental Health and Prison Law.
He joined Swain and Co in June 2009 as a trainee Solicitor and qualified as a Solicitor in June 2011. Prior to working at Swain & Co he did further study into Human Rights and Equality Law and also worked at his local CAB.
Tom has been a member of the Law Society Mental Health panel for a number of years. He represents clients at Mental Health Review Tribunals and Managers Hearings. Tom is passionate about assisting his clients to realise their objectives. He believes the key is listening carefully to what his clients say and tailoring his advice so it is specific to their individual situations. Tom feels that it is crucial to involve his clients in the preparation for their hearings. He also believes it is critical that all proper investigations are made in advance of a hearing to ensure that what the detaining authority say is not simply accepted without careful scrutiny.
Tom has clients in every setting: the community, acute wards, PICUs, rehab wards, low, medium and high security hospitals. This enables him to provide targeted advice to his clients in whatever setting they find themselves detained in.
Tom’s other specialism is prison law and representing his clients before the Parole Board. As with his clients detained under the Mental Health Act, he seeks to ensure his clients are best prepared to face the Parole Board and present their evidence in a way that means they are able to do themselves justice.
Tom’s dual specialisms complement each other well and enable him to add value when he is assisting prisoners who have transferred over to the Mental Health system and likewise those who have mental health difficulties who are in the prison estate.
Tom has also handled a number of successful public law cases, where he has been challenging the unlawful conduct of public bodies through judicial review proceedings. This is an important avenue of redress to uphold and defend his clients’ rights particularly in the mental health and prison context.
Tom’s academic background includes a BA in Law from Oxford, LLM Comparative Human Rights and the International Protection of Human Rights Law – UCL and an MSt – Masters in Legal Research from Oxford.
His interests include running, football, spending time with his wife, friends and family and living out his Christian faith.
What Tom's clients say about him:
"...committed to my case and showed belief in me and passion to achieve a just outcome. He went above and beyond."
"You are very professional and explain it in a language that anyone would understand, crystal clear."
"I think your team is really good at what you do so thanks ever so much, keep up the good work."
"I've recommended you to several people already, I always do as your a good firm and you [Tom Battarbee] tell it how it is."
A selection of cases Tom has handled:
Mental Health Law Successes
Conditional Discharge for s37/41 client detained in hospital for a quarter of a decade.
Our client received a s37/41 MHA hospital order in August 1989. When Tom started acting for our client he had been detained in hospital for 23 years. He had made progress during these 23 years, working his way down from conditions of high security to an open rehab ward. However, immediately before we became involved our client had been returned from an open rehab ward back to conditions of low security because it was felt his behaviour had deteriorated.
Over the next two years Tom worked closely with our client to help him get back on track and work towards his discharge. The key assistance that Tom provided to our client was:
- Helping him to understand what was required for him to progress.
- Helping him to respond to set backs at Tribunals.
- Pressing the clinical team as to what further benefits there would be from psychological treatment given the particular difficulties in our client’s case.
- Liaising with the clinical team about coming up with a suitable package of care tailored to our client’s particular needs and risks.
The preparation was crucial to ensure that when we came before the Tribunal the clinical team were fully supportive of the plan to conditionally discharge our client to a suitable care home. This has been an excellent outcome for our client which has provided him with a much improved quality of life after 25 years detained in hospitals.
Discharge for s37 client detained in hospital for four years.
MB received a s37 MHA hospital order in December 2010. When Tom started acting for our client he had been detained in hospital for 3 years. He had progressed to a rehab ward but seemed to be going round in circles. It was largely accepted that our client’s mental health had stabilised. However, the fundamental problem was that when our client would receive unescorted leave he would often consume alcohol and become intoxicated which resulted in him losing his leave and it would be a slow process for him to build it up again. The argument of the hospital was that when our client drank alcohol this adversely affected his mental health, but from the outset the evidence for this upon close consideration of the medical records appeared flimsy. A further problem at the outset was the lack of preparation for discharge planning despite the fact that our client was located in a rehab placement.
At the first Mental Health Tribunal Tom did for our client, the Tribunal effectively gave the clinical team the benefit of the doubt but gave a clear signal that a proper discharge plan needed to be put in place to give our client something to work towards. Over the next few months despite pressing the care coordinator and hospital little happened. We applied again for a further Tribunal and on this occasion the Tribunal accepted our argument that our client’s most pressing problem was a drink as opposed to a mental health problem, that the evidence for his mental health deteriorating as a result of drinking did not exist and the purported risks that our client posed to himself and others were overstated. They agreed that our client no longer met the criteria for detention and discharged him.
This was an excellent result for our client. The key assistance that we offered was:
- Challenging the hospital on their contention that our client's mental health had deteriorated upon him drinking and also that upon return to the hospital he had acted in a hostile manner to staff.
- Pressing the care coordinator about a discharge plan, in particular putting the case strongly at a CPA meeting criticising the inertia in this case.
