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Objection to appointment of deputy

Another financial affairs decision from my favourite Court of Protection Judge,  Senior Judge Lush.

 

Re PL (objection hearing) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/14.html

 

In this case, PL is a 78 year old man with considerable assets whose health and capacity have deteriorated in part as a result of very heavy consumption of alcohol (three litres of white wine and several glasses of homemade cherry brandy per day)

His oldest son applied to be the Deputy to manage his financial affairs. There were two younger daughters. All of the children were adults. The daughters objected to the son being the Deputy and opposed the application.

As sadly happens in these situations, families quarrel, particularly where money is involved.

The daughters suggested that all three of the children should be deputies jointly.

Mr Morrell, counsel acting for the son, made these representations

  1. Mr Morrell submitted that there were three options available to the court:

    (a) to appoint VL as deputy;(b) to appoint VL and one or both of his sisters as joint deputies; or

    (c) to appoint an independent panel deputy.

  2. He thought that a joint appointment would be fraught with difficulties and even the most minor decision could become a bone of contention. For example, it is now essential, and clearly in PL’s best interests, that a stair-lift is installed, but any discussion of this will inevitably lead to a disagreement. In his witness statement VL expressed the following opinion on a joint appointment:

    “This would be simply unworkable. [My sisters] have already shown that they are not in the slightest bit interested or concerned with my father’s welfare. They are interested in his money. They have already shown no inclination to agree that essential payments be made for his wellbeing and, if they were made joint deputies, I fully expect that they would stand in the way of such essential payment. A good example is the shower. If I had had to obtain their consent before spending my father’s money on this installation, I very much doubt that such consent would be forthcoming. However, the shower is absolutely essential for my father’s health, wellbeing and his own peace of mind. Another good example is the car. My father would simply not be able to attend essential GP and hospital appointments without it.”

  3. “Realistically”, said Mr Morrell, “the only choice is between VL and a panel deputy.” He submitted that the factor of magnetic importance in this case was the fact that VL and SJ have looked after PL extremely well for the last two and a half years, and stated that there was no need to incur the costs of a panel deputy, which, according to the calculations in Re DT [2015] EWCOP 10, would exceed £6,000 during the first year alone.

 

[I know that I am a sad law and word geek, but he had me at “magnetic importance”]

The Court made an order that the son be appointed as the deputy.

Within the hearing, it emerged that none of the parties really understood the serious obligations on a deputy and the controls and safeguards that are in place.  (Anyone who reads these pieces and is familiar with Senior Judge Lush’s body of work will see that this is not unique to this case – it is a regular occurance that deputies seem to work on the basis that ‘me casa su casa’ when it comes to the funds of the vulnerable person, which is absolutely not the case in law.)

  1. The striking feature of this case was that neither the applicant nor the respondents had any idea about the fiduciary duties and practical responsibilities that a deputy is expected to undertake and the roles of the Court of Protection and the Office of the Public Guardian (‘OPG’) in ensuring his compliance.
  2. As I was describing these obligations to everyone at the start of the hearing, I could see from the expressions on their faces that the respondents were reassured that certain safeguards would be imposed, and the applicant looked slightly taken aback at the extent to which he will become publicly accountable for his actions in managing his father’s property and affairs.
  3. Section 19(9) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘MCA’) provides that: “The court may require a deputy –

    (a) to give to the Public Guardian such security as the court thinks fit for the due discharge of his functions, and

    (b) to submit to the Public Guardian such reports at such times or at such intervals as the court may direct.”

  4. In virtually all cases involving lay deputies, the court requires the deputy both to give security and to submit an annual account or report to the OPG, and this case is no exception.
  5. When someone applies to be appointed as a deputy for property and affairs, they are required to complete a deputy’s declaration (COP4), which contains the following undertaking:

    “I understand that I may be required to provide security for my actions as a deputy. If I am required to purchase insurance, such as a guarantee bond, I undertake to pay premiums promptly from the funds of the person to whom the application relates.”

  6. If an applicant refused to give this undertaking, it is unlikely that they would be considered suitable for appointment as a deputy in the first place. Having said that, the requirement to give security is no reflection on any applicant’s competence, probity or integrity. It is simply an appropriate, effective and proportionate safeguard.
  7. Article 12.4 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the United Kingdom ratified on 7 August 2009, requires the state to “ensure that all measures that relate to the exercise of legal capacity provide for appropriate and effective safeguards to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law.”
  8. Unfortunately, some deputies take advantage of their position, and family members are the worst offenders. A recent example was the case of Re GM: MJ and JM v The Public Guardian [2013] COPLR 290, and its sequel Re Meek [2014] EWCOP 1, in which Mrs Meek’s late husband’s niece and great-niece abused the limited authority conferred upon them by the court to make gifts.

 

The Judge made use of those provisions and directed that the son provide a security to the Court, which would ensure that there would be no shenanigans.   [Shenanigans is of course a technical legal term, as set out in the case of  Monkey Business Ltd v Jiggery and Pokery 1831]

 

In the order appointing him as deputy I shall require VL to obtain and maintain security of £550,000. The annual premium of 0.2% of that sum (£1,100) will be payable from PL’s estate to secure his assets to that value. The average duration of a deputyship in the Court of Protection is about three and a half years and an outlay of just a few thousand pounds to safeguard assets of up to £550,000 is not unreasonable.

 

[I believe that this is a sort of insurance arrangement, whereby the premiums are paid for out of PL’s assets, but if the Court were to insist on the surrender of the security – as they did in Meek [where the deputies had illegally liberated £204,000 from P’s finances for their own benefit] then the insurance or bond company would recompense PL, and could then pursue VL for that money. It would only arise in the event of Monkey Business, Jiggery Pokery, Tom Foolery or other such things]

 

As my all time favourite Deputy might say  “Phew-ee, Muskee”

Deputy Dawg mulling over his duties under the MCA
Deputy Dawg mulling over his duties under the MCA

 

Failed attempt to revoke an Enduring Power of Attorney

 

As Senior Judge Lush remarks at the beginning of Re DT (2015) it is fairly unusual to dismiss the application of the Public Guardian to revoke an Enduring Power of Attorney. You can often learn a lot more from a single unsuccessful application than you can from reading dozens of successful ones.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/10.html

 

In this case, the man DT had dementia, but had previously made an Enduring Power of Attorney giving control of his financial affairs to his three sons.

DT and his wife are separated, although this separation has not become a judicial separation or a divorce, and she of course remains the mother of the three sons, who are all adults.

The Public Guardian became concerned about the running of DT’s affairs as a result of two substantial issues:-

 

1. The care home fees were in substantial arrears (by the time of the hearing to the tune of nearly £70,000)

2. DT had been expressing very strong views about his wife getting his money and that his money was being spent on her.

Because there was uncertainty whether DT still had capacity to make a number of specific decisions relating to the management of his property and financial affairs, the Public Guardian commissioned a Court of Protection Special Visitor, Dr Rajaratnam Thavasothy, to examine DT. It was not the easiest of interviews and in his report dated 31 March 2014, Dr Thavasothy described it as follows:

“I visited DT on 24.03.14. … Staff warned me that he could scream at me and would not engage and, even if he does engage, it is likely he would not engage for more than a few minutes. At my request the staff had informed him of my visit and the purpose of my visit.I assessed DT in a large room to which he walked unsteadily with the help of staff and sat in a chair. He was well dressed with clean clothes. He was kempt. The staff left him with me and, as I introduced myself, he understood the purpose of my visit and immediately shouted, “I wanted my sons to have the power of attorney, I don’t want my wife to be involved.” I then asked him what he meant by the power of attorney and he became extremely hostile and shouted again reasserting that his wife should not be involved. I distracted him by talking about his interest in films. He then talked at length about film actors from the 1960s to the 1980s, often repeating the same statement over and over again. After diverting his attention I thought I could proceed with the mental state examination, but as soon as I started assessing his mental state, he would scream at me, shouting loudly to the point that staff came into the room to make certain that I was alright. After the staff left I once again distracted him by talking about his various interests, and when I recommenced the mental examination, he once again started screaming and shouted repeatedly that he had had ‘enough’ and wanted me to leave. The staff arrived and I suggested that they could take him out, as he was demanding cigarettes, and that I would see him after he had smoked his cigarette.

