A council "unlawfully detained" a 21-year-old autistic man by keeping him in a care unit for nearly a year, a High Court judge has said.
Bosses at the London borough of Hillingdon breached Steven Neary's human rights by keeping him away from his father Mark's home in Uxbridge, north-west London, said Mr Justice Peter Jackson.
The judge said a "lesser parent" might have "given up" faced with "such official determination", adding that Mr Neary could be "proud of the way he has stood up for his son's interests".
Council officials also came under fire for circulating a three-page "media briefing note" which created a "particularly unfair and negative picture" of Steven in an attempt to "counteract adverse publicity". The judge "expressed dismay", saying the "sorry document" was "full of contentious and inaccurate information".
Linda Sanders, the council's director of social care, apologised and said Steven and his father had been "let down".
Mr Neary, 52, a counsellor, described the judge's ruling as "fantastic" and said he felt "vindicated". He said he hoped the judgment would inspire parents in similar situations to fight for their "kids' rights".
The judge had been told, during a week-long hearing at the Court of Protection in London, how Mr Neary had been involved in a care battle with Hillingdon Council for more than a year.
Local authority lawyers argued that social care bosses had the right to keep Steven in a support unit and that it was in his "best interests". But the judge rejected Hillingdon's arguments and found "Steven was deprived of liberty throughout (2010)". He concluded Mr Neary had not consented and "authorisations relied upon were flawed".
Mrs Sanders apologised, outside court, to Steven and his father. "It is clear that there have been times when we have let both of them down," she told reporters.
Mr Neary told reporters outside court he felt "relieved, tearful, satisfied ... vindicated".