- Encouraging our client who at times was very despondent about his prospects of ever getting out
Recommendation for Conditional Discharge for s47/49 client and recommendation for him to remain in hospital pending his Parole Board
Our client received an IPP sentence in August 2007 with a 3 year minimum term. A combination of difficulties meant that our client struggled to make progress within the prison estate. In particular it was felt that his learning difficulties precluded him from being able to access standard offending behaviour work. our client's mental health had deteriorated and in October 2012 he was admitted to a low security hospital.
Tom has assisted our client every step of his hospital journey. In addition to stabilising his mental health, the key was always going to be to get our client completing risk reduction work which he was able to access on a one to one basis in hospital. From the outset Tom was pressing the clinical team about what previous Parole Boards had said needed to happen in our client's case to reduce his risk. Another key focus of assistance was in relation to leave and assisting our client in putting the case for his leave.
Our client has made excellent progress and even though the clinical team were talking about moving him on to a rehab placement, it was difficult to see what would be the point of transferring him to this setting when he was already in receipt of substantial amounts of unescorted leave to the point where he was going home at regular intervals, doing voluntary work in the community and demonstrating good independent living skills. We therefore applied for a Tribunal and by the time of the Tribunal the clinical team had actually changed their position and were supporting our case for conditional discharge. We stressed that a return to prison would not be appropriate in our client’s case and this was accepted by the Tribunal who recommended that our client remain in hospital pending this Parole Board hearing.
This was an excellent and deserved result for our client and hopefully we will get the desired outcome from the Parole Board.
Discharge for s47/49 client detained in hospital for 18 months.
Our client received an IPP sentence in March 2009 whose tariff expired in June 2014. Our client had made some progress in the prison estate but was engaging in increasingly dangerous acts of self harm. It was felt that this could no longer be safely managed in a prison setting and therefore in October 2013 a decision was made to transfer our client to hospital.
Tom started acting for our client upon his admission to hospital. Support was given to our client who struggled to adjust to the rhythm and structure of hospital life. Our client was provided with some psychological interventions which he found useful and the incidents of self harm did reduce in frequency and severity. From reasonably early on though our client felt that he no longer needed to be based in hospital and that he wanted to return to prison to complete the key pieces of offending behaviour work which were on his sentence plan.
The key assistance from Tom was to help our client achieve this goal even though this was contrary to the pathway that the hospital had mapped out for him. This required a careful probing of the hospital’s analysis, important conversations with our client about what would help and hinder his case for returning to prison and ultimately the submission of a Tribunal application. A combination of all of these steps meant that ultimately we did not have to hold the Tribunal hearing as the hospital agreed of their own volition to return our client to prison. This is the outcome that our client wanted.
Recommendation for CTO for s3 client.
When Tom first started acting for our client he was on a PICU having been recalled to hospital and having had his CTO revoked. Our client was adamant that he was not unwell and that he had been wrongly returned to hospital. The first objective was to get our client back from the PICU to a standard acute ward. Part of the assistance that Tom provided was to help our client understand the predicament that he was in and that while he completely disagreed with the clinical team’s assessment of him, if he reacted in certain ways then this was seen as bolstering the detaining authority’s case. The second objective once we got our client back onto the acute ward was to help him obtain leave and to ensure that this went well. This required careful liaising with the clinical team and with our client. The third objective was securing discharge back to the community and ensuring that there was a robust plan for discharge in the community. On the day before the Tribunal the clinical team decide that it was no longer necessary for our client to be detained in hospital and therefore decided to discharge him on a CTO. Although the next day the Tribunal upheld the CTO, for the obvious reason that one day was scarcely enough time to test the necessity of this arrangement, this was a successful outcome which ensured that our client secured his discharge back into the community.
Prison Law Successes
Direct release for IPP client from closed conditions who was 6 ½ years over tariff
WE received an IPP sentence in December 2007 and his tariff expired in August 2008. When Tom first started working with our client in August 2012 he had just had a Parole Board decision directing that he remain in closed conditions, having previously been recommended for his cat D and having this taken off him before he had even reached open conditions. Our client was at an extremely low ebb and was close to giving up.
In January 2015 the Parole Board directed our client’s release and he is now being deported to Afghanistan. The key areas where Tom helped were:
- Challenging inaccurate and misleading security information,
- Ensuring that the SSJ’s decision to refuse him on the TERS scheme did not affect his prospects before the Parole Board
- Pressurising the prison to ensure that interventions were provided to our client in a timely fashion
- Assisting our client in refuting the ‘extremist’ label that had been attached to him.
- Helping our client to come up with a release plan for Afghanistan.
This is an excellent outcome for our client ensuring that he can now start his adult life in the community given that he came to entered custody when he was only 18 years of age.
Direct release for IPP client from closed conditions who was 6 years over tariff
Our client received an IPP sentence in April 2006 and his tariff expired in November 2008. When Tom first started working with Our client in the middle of 2013 he had been returned to closed conditions and was down the Segregation Unit and at HMP Liverpool.