When I recommenced the mental state examination, he shouted that he did not wish his wife to be involved and that he wanted his sons to have the power of attorney. When I asked him what he understood about the power of attorney, he once again became very angry, but later I was able to elicit that he wished to convey that all his finances should be managed by his sons. He stated that he trusted them implicitly and did not wish anyone else to be involved. He stated clearly “of course I am happy for my sons to have the power of attorney. My wife does not have the power of attorney.” When I asked him how much money he has, he shouted “I don’t know. The boys have the money and give me whatever money I need. I don’t have to go out anywhere.” As he screamed, ordering me out of the room, I had to terminate the assessment.

Apart from noting that he becomes impulsively aggressive with a very low level of tolerance, and often became frustrated when he found it difficult to answer any question, I did not find any evidence of depression or elation of mood. Though I could not conduct a mini-mental state examination, as he became angry, I am certain that he does present with cognitive deficits which add to his frustration when he finds it difficult to answer simple questions. His long term memory was, however, very good when he detailed the private lives of film stars from films he has seen in the past.

 

There were clearly difficulties with DT’s functioning, particularly his temper control, but bearing in mind that the starting point of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 is to assume that a person has capacity unless demonstrated otherwise, this appears sufficient information to glean that DT – (a) understood what a Power of Attorney was (b) understood that he had one (c) understood that his 3 sons had the Enduring Power of Attorney and (d) was happy with this.

 

  1. The Public Guardian asked the Court of Protection Special Visitor to assess whether DT had the capacity to revoke the EPA himself, and the Visitor confirmed emphatically that he did have capacity. Although, strictly speaking, this information was unnecessary for the purpose of deciding whether to revoke the EPA, I cannot ignore it.
  2. If one thing is certain in this case, it is that DT is perfectly satisfied with his sons’ management of his property and financial affairs under the EPA, and he has no desire to revoke their appointment as attorneys.
  3. Having regard to the contents of the Special Visitor’s report, and in particular the frustration and anger expressed by DT when questions concerning his sons’ management of his affairs were raised, I consider that, if the court were to revoke the EPA, it would cause significant distress to him, which cannot possibly be in his best interests.
  4. I am reminded of the remarks of Her Honour Judge Hazel Marshall QC in Re S and S (Protected Persons) [2008] COPLR Con Vol 1074, where she held that, if P expresses a view that is not irrational, impracticable or irresponsible, “then that situation carries great weight and effectively gives rise to a presumption in favour of implementing those wishes, unless there is some potential sufficiently detrimental effect for P of doing so which outweighs this.”
  5. She went on in to say in paragraph 58 of her judgment:

    “It might further be tested by asking whether the seriousness of this countervailing factor in terms of detriment to P is such that it must outweigh the detriment to an adult of having one’s wishes overruled, and the sense of impotence, and the frustration and anger, which living with that awareness (insofar as P appreciates it) will cause to P. Given the policy of the Act to empower people to make their own decisions wherever possible, justification for overruling P and “saving him from himself” must, in my judgment, be strong and cogent. Otherwise, taking a different course from that which P wishes would be likely to infringe the statutory direction in s 1(6) of the Act, that one must achieve any desired objective by the route which least restricts P’s own rights and freedom of action.”

  6. There is nothing irrational, impracticable or irresponsible in DT’s wish that his sons should continue to act as his attorneys, and I am not satisfied that their conduct has had a sufficiently detrimental effect on DT or his finances to justify overriding his wishes.

 

There was a quirky side issue, which has a direct bearing for Local Authorities. The Public Guardian had asked that the Director of Adult services at Suffolk County Council become the deputy and manage DT’s financial affairs.  The Director had politely declined.

 

Why would that be, you might ask? Well it is this. There is a fixed fee for being a public authority Deputy and that fixed fee bears no relation to what it would cost the LA to actually do the job. The LA gets £700 for the first year, and £585 a year after that.  (Bear in mind that a deputy from a family does it for nothing, but Local Authorities are cash-strapped) If you are appointing a deputy from the private sector, you are paying £200 AN HOUR for someone very experienced and £111 AN HOUR for a trainee solicitor.

 

  1. Section 19(3) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 states that “a person may not be appointed as a deputy without his consent,” and I am disappointed that, having agreed to act as deputy, Suffolk County Council, subsequently withdrew its consent. This has an enormous impact on the costs involved.
  2. Public authority deputies are allowed remuneration in accordance with Practice Direction 19B, “Fixed Costs in the Court of Protection.” The rates of remuneration have remained static for the last four years, since 1 February 2011. Understandably, this is a bone of contention for cash-strapped local authorities, and partly accounts for an increasing and alarming trend in which councils are refusing to take on deputyship work.
  3. If Suffolk County Council were appointed as DT’s deputy, it would be entitled to an annual management fee of £700 for the first year and £585 for the second and subsequent years.
  4. At the hearing IT asked about the likely costs of a panel deputy, and I suggested that they would be in the region of £200 an hour. Any meaningful calculation is, of course, more complicated than that.

 

The costs of appointing a deputy from the private sector (the Court not being able to appoint someone from the LA if they object) would of course come out of DT’s finances. The Court had to think about whether that was proportionate, given that the 3 sons were doing this task for nothing and that DT was happy with them.

[The Court had been satisfied that the arrears for the nursing home would be paid off and why they had arisen]

  1. As regards the nature, extent and complexity of the affairs that need to be managed and administered, DT’s former matrimonial home will be sold shortly. His share of the gross proceeds of sale will be £70,000. His share of the net proceeds of sale may be a couple of thousand pounds less than that and will be extinguished by the payment of his debt of £69,000 to Suffolk County Council. His remaining capital assets – a half share of a Scottish Widows ISA and a half share of the balance on a Halifax account – amount to just under £8,000. His income is roughly £17,000 a year.
  2. As can be seen from the fixed costs regime described above, generally speaking, costs are higher during the first year immediately following a deputy’s appointment than they are in the second and subsequent years. DT is likely to remain living in an institutional environment for the rest of his life. The family are not at loggerheads with one another and there is no evidence of dishonesty, which would warrant interfering with DT’s Article 8 rights for the prevention of crime.
  3. The average of Bands A to D in National Band One is a charge-out rate of £172 an hour and, if one reckoned that a fairly straightforward case, such as this, would involve at least twenty four hours’ work during the first year (in other words, an average of just two hours a month), one is looking at a baseline of £4,128 to which should be added:(a) VAT (£825.60);

    (b) the cost draftsman’s fee (say £335) plus VAT (£67);

    (c) the premium payable in respect of any security bond required by the court; in this case a single one-off premium of £98, not recurring annually;

    (d) the detailed assessment fee of £225 (which applies where the costs exceed £3,000 including VAT and disbursements);

    (e) the OPG’s initial deputy assessment fee of £100; and

    (f) the OPG’s annual deputy supervision fee of £320.

