Judge may have to rule on whether autistic man in custody can be force-fed

A High Court judge might have to decide whether doctors can force-feed an autistic prisoner being held on remand who is accused of killing a relative.

Mrs Justice Lieven has heard that the man, who has been moved from a prison to a medium-secure psychiatric hospital, was suicidal and had refused food for about three weeks.

She was told that although he had started eating again, he had said his goal was to starve himself to death.

Health service bosses responsible for his care asked the judge for a ruling on what moves doctors could lawfully make.

The judge concluded that force-feeding could be classed as “treatment” under mental health legislation.

But she said if doctors decided that the man should be force-fed, he could return to court and ask her to rule on whether such a move would be right.

She heard that force-feeding would involved the man being sedated, and possibly restrained, while a naso-gastric tube was inserted.

Mrs Justice Lieven outlined her thinking on Wednesday, in a written ruling, after analysing issues at a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

She said the man could not be identified in media reports of the case.

The judge said he was in his 50s and indicated that he was being held on remand in Wales.

She said he had been accused of murdering a relative.

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