In December 2014 the Parole Board directed Our client’s release. The key assistance Tom gave to Our client was in
- Ensuring that he received mental health support
- Ensuring that he had a risk management plan that was tailored to his specific needs and
- Ensuring that JW was properly prepared for the questions that the Parole Board were going to ask him.
Re-release for IPP client recalled on licence.
Our client received an IPP sentence in January 2009 and was recalled to custody in July 2014. In January 2015 the Parole Board directed his re-release. The key assistance Tom gave to our client was in
- Ensuring that we obtained Approved Premises records so we could properly contest disputed factual evidence,
- Ensuring that our client secured access to the necessary additional interventions that the Parole Board would want to see completed and
Dealing with concerns that the Parole Board had with the accommodation proposal for our client.
Release for mandatory life sentence client who was 2 years post tariff.
Our client received a mandatory life sentence in July 1999. His tariff was set at 14 years and expired in February 2013. Our client maintains his innocence of his index offence and has no previous convictions. Tom acted for our client at his previous Parole Board review which was where the Board recommended our client’s transfer to open conditions. Our client’s behaviour in custody has always been impeccable. However, he presented as a classic hard case given that given his position in relation to his index offence and the absence of previous convictions, he faced real difficulties in demonstrating to the Parole Board that his risk had reduced. Our key assistance in our client’s case was in helping him to reflect upon life at the time of his offence and reflect on situations and areas of life which he could improve upon. This was important as he was then able to demonstrate to the Board insight into areas of life he would need to be mindful of. Another key issue for his hearing last month was what risk management plan the Board were going to accept. We helped to persuade the Board that approved premises was unnecessary in our client’s case given the specific circumstances of his case and his particular areas of perceived risk.
Re-release for IPP client recalled to custody.
Our client received an IPP sentence in July 2006. He was released from custody in April 2011. He was recalled to custody in January 2014 having committed a further offence. After our client had served the short determinate sentence he received for this further offence, Tom helped our client secure his re-release before the Parole Board.
The key area of assistance in this case was to help client to reflect upon the circumstances that had led to his recall and what he could say he had learned from this experience. The preparation for this hearing was crucial so that our client would be aware of the concerns that the Parole Board would have in terms of patterns of behaviour linking the recall incident with his index offence. It was also crucial to assist our client to access interventions so that he could demonstrate to the Parole Board that he had done further work on areas of concern stemming from his recall.
IPP Sentence Prisoner In Hospital Released By the Parole Board
The difficulties that IPP prisoners with mental health difficulties face in progressing on their sentence is at last receiving some attention. All too often IPP prisoners with acute mental health difficulties are not assessed as ‘suitable’ for offending behaviour work, find that their distressed presentation is written up as ‘poor behaviour’ and find themselves struggling to access mental health units, not only to receive treatment but also to secure access to psychological interventions that can allow them to move forward on their sentence.
This month, Tom Battarbee from Swain and Co Solicitors successfully assisted his IPP sentence client to secure her release. Back in October 2007 Tom’s client received an IPP sentence for two offences of arson. She received an IPP sentence with a minimum term of 2 years and 8 months. The tragedy of her case is that she ended up serving a decade in custody. Tom’s client had mental health difficulties throughout her sentence and had made little progress on her sentence whilst in the prison estate. Thankfully Tom’s client was able to transfer over to the mental health system and from that point onwards was able to steadily progress on her sentence, securing proper treatment for the first time for her mental illness, accessing the psychological interventions that had been lacking in custody and accessing leave into the community which enabled her to demonstrate that her risk had reduced. The Mental Health Tribunal held earlier this year that if our client had been a hospital order patient then she would have been conditionally discharged but also recommended that she remain in hospital pending her Parole Board. A discharge plan with significant mental health support was carefully constructed and this was a key factor in the Parole Board directing our client’s release. If you are an IPP or life sentence prisoner with mental health concerns then please do not hesitate to contact Swain & Co Solicitors for advice.
Public Law Successes
Challenging Failure to Provide Reasonable Opportunities To Access Offending Behaviour Work.
One set of recent public law successes has been challenging the prison service and the SSJ for a failure to provide indeterminate sentence prisoners with reasonable opportunities to access offending behaviour work. One of the most troubling cases was an IPP client who having been diagnosed as suffering from learning disabilities and having been assessed as unsuitable for access to standard offending behaviour work, had been waiting four years to access interventions. As a result of instigating judicial review proceedings, our client has finally secured access to an intervention to reduce his risk.
Challenging a failure to follow proper procedures when determining whether and what level contact prisoners can have with their children
Another set of recent public law successes have been challenging the prison service and the SSJ for their approach to prisoners’ contact with their children. The successes have been over the failure to follow proper procedures. In one case there had been a failure to consult children’s services before the prison decided that they were not going to allow contact. In another case there was a failure to provide our client with any assessments which meant that he was in no position to put meaningful representations forward to challenge the decision to restrict his contact with his children. In both cases the prison/SSJ conceded that errors had been made and that the decisions needed to be made again following the proper process.