  4. It is likely, therefore, that in this case, a panel deputy’s costs would be roughly £6,100 during the first year of appointment, and approximately two thirds of that sum in the second and subsequent years. By comparison, DT’s attorneys charge nothing. They don’t even claim travelling expenses when they go and see him, because they visit him as his sons, rather than as his attorneys.
  5. I consider that, in this case, the employment of a panel deputy to manage DT’s property and financial affairs, even if it were necessary (which it is not), would be a disproportionate drain on his limited resources.
  6. Considering all the relevant circumstances and, in particular, the extent to which DT retains capacity and his clear expression of his present wishes and feelings on the matter, I dismiss the Public Guardian’s application to revoke the EPA.

 

A tale of two Telegraphs

 

Two recent stories in the Telegraph about Court cases.

 

The first, here

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/11412971/Why-dont-the-family-courts-obey-the-law.htmlr

 

is from a writer that you all know Christopher Booker.

 

Mr Booker’s story here is that a mother in care proceedings lost her child at an interim stage because of ‘one small bruise’ and was not allowed into the Court room during most of the hearings, and that this was because of their lawyers.

 

On a court order, the two boys were taken into care, and over the following months, through several court hearings from which the parents were excluded by their lawyers

 

Last April, the couple were summoned to a final hearing to decide their sons’ future. The mother was represented by lawyers she had been given by Women’s Aid, which works closely with the local authority. As an intelligent woman, studying for a university degree, she and her partner arrived early at the court, for what was scheduled to be a five-day hearing. They were armed with files of evidence and a list of witnesses they wished to call, all of which they believed would demolish the local authority’s case.

But the mother describes how they were astonished to be told by their lawyers that again they would not be permitted to enter the court. Half an hour later, the barristers emerged to say that the judge had decided that their two boys should be placed for adoption. There was no judgment for them to see, and no possibility of any appeal against his decision. This Wednesday the couple will have a final “goodbye session” with their sons, never to see them again.

 

 

Mr Booker names His Honour Judge Jones as the judge behind this story. [He doesn’t quite give him that courtesy, instead assuming that he is on first name terms with a Judge who he’s about to rip apart in a national newspaper]

 

Now, there are two distinct possibilities here.

 

  1. Everything that Mr Booker reports here is true.
  2. What Mr Booker reports is not what happened and something has gotten lost in the telling of the story.

 

As ever with Mr Booker, he doesn’t make it explicit that there’s a single source for his story, but I can’t see a second source anywhere. Now, that doesn’t mean that it won’t turn out to be true, but I’d feel happier when dealing with extraordinary claims to see confirmation of the story from more than one source.

 

We simply don’t know until we see the judgment from His Honour Judge Jones. In fact, if the latter of those two possibilities is true, we may not even recognise the judgment as relating to this case at all.

 

It would be utterly wrong, and utterly appealable, for a Judge to make an Interim Care Order removing a child from parents without letting them into the court-room, and utterly wrong, and utterly appealable for a Judge to make a Care Order and Placement Order without allowing the parents into the Court room and allowing them to have their opportunity to fight the case if they wished to. If this happened, it would be tremendously wrong.

 

If what Mr Booker says is what actually happened, then he is utterly right to rage against it and I would join him in his rage. If I was a betting man, my money would be on the second possibility, and that he has not been given a full and complete account of what happened.

 

HOWEVER, and I will be absolutely fair to him, if he had told the story of the case before HH J Dodds where the parties attended the first hearing and the Judge made three Care Orders in a five minute hearing, I would not have believed that either, and Mr Booker would have been right and I would have been wrong.

 

I would have said so had that happened. He is also right to draw attention to that Court of Appeal decision about HH J Dodds, and it does highlight that sometimes things happen in Courts that fly in the face of everything you believe and that really unfair things can happen to people. If it happens to you, it is small consolation that it is rare and shouldn’t happen, it must be utterly devastating. Some of the people who come to Mr Booker, or any of the other campaigners, are coming with completely truthful accounts of dreadful injustice, and it is important that they have somewhere to turn, someone who will listen to them.

 

As George Orwell said – We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

 

And although I’m not asserting that Mr Booker or any of the campaigning groups are either rough men, or would be willing to visit violence on anyone, you hopefully get the general thrust of the point. In being willing to listen to the stories of injustice that people tell them, they provide a mechanism for injustice to come to light, and that is an important thing.

 

I hope that Mr Booker is wrong here, but I accept that he could be right, and if he is, it is important that people hear of it.

 

Sometimes Judges do behave in appalling ways. Sometimes social workers do too. So sometimes, the sort of stuff that Mr Booker rages about does happen, and when it does, he is right to be bloody cross. Even if I think that sometimes Mr Booker is the boy who cries wolf, there are wolves in the world, and that boy was eventually right.

 

If and when I see a case from HH Judge Jones that relates to Care Orders, involving Denbighshire Social Services, two boys and a bruise, I will update you. Perhaps Mr Booker is right. If he is, it is a scandal and I will commend him for bringing it to light. If he is mistaken, then no doubt there will be a correction and an apology, not least to a Judge who has been accused of acting in a way that would make anyone reading it think much less of him.

 

 

[Here is an idea, which I’m sure won’t be taken up – if a parent comes to a journalist with a story that sounds extraordinary about the way they were treated in Court, get the parent to sign an authority allowing the journalist to approach the solicitor representing them, and for the solicitor to read the proposed article and tell the journalist whether that’s an accurate depiction of what really happened, or if the facts have got a bit mixed up]

 

 

Second case

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11412861/Judge-refuses-mothers-plea-to-treat-terminally-ill-son-saying-he-should-be-allowed-to-die.html

 

In which Mrs Justice Hogg, sitting in the Court of Protection made a declaration that the hospital could lawfully stop treating an 18 year old with a brain tumour, even though that withdrawal of treatment would end his life and his parents were arguing that the treatment should continue.

 

Now, this is a story which feels much more solid. It is easier to believe when reading it that what it says happens is what happened. (Booker’s story may well turn out to be true, but it has question marks over it that this one does not)

 

The hearing was in public, which makes it a lot easier for a reporter to put out a strong story with sources – in this case, there are quotations from the judgment and comments from both sides, and the report gives the sense of what a difficult decision this must be either way. It also has the sense of being the sort of thing that happens in the Court of Protection – these are the sort of decisions that have to be taken, the evidence heard and issues raised are consistent with the way one might imagine such a hearing to take place.

 

Again, until we get the judgment, it is difficult to analyse whether the Judge was right or wrong in making that decision – we simply don’t have enough of the key pieces of information or to see how the Judge balanced the competing arguments. So when it comes up, I will share it with you, and we can have the debate – hopefully it won’t be long.

 

It is hard not to have an emotional response however, and my sympathies on an emotional level are with the parents. I don’t think there tend to be many such decisions that go with the heart rather than the head (or with the parents rather than the medics) and I tend to think that the wishes of the family ought to carry rather more weight than they often seem to at the moment, as an overall criticism of these decisions rather than saying that the Judge in this particular case got it wrong.

 

It will be interesting to see how the Judge dealt with the right to life issue, article 2 being something that binds the Court as a public body, and that being an unqualified right. There are previous decisions which do sanction this withdrawal of treatment, largely connected to the right to die with dignity

 

It does make me somewhat uncomfortable that where a family want that for a person it is generally resisted, but when the medics want it and the family oppose it, it generally happens. Is the judiciary too deferential to the views of medical professionals? That’s a much wider debate.

Lasting power of attorney – revocation.

Re SB 2015 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/7.html is another case heard by Senior Judge Lush, involving a person who signed a Lasting Power of Attorney, giving her sons the ability to manage her financial affairs on her behalf when she lost capacity.

It is a GOOD thing to have a Lasting Power of Attorney, particularly if you know that you are suffering from an illness which is going to rob you of the capacity to make decisions for yourself. Much better that those decisions be made by someone you love and trust, rather than by strangers or a Court.

It therefore annoys me massively when the people given that trust misuse it like this man.

b) BB had used £19,038.69 of his mother’s money to pay his farm suppliers.

(c) BB had invested a further £24,000 of his mother’s funds in a biomass boiler at his farm.

(d) although SB owns two investment properties, the rental income from them had not found its way into her accounts.

 

BB’s response?

On 7 October 2014 BB filed an acknowledgment of service in which he stated that he objected to the application. He said:

“I truly believe that we still have the best interest of our Mum at heart both her welfare & finances.”

The Lasting Power of Attorney gave the son the right to manage his mother’s affair FOR HER, and for her benefit. It was not a right to spend what he was assuming was his inheritance whilst she was still alive. If she had wanted to give him this money whilst she had capacity, that would be fine, but she had not made that decision. This is dipping into (well, more plunging than dipping) his mother’s money for his own benefit.

For those who criticise the existence of the Court of Protection (and there are flaws with it, it isn’t perfect), what is your alternative for this? Let the son rob his mother blind?

The cases about sterilisation and C-sections and deprivation of liberty are the ones that get the headlines, but these financial exploitation cases are the real bread and butter of Court of Protection work. It is desperately sad that when money comes into the picture, some people are prepared to abuse the trust placed in them and use their parents money as if it were their own.

 

forced sterilisation

I normally canter through a judgment, picking out the salient bits, but I think this one really needs to be read in full to appreciate it. It would not be fair for me to look at individual passages.

This is a follow-up to this piece

http://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/07/08/barbecue-tongs-and-police-being-given-power-to-force-entry-to-a-home/

 

In which Cobb J, sitting in the Court of Protection, gave a ruling that a caesarean section was in a woman’s best interests and even that the police could force entry. It was a very unusual case.

This follow up is the same Judge, in the same Court, considering whether the woman, who lacked capacity to make decisions for herself, should be sterilised without her consent. And again whether there could be powers to forcibly enter her home, remove her and take her to hospital.  The Court do decide that these things are in her best interests.

There’s no getting away from this, the fact that a Court even have these powers makes anyone feel uncomfortable.  Critics of the system have the right to say that this feels wholly and utterly wrong, no matter how carefully it is explored.  It does end up smacking of eugenics, and the nasty side of eugenics at that. Even thinking for a minute about how terrifying it must be for this woman when the police knock down her door and she is taken to hospital for surgery she doesn’t want and doesn’t understand makes your flesh crawl.

My personal take is that I think Cobb J gives a very careful and thoughtful judgment and tries to balance the competing factors.  Parliament have given the Court of Protection this authority to make such decisions, and if they have to be made, doing it in the way Cobb J has done is the best way to do it. I think he is also right to set out that this is a truly exceptional case, with truly exceptional facts – all efforts to engage and develop the woman’s understanding about the health risks to her of further pregnancies were unsuccessful, and the health risks are life-threatening.  But we have sadly seen that unique and exceptional cases do sometimes end up being used in ones that are slightly less so, and on and on until authorities bear little resemblance to the original case.

 

The Mental Health Trust and DD 2015  http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/4.html

 

Even if you end up disagreeing with Cobb J’s decision (and I think you’re perfectly entitled to – this is one of those really moral and ethical arguments) please do him the courtesy of reading the judgment first. It must be a thankless job having to make decisions like this.

Defying the Court of Protection – is there such a thing as committal in Court of Protection?

 

 

MSAM v MMAM 2015 is a Court of Protection case tackling something for the first time.

 

In this case

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/3.html

 

Mrs MMAM is 76. Her health deteriorated and she was living in parlous conditions at home. Following assessments, it was felt that she lacked capacity to make decisions for herself and was unable to remain in her own home.

 

The Court of Protection considered the case and made the following declarations on 20th February 2014 :-

 

“It is hereby declared pursuant to S.48 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 that: it is lawful and in the First Respondents best interest to continue to reside and receive care at X residential home and any deprivation of her liberty occasioned by residing there is approved by the Court pursuant to S.4 A16 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.”

 

 

On 1st April 2014, MMAM’s grandson attended the X residential home and removed her from that home, the manager of the home believing that he had no legal authority to prevent this.

 

 

It is important to note that she was then removed to Saudi Arabia, and also important to note that MMAM’s son (MSAM) had been a party to the Court of Protection proceedings and had not been challenging the plan at that hearing.

 

 

On the 1st April 2014 Mrs MMAM left the jurisdiction. I have been told she is currently residing in Saudi Arabia. On the morning 1st April the Second Respondent (Grandson) took Mrs MMAM from the X road residential home. He did so with the compliance of the manager who believed that he had no legal basis to prevent such a course. He was apparently told that Mrs MMAM was going with her grandson to the Saudi Arabian Embassy. She was taken there and her travel documents were provided which appeared to have enabled her to be booked on the very next available flight from London to Jeddah which left that evening. The grandson purports to outline the events of that day in his statement dated the 13th May. I say without hesitation that I found his account to be self serving and disingenuous. The description of what is said to be Mrs MMAM’s behaviour on that day bears absolutely no relationship to anything I have read about her in any other document. At paragraph 8 the grandson states

 

“We took a taxi to the Embassy arriving just before 10am, my grandmother, without entering security, had found the way to the meeting ahead of me. Once I had introduced her, I left her to discuss her affairs as I had understood from my father I should not participate in discussing the case with officials and her in any detail. A few hours went by, I was summoned and asked to accompany my grandmother to a place where food was given to her and then we were taken to a rest facility. Little later someone from the embassy came to take her and I was told to return home and that they would contact me as required.”

If that was indeed in any way accurate and Mrs MMAM had been left on her own at the Embassy, in my view, she would have been, on the basis of everything I have read, confused and probably rather frightened. The statement is entirely unconvincing. In the paragraphs that follow any aspiration to credibility is lost, if not abandoned.

 

“That night the manager from X road called me regarding my grandmother, I said she must still be with the embassy staff if she wasn’t back at X road. Someone from the Local Authority also contacted me, he asked me whether I felt she was safe or not? I told them I believe she was and would contact them if I heard anything. I then received a call to let me know that my grandmother was safe, ‘not to worry’ and I relayed the message to staff…. the next day I heard news that my grandmother was in Saudi Arabia.”

Later he states:

 

“The manner and speed of her repatriation has taken me by surprise. I do not want to speculate on the matter but I’m aware the situation has pleased my grandmother and family. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the time constrained medical condition made the embassy action inevitable; though I do not believe any of the people aware of my grandmother’s appointment with the embassy expected it and I certainly did not.

‘I would like to thank the court for its measured consideration and on behalf of both myself and my grandmother I want to express our gratitude to Judge Batton, the staff of X Road and the doctors. I am eternally grateful to found, in all of them, definitely the living personification of the oath undertaken by each of them.”

The picture presented is a complete fabrication. This old, sick, largely incapacitous lady further burdened by an ‘abnormal belief system’ would simply not have been able to function effectively or autonomously in the way the grandson asserts. It is clear from the above passages that the grandson was acting entirely on his father’s instructions. That is the dynamic of their relationship which I have observed for myself in the courtroom at previous hearings. The reference to “the time constrained medical condition” sadly relates to the fact that Mrs MMAM is suffering from metastasised bowel cancer. The statement requires recasting in reality. Mr MASM and his son have plainly colluded to defeat the declaration made by this court. Mr MASM has done so notwithstanding that he acquiesced to the declaration made and drafted in the terms that it was. He was the applicant in this litigation. In my judgement he has acted with cynical disregard to the objectives of this process and, in the light of the declarations drawn, it must follow that his actions are entirely inconsistent with the best interests of this vulnerable and incapacitous woman, who is of course his own mother. The reasons for this planned deception are not immediately clear, but I draw from this history and from the actions of these two men that their motivation is likely family’s financial self-interest. It seems to me that if Mr MASM had genuinely believed that his mother’s interest did not lie in her remaining in the residential unit for the reasons Dr Arnold said then he had every opportunity to put those conclusions to the assay by cross examination. He chose not to do so despite being represented by counsel.

 

 

The legal question then arose :-

 

  1. Was this action a breach of the Court of Protection’s declaration and authorisation of Deprivation of Liberty?
  2. And if so, what are the sanctions for such a breach

 

 

Within the law relating to children, these sort of actions have been going on for a long time, and it is settled law that a breach of a Court order can lead to an application for committal for contempt of court, and to imprisonment if the breach can be proved to the criminal standard of proof. But this is new to Court of Protection cases.

 

Though this case raises important issues of law and practice it must be emphasised that conduct of the kind seen here is rare, indeed in my experience it is unprecedented. Many of the litigants who come before the Court of Protection are at a time of acute distress in their lives, as a cursory glance at the case law of this still fledgling court will show. The issues could not be more challenging, not infrequently they quite literally involve decisions relating to life and death. Inevitably, some litigants do not achieve their objectives neither wholly nor in part but they respect the process. More than once I have observed that the importance to a family of being heard in decisions of this magnitude matters almost as much as the outcome itself. Sometimes the medical and ethical issues raised are such that NHS Trusts seek the authorisation of the court to endorse or reject a particular course of action. The court ultimately gives its conclusion by declaration both in relation to lawfulness and best interests. The terms of these declarations often cannot and indeed should not seek to be too prescriptive.

 

Keehan J reviewed the powers of the Court of Protection to enforce its orders (and note the criticisms of the LA for its ‘supine’ response)

 

The Court of Protection’s powers of enforcement are extensive. The Court has in connection with its jurisdiction the same powers, rights and privileges and authority as the High Court (COPR 2007, R89) which means that it may find or commit to prison for contempt, grant injunctions where appropriate, summons witnesses when needed and order the production of evidence. (COPR 2007, part 21 makes further provision RR183-194). The relevant practice directions (PD21A) and “practice guidance notes” deal with Contempt of Court, Applications for enforcement may also be made; the CPR relating to third party debt orders and charging orders are applied as are the remaining rules of the Supreme Court 1965 in relation to enforcement of judgments and orders and writs of execution fieri facias (writs and warrants of control, post April 2014) All this said the Court of Protection jurisdiction is limited to the promotion of ‘the purposes of’ (my emphasis) the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA) and, it follows, the appropriate order may be, from time to time, to direct the Deputy or some other person to take proceedings of a different kind in another court where the objectives fall outside the remit of the MCA.

 

Finally, of course, the court may direct penal notices to be attached to any order, warning the person of the consequences of disobedience to the order i.e. that it would be a contempt of court punishable by imprisonment and or a fine (or where relevant sequestration of assets). An application for committal of a person for contempt can be made to any judge of the Court of Protection by issuing an Application Notice stating the grounds of the application supported by affidavit in accordance with practice directions. (COPR 2007 makes additional provisions). In addition to this the court may make an order for committal on its own initiative against a person guilty of contempt of court which may include misbehaviour in the face of the court.

 

Initially the Local Authority considered that it had been comprehensively thwarted by Mr MASM’s unilateral actions. In a response which I considered to be supine, they advance no opposition to Mr MASM’s application to withdraw the proceedings. I was roundly critical of that reaction. Mrs MMAM had been rescued from squalor and neglect. I have been shown photographs of her previous living conditions. Her grandson, the man who negotiated what he calls her “repatriation” was living in the same house as his grandmother whilst her circumstances had reduced to the parlous conditions that I have described. In addition, Mrs MMAM lacked capacity in relation to medical, welfare and litigation decisions. Moreover she was in addition gravely ill physically. Local Authority’s simply have to absorb the extent of their responsibilities in these challenging cases. Vulnerable adults must be protected every bit as sedulously as vulnerable children. I emphasise that it is the safeguarding obligation that is similar- I do not suggest that vulnerable adults and children should be regarded as the same. Accordingly, I asked the Local Authority, the Official Solicitor and Mr MASM to reflect on the questions identified in paragraph 13 above.

I

 

 

Rather interestingly, both the LA and the family were submitting to the Court that the Court of Protection’s power in terms of making a declaration of best interests was a narrow one, limited to making a declaration of what was in MMAM’s best interests and not to making a prohibitive order.

 

If the declaration of interests was looked at in that way, the Court had not, and could not, make an order that prohibited the family removing MMAM and thus there was no order that could amount to a contempt of Court or a committal for contempt.

 

The Official Solicitor took a different view (and placed reliance on amongst others, a case called Long Wellesley, involving wardship and an MP removing his daughter from wardship without permission)

 

The Official Solicitor distils from these authorities the following propositions, namely that where:

 

  1. i) an application was issued in the Court of Protection specifically seeking the Court’s permission to remove P from the jurisdiction;

 

  1. ii) the court was seized of the matter;

 

iii) the court declared on an interim basis that it is in P’s best interests to live at a certain address within the jurisdiction;

 

  1. iv) it follows that a party, with knowledge of the application and court’s orders would commit a contempt of court by removing or organising for the removal of P from the jurisdiction without the court’s permission.

 

It is contended that this amounts to a contempt of court, even when no injunctive order has been made. In essence the argument is:

 

  1. i) the principles of wardship and parens patriae should apply to the Court of Protection, given the supervisory and protective nature of the Court of Protection’s jurisdiction, and P should be protected as would a ward of court and/or because;

 

  1. ii) such a person would be deliberately treating the declaratory order of the court as unworthy of notice.

 

 

 

So, the question is :- is a declaration of best interests something that if a person knows of it and thwarts it, a contempt of Court? Or is that only the case if the Court has the power to, and decides to, make an order that is prohibitive in nature and clear on the face of the order what a breach would be and what the consequences of breach might be.

 

That is, the difference between an order that says:-

 

It is in MMAM’s best interests to live at 22 Tupperware Court, Ker-Plunk

 

And

 

It is in MMAM’s best interests to live at 22 Tupperware Court, Ker-Plunk and her son and grandson shall not remove her from that property nor instruct others to do so. [and when sent to her son and grandson, the order also says “you must obey this order. If you do not, you may be sent to prison for contempt of court”]

 

You don’t often have cases in family law (or Court of Protection) where the litigation about the Spycatcher book is important, but in this one, it was an important part of the judicial reasoning as to what the status of a declaration of best interests was.

 

[It is a fascinating analysis, but beyond the scope of this piece – if you are interested in the fine detail, the judgment is well worth reading]

 

 

Drawing the strands of the case law, the legal framework and the agreed facts together, the following points emerge:-

 

  1. i) The Court made clear personal welfare decisions on behalf of an incapacitated woman which every party agreed to be in her best interests;

 

  1. ii) Breach of Court Orders even in the absence of a Penal Notice may nonetheless potentially be a contempt where there is a wanton disregard for the court’s decision;

 

iii) Some case law also suggests that in the exercise of the parens patriae any action hampering the objectives of the court is an interference with the administration of justice and therefore a criminal contempt see RE B(JA) (an infant) 1965 CH1112 at P1117:

 

‘any action which tends to hamper the court in carrying out its duty [to protects it’s ward] is an interference with the administration of justice and a criminal contempt’

 

 

If that third point applied to vulnerable adults, then a contempt of court could arise in circumstances where a person just hampered or interfered with the best interests decision, rather than in circumstances of the second point (wanton disregard for the Court’s decision)

 

The Official Solicitor was arguing in relation to that third point that in terms of safeguarding vulnerable adults and safeguarding children, the same principles applied in full. Keehan J was more guarded

 

 

Addressing the Official Solicitor’s argument in relation to actions hampering the exercise of the parens patriae I do not consider that the jurisdiction I am exercising here equates seamlessly with the exercise of the parens patriae or wardship jurisdiction in relation to children. Nor do I consider that Munby J intended to go so far in Re SA (supra). Whilst both jurisdictions require there to be a sedulous protection of the vulnerable, there is a paternalistic quality to wardship which does not easily equate to and is perhaps even inconsistent with the protection of the incapacitous adult, in respect of whom capacity will or may vary from day to day or on issue to issue. There is in addition, the obligation to promote a return to capacity wherever possible. The Court of Protection has a protective and supervisory role but wardship goes much further, it invests the judge with ultimate responsibility. The child becomes the judge’s ward. There is no parallel in the Court of Protection and it would be wrong, in my view, to rely on this now dated and limited case law (identified by Mr McKendrick) to permit this Court to reach for a power which is not specifically provided for in the comprehensive legislative framework of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

 

The law in relation to children has also moved on from the landscape surveyed by Lord Atkinson in Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417, particularly since the inception of the Children Act 1989, drafted of course, with ECHR compatibility in mind. Lord Atkinson’s description of a ‘paternal and quasi domestic jurisdiction over the person and property of the wards’ has little resonance for practitioners for whom ‘family life’, protected under Article 8 of the ECHR, is evaluated by analysing competing rights and interests, where the autonomy of the child is also afforded great respect. Unsurprisingly and partly in response to the range of these principles the scope and ambit of wardship has reduced very considerably (Section 100 Children Act 1989 repealed Section 7 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969, the route by which the High Court had derived its power to place a ward of court in the care, or under the supervision of a Local Authority). Whilst Mr McKendrick is entirely right to draw this line of authority to my attention, the position in relation to wardship is, to my mind, largely anomalous, predicated as it is on the somewhat artificial premise that the court represents the Sovereign as parens patriae and cannot therefore be resolving contested issues as between the parties in an non adversarial arena (see Arlidge, Eady and Smith on contempt (4 edition) (Para 11-338). Mr McKendrick put much emphasis on the judgment of Munby J in Re SA (Vulnerable Adult with Capacity: Marriage) [2005] EWHC 2942 (Fam), [2006] 1 FLR 867, para 84. In particular he referred me to par 84:

 

“As I have said, the court exercises what is, in substance and reality, a jurisdiction in relation to incompetent adults which is for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its well-established jurisdiction in relation to children. There is little, if any, practical difference between the types of orders that can be made in exercise of the two jurisdictions.”

It is important to emphasise that Munby J whilst emphasising the similarity of the two jurisdictions ‘for all practical purposes’ also notes the essentially different, indeed unique, nature of the wardship jurisdiction, later in the same paragraph:

 

“The main difference is that the court cannot make an adult a ward of court. So the particular status which wardship automatically confers on a child who is a ward of court – for example, the fact that a ward of court cannot marry or leave the jurisdiction without the consent of the court – has no parallel in the case of the adult jurisdiction. In the absence of express orders, the attributes or incidents of wardship do not attach to an adult.”

 

 

Keehan J decided that ultimately, the third point did not apply to vulnerable adults, and that despite the family’s conduct being entirely inimical to MMAM’s welfare and wellbeing, what was needed for a contempt and a committal remedy in Court of Protection cases was an order drawn in a prohibitive way with a penal notice. Keehan J decided that the Court of Protection had powers under s16 Mental Capacity Act 2005 to make such orders arising from their declaration of best interests

 

 

Ultimately, a declaration of best interests connotes the superlative or extreme quality of welfare options. It by no means follows automatically that an alternative course of action to that determined in the Declaration, is contrary to an individual’s welfare. There may, in simple terms, be a ‘second best’ option. For this reason, such a declaration cannot be of the same complexion as a Court Order. It lacks both the necessary clarity and fails to carry any element of mandatory imperative. I am ultimately not prepared to go as far as Mr McKendrick urges me to and elevate the remit of the Court of Protection, in its welfare decision making, to such a level that anything hampering the court in the exercise of its duty, or perpetrated in wanton defiance of its objectives is capable, without more, of being an interference with the administration of justice and therefore criminal contempt. Such an approach would it seems to me be entirely out of step with the development of our understanding of the importance of proper and fair process where the liberty of the individual is concerned. I would add that this has long been foreshadowed by the recognition that the necessary standard of proof in a application to commit is the criminal standard.

 

 

Moreover, though my order of 20th February 2015 was expressed to have been made pursuant to section 16, it was drafted in declaratory terms. As such, for the reasons I have set out above, it cannot, in my judgement, trigger contempt proceedings. There cannot be ‘defiance’ of a ‘declaration’ nor can there be an ‘enforcement’ of one. A declaration is ultimately no more than a formal, explicit statement or announcement. That said I emphasise that Mr MASM, in fact acted, through the agency of his son, in a way which was cynically contrary to his mother’s best interests. The course he took was not a ‘second best’ option but one entirely inimical to his mother’s welfare, physically, mentally and emotionally. He has frustrated the objectives of the litigation but he is not, as I ultimately find, acting in defiance of an order and therefore is not exposed to contempt proceedings.

 

 

 

As a result, there was no legal power, from the orders that were in placed, to lodge a committal notice or to commit the family to prison for their actions. All that Keehan J could do was to criticise them for their actions and order that they pay the costs of this hearing (which were probably considerable, given the amount of legal research that was needed – once people get into reading Spycatcher and 1831 cases about dubious MPs http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1831/jul/19/privilege-case-of-mr-long-wellesley not to mention the entire law of contempt, wardship and penal notices, the costs do mount up)

 

He also suggested that the LA should probably think very hard about whether it was sensible for the son to remain MMAM’s deputy with powers over her financial affairs.

 

As for more general guidance

 

 

Such guidance as I can give can only be limited:

 

  1. i) Many orders pursuant to Section 16 seem to me to be perfectly capable of being drafted in clear unequivocal and even, where appropriate, prescriptive language. This Section provides for the ‘making of orders’ as well as ‘taking decisions’ in relation to P’s personal welfare, property or affairs. Where the issues are highly specific or indeed capable of being drafted succinctly as an order they should be so, rather than as more nebulous declarations. Where a determination of the court is capable of being expressed with clarity there are many and obvious reasons why it should be so;

 

  1. ii) In cases which require that P, for whatever reason, reside at a particular place the parties and the court should always consider whether to reinforce that order, under Section 16, by a declaration, pursuant to Section 15, clarifying that it will be unlawful to remove P or to permit or facilitate removal other than by order of the court;

 

iii) In cases where the evidence suggests there may be potential for a party to disobey the order or frustrate the plans for P approved by the court as in his best interest, the Official Solicitor or Local Authority should consider inviting the court to seek undertakings from the relevant party. If there is a refusal to give undertakings then orders may be appropriate;

 

  1. iv) Where a potential breach is identified the Local Authority and/or the Official Solicitor should regard it as professional duty to bring the matter to the immediate attention to the court. This obligation is a facet of the requirement to act sedulously in the protection of the vulnerable;

 

  1. v) Thought must always be given to the objectives and proportionality of any committal proceedings see Re Whiting (supra).

Seeking costs against the Public Guardian in a financial safeguarding case

 

The Public Guardian and CT and EY 2014

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/51.html

 

As District Judge Lush observed, this is the first reported case where a costs order has been sought against the Public Guardian.

 

By way of quick background, CT is 85 and had a stroke a year ago, which later led to a diagnosis of dementia. There has been a considerable family schism, and CT is close to his daughter EY but not close to much of the rest of his family.

 

A month after his stroke, he entered into a Lasting Power of Attorney arrangement, appointing EY as his sole attorney.

 

In July 2014, the Public Guardian, having received a referral that EY was misusing the Lasting Power of Attorney, conducted an investigation and made an application to the Court of Protection under s48 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for declarations about whether CT had capacity and if not what directions / declarations should be made about his affairs.

 

  1. The application was accompanied by a witness statement made by David Richards, an investigations officer with the OPG, who said that:

 

 

(a) in September 2013 CT’s son and daughter-in-law had raised concerns with the OPG.

 

(b) on 13 June 2013 CT had severed the joint tenancy of the matrimonial home and the adjoining property, which he and his wife also own.

 

(c) CT had ceased paying the utility bills on the matrimonial home; had stopped transferring housekeeping money to his wife, and had closed their joint bank account.

 

(d) in September 2013 CT applied to the Land Registry to register the matrimonial home in his sole name.

 

(e) on 30 September 2013 a Court of Protection General Visitor, Emma Farrar, saw him at Grays Court Community Hospital. She thought that CT possibly could suspend or revoke the LPA, but that he would require considerable support in doing so.

 

(f) Havering Social Services had raised a safeguarding alert.

 

(g) the OPG asked EY for an account of her dealings.

 

(h) EY replied her father still had capacity and that the OPG’s enquiries were an invasion of his privacy.

 

(i) in January 2014 the OPG commissioned a visit from a Court of Protection Special Visitor (Dr T.G. Tennent, DM, FRCPsych) but EY and her partner, who is employed by Moss & Coleman Solicitors, refused to let him visit CT.

 

(j) Dr Tennent was, nevertheless able to examine CT’s medical records, and in his report, dated 31 March 2103, he came to the conclusion that CT had capacity (a) to make the LPA and (b) to sever the joint tenancies, but that it was “impossible to offer any opinion as to Mr Todd’s current capacity in relation to the queries (c) to (j).”

 

 

There then follows a somewhat complex history, but the substance of it was that the expert who examined CT, Professor Jacoby, was of the view that CT’s capacity fluctuated, but that there were times and had been times when he had had capacity to make his own financial decisions (and thus the LPA wasn’t being used at all at those times)

 

  1. Professor Jacoby prefaced his assessment of CT’s capacity with the following preliminary remarks:

 

 

 

“I shall deal with the separate capacities as set out in my instructions which were taken from the directions order of 20 August 2014. Before doing so I wish to stress that I am relying on CT’s mental state as I observed it on 2 October 2014. However, I believe his mental state fluctuates both as regards his dementia and his episodes of delirium. I should make the following preliminary remarks:

 

 

(a) When he is delirious, in my opinion, he does not have any of the capacities listed below.

 

(b) When he is not delirious, but his dementia is more prominent, his capacities are weaker than when he is at his best.

 

(c) When he is at his best he does retain some capacities as described below.

 

(d) When he is at his best he is able to communicate his decisions, and I shall not comment further on this fourth limb of section 3(1) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

 

(e) When at his best I believe that his capacities can be enhanced by assistance in line with the judgment of Gibson LJ in Hoff et al v Atherton [2003] EWCA Civ 1554, in which he stated “it is a general requirement of the law that for a juristic act to be valid, the person performing it should have the mental capacity (with the assistance of such explanation as may have been given [my italics]) to understand the nature and effect of the particular act (see, for example, Re K (Enduring Powers of Attorney) [1988] Ch 310 at p. 313 per Hoffmann J.).” As I understand it, although I may be corrected by the court, giving assistance to persons with marginal capacities in order to enhance them is within the spirit of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.”

 

 

  1. Professor Jacoby concluded his report as follows:

 

 

 

“In my opinion, when CT is at his current best and not in an episode of delirium, he retains the capacity to manage his affairs and to revoke or make an LPA, but that his capacities would be enhanced by disinterested advice. His capacity to litigate is not totally lacking but is, in my opinion, below a sufficient threshold, and he would, therefore, require a litigation friend.”

 

If CT had capacity at the time when he made decisions to sever the tenancy, stop paying money to his estranged wife and so on, then this was not a matter for the Court of Protection. As we know, if a person has capacity, then they can make decisions for themselves that another person might consider foolish or ill-conceived.

 

EY sought that the application be dismissed and sought that the Office of the Public Guardian should pay the costs.

 

  1. On 14 August 2014 EY filed an acknowledgment of service, accompanied by a witness statement, in which she objected to the application and said that:

 

 

 

“The evidence in the attached witness statement shows unequivocally that CT had the capacity to make complex decisions in relation to his finances and property in September 2013. He underwent a further capacity assessment in November 2013 prior to discharge from hospital after nearly six months treatment and he was again assessed as having the capacity to make the very difficult and important decision as to his destination and future place of residence following his discharge. There has been no stroke activity since the incident in May 2013, nor any other event which might cause or signal a material change in his capacity since the last test was carried out some nine months ago. There is therefore no valid reason why he should not be presumed to have capacity at this time.”

 

 

  1. EY proposed that “the application be dismissed and the OPG be ordered to pay the respondents’ costs (including the costs of taking legal advice).”

 

 

In most financial disputes, the person who loses the case is at risk of being ordered to pay the other side’s legal costs. It is a little different in Court of Protection cases.

 

Firstly, the Court of Protection have a general discretion (subject to other Rules) Section 55(1) MCA 2005 provides that “Subject to Court of Protection Rules, the costs of and incidental to all proceedings in the court are at its discretion.”

 

In terms of those Rules, they are set out in the Court of Protection Rules 2007 – they can be simplified like this:-

 

  • Normally if the proceedings relate to property of a vulnerable person, the costs of the proceedings are paid by that person or his estate
  • That starting point can be departed from if the Court thinks it is justified, and can take into account the conduct of the parties.
  • Conduct can include a wide variety of things, including before proceedings began.

 

 

Property and affairs – the general rule

 

 

  1. Where the proceedings concern P’s property and affairs the general rule is that the costs of the proceedings, or of that part of the proceedings that concerns P’s property and affairs, shall be paid by P or charged to his estate.

 

 

Departing from the general rule

 

 

  1. – (1) The court may depart from rules 156 to 158 if the circumstances so justify, and in deciding whether departure is justified the court will have regard to all the circumstances, including:

 

(a) the conduct of the parties;

(b) whether a party has succeeded on part of his case, even if he has not been wholly successful; and

(c) the role of any public body involved in the proceedings.

 

(2) The conduct of the parties includes:

 

(a) conduct before, as well as during, the proceedings;

(b) whether it was reasonable for a party to raise, pursue or contest a particular issue;

(c) the manner in which a party has made or responded to an application or a particular issue; and

(d) whether a party who has succeeded in his application or response to an application, in whole or in part, exaggerated any matter contained in his application or response.

 

(3) Without prejudice to rules 156 to 158 and the foregoing provisions of this rule, the court may permit a party to recover their fixed costs in accordance with the relevant practice direction.

 

 

 

In this situation, EY argued that the Office of the Public Guardian had really jumped the gun – they had brought a case based on EY misusing the Lasting Power of Attorney, when closer investigation would have shown that the decisions complained of had been made by CT himself. If the Public Guardian had conducted the investigation properly, there would have been no application and thus CT and EY would not have incurred any legal costs.

 

District Judge Lush felt that things were more complicated than that – the assessment of capacity had shown that CT’s capacity fluctuated and thus there had been times when EY was (or ought to have been) exercising the Lasting Power of Attorney.

 

The Judge also felt that EY had been obstructive in the investigation, causing some of these problems as a result of her own actions.

 

  1. EY makes the point that she was not using the LPA because CT still had capacity, but even this is disingenuous. Professor Jacoby states in his report that “He is subject to recurrent episodes of delirium. … When he is delirious, in my opinion, he does not have any of the capacities listed below.” She should have been using the LPA during the recurrent episodes when CT lacked capacity.

 

 

  1. The point is made that CT’s capacity should have been presumed. The precise wording of section 1(2) of the Mental Capacity Act is that “a person is assumed to have capacity unless it is established that he lacks capacity.” The Court of Protection General Visitor believed that CT possibly could suspend or revoke the LPA, but that he would require considerable support in doing so. The reason why the OPG asked a Special Visitor to see CT was so that a specialist could look for objective evidence that would be sufficient, on the balance of probabilities, to establish whether CT had capacity or not and, accordingly, whether the Court of Protection had jurisdiction or not.

 

 

  1. EY would not allow the Court of Protection Special Visitor to examine CT because she mistrusted anything to do with the OPG. The Special Visitor’s report would have been provided to CT free of charge, from public funds, but EY insisted on instructing an independent expert, instead. This resulted in the proceedings being more expensive and protracted than they need have been.

 

 

  1. I have no real concerns about the OPG’s conduct. Any investigation will seem heavy-handed to the person under the spotlight, but the OPG’s conduct was by no means disproportionate and does not even approach the threshold identified by Mr Justice Jonathan Baker in G v E (Costs). The OPG certainly did not act in blatant disregard of the Mental Capacity Act processes or in breach of CT’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Having regard to all the circumstances, it would be unjust to penalise the OPG by way of a costs order.

 

 

 

Bearing in mind the usual rule, the legal costs of all of the proceedings would be met by CT. The Judge, having been invited to look at costs, had to consider whether that approach would be fair and just, given the actions of EY.

 

(This must have caused a bitter taste – having asked for the Public Guardian to pay the costs, EY found herself at risk of having to pay a portion of the costs herself)

 

  1. There is no doubt about it. EY and her partner refused, without reasonable cause, to let the Special Visitor visit CT or even speak to him over the phone. Dr Tennent’s report of 31 March 2014 stated:

 

 

 

“Over the course of these conversations EY referred everything to her partner. Quite politely they told me that CT did not want to see me but would not permit me to speak directly with him. They would not provide me with the name or address of CT’s current general practitioner. As I understood it, they were of the view that although CT had made an LPA he was still capable of managing his own affairs and they were not using the LPA and therefore the OPG should not be involved with his affairs. They told me that they were in correspondence with the Office of the Public Guardian about the matter and that until this had been resolved they did not want me to visit their home.”

 

 

  1. EY’s insinuation that a Court of Protection Special Visitor is neither independent nor impartial is both unwarranted and offensive.

 

 

  1. For me, the most striking feature of Professor Jacoby’s report was the repetition of a theme, which, like Ravel’s Boléro, rises in a continuous crescendo.

 

 

  1. In response to question (2) he said:

 

 

 

“Again, I consider that he would benefit from disinterested advice before making this decision.”

 

 

  1. He deliberately highlighted the word ‘disinterested’ by italicising it.

 

 

  1. In response to question (4), he said:

 

 

 

“Where more complex decisions are required he would, in my opinion, benefit from disinterested advice.”

 

 

  1. In his reply to question (5), Professor Jacoby said:

 

 

 

“I consider that at his best CT does retain the capacity to give instructions to his attorney in relation to his property and affairs, and that he would benefit from disinterested advice for more complex decisions.”

 

 

  1. In his conclusion, which I have set out in paragraph 23, he said:

 

 

 

“… his capacities would be enhanced by disinterested advice.”

 

 

  1. And in response to question (4) again, the professor actually ventured to say that:

 

 

 

“I am not making any comment here about the quality of the advice he now gets from EY because this is beyond my remit and I have no information on it anyway. However, because he is now dependent on her for his day to day care he might be more likely to accept her advice without more careful consideration.”

 

 

  1. I have never before read a report on someone’s capacity that has contained so many references to the need for ‘disinterested advice’. The only interpretation of this can be that Professor Jacoby believed that, although CT still has capacity in certain areas, he is being influenced by his daughter, and her advice is anything but disinterested.

 

 

[

 

The Judge decided that it would be wrong for CT to be ordered to pay EY’s legal costs, and EY would be responsible for her own costs

 

 

Decision

 

 

  1. If I were to apply the general rule for costs in a property and affairs case (rule 156), I would be required to order CT to pay the costs of these proceedings.

 

 

  1. The Public Guardian was seeking no order as to his own costs, whereas EY was seeking an order that her costs should be paid by the Public Guardian.

 

 

  1. For the reasons given above, and having regard to all the circumstances, I consider that a departure from the general rule is justified and I shall order EY to pay her own costs because her conduct, before and during the proceedings, has been aggressive and disingenuous and has resulted in both sides’ costs being far greater than they would otherwise have been.

 

 

  1. The overall effect is that I shall make no order for costs, though, having agreed to commission a report from a single joint expert, the Public Guardian and EY are jointly liable to pay a half of Professor Jacoby’s fee of £2,200 (£1,850 + VAT) for reading the documents, travelling from Oxfordshire to Essex, examining CT, and writing his report.

 

 

 

There is scope for a costs order to be made against the Office of the Public Guardian, if they behaved unreasonably in the course of the litigation, but this was not the case for it.

 

As my old law tutor used to say about Equity – “he who comes to Court must come with clean hands”

 

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