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Gilded cage – junior edition

 

Those of you who follow deprivation of liberty cases will be aware that the landscape is markedly different after the Supreme Court in Cheshire West.  Just how different remains to be seen, as individual cases come before the Courts and are tackled.

 

Keehan J was faced with a difficult concrete example of the uncertainty following Cheshire West in

 

Re D (A Child :Deprivation of liberty) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/922.html

 

This case involved a boy, not quite sixteen, with considerable difficulties.

D was born on 23 April 1999 and is 15 years of age. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at the age of 4, with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 7 and with Tourette’s syndrome at the age of 8.

 

He had been admitted to hospital for psychiatric treatment as a result and is just about to be discharged into a residential care setting. He had been on a locked psychiatric ward for 15 months. This is obviously a very high-end example.

 

In this case, as a result of the Cheshire West decision, there was considerable dispute about whether D was being deprived of his liberty and whether his parents consent to this was sufficient to allow this or whether a DoLs authorisation was required.

The hospital trust considered that DoLS authorisation was required and that to conclude that D’s parents had the right to consent to D being deprived of his liberty was too broad a view of PR.

The Local Authority considered that D’s parents were consenting, and thus this was not a deprivation of liberty in the DoLS sense.

  1. The Applicant Trust submits that the circumstances in which D lives at Hospital B satisfy the first limb of the Cheshire West test namely:

    “the objective component of the confinement in a particular restricted place for a not negligible length of time.”

  2. Further the Trust submits that D’s parents cannot consent to his placement at Hospital B because such a decision, to consent to what would otherwise amount to a deprivation of liberty, falls outside the ‘zone of parental responsibility’.
  3. Accordingly, the Trust submits the appropriate course is to seek the court’s approval of D’s placement under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court.
  4. The local authority adopts a diametrically opposed stance. It submits that the circumstances of D’s placement do not amount to a deprivation of liberty. Further, it submits that the decision of D’s parents to consent to his placement at Hospital B falls within the proper exercise of parental responsibility. Accordingly what might otherwise constitute a deprivation of liberty does not do so because the second and third limbs of the test in Cheshire West are not satisfied namely:

    ” (b) the subjective component of lack of valid consent; and

    (c) the attribution of responsibility to the state”.

This has substantial implications – all disabled children who are receiving care from the State and whose liberty is being restricted (in order to keep them safe) on the Trust’s interpretation of Cheshire West would need to have that deprivation of liberty authorised – even if the parents were consenting. The real bad news there is that for people under 16, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 doesn’t cover them and such deprivation of liberty would have to be authorised under the Children Act 1989.  Which means, to spell it out, placing all of those disabled children in Secure Accommodation.

 

Which also means making Court applications. Which also means the residential homes that are caring for these disabled children needing to go through the registration process to qualify as Secure Units.

 

It is an interpretation of Cheshire West which does make logical sense from the judgment, but which has immensely worrying consequences. Not least that the Secure Accommodation provisions might well not be met for these children and the alternative would be that carers at the residential units would thus have no power to restrict the children’s movements  (for example, not being able to stop them from running into the road)

 

[I note that Keehan J in this case specifically rules that the High Court can authorise deprivation of liberty for children under the inherent jurisdiction. I’m really rather dubious about that. I know the inherent jurisdiction is a magic bullet for every situation with almost limitless powers, but to use it to sidestep s25 Secure Accommodation provisions seems to me to have real difficulties with s100 – particularly s100 (4) (a) which bars granting leave to a Local Authority to make an application under the inherent jurisdiction if there is a statutory order the LA could apply for instead, and s100 (4) (b) which says that leave can’t be granted unless the Court is satisfied that significant harm would result to the child otherwise. Would anyone ever appeal it? probably not. ]

 

Any Local Authority lawyer dealing with deprivation of liberty or disabled / disturbed children is really really nervous about how this case is going to turn out. It is a big test case.

Here’s the practical arrangements for D, to consider whether they amount to a deprivation of liberty

Dr K describes D’s life at Hospital B as follows:

“D is residing on X one of the two buildings which make up the adolescent service. Each building is a six-bedded unit. Each young person has their own bedroom, and shares bathroom and living areas with the other patients. There is a school room attached to each building, and all the students receive full time education provided from a special school outreach service.”

“D’s unit is staffed 24 hours a day.

It has a locked front door. D does not leave the ward without a staff member or his family accompanying him. He has been offered opportunity to undertake small tasks by himself, such as emptying the bins, but he says he is scared. Unescorted leave would be considered as part of his treatment package to see how he fares.

D has his own bedroom, which he can access whilst he is on the unit at his leisure. He shares a bathroom and residential areas within the building.

D is on general observations. This means that he is checked on every half an hour or so. However, D seeks out contact with staff more regularly within that time and this means that he is under direct observation on a much more regular basis. I am of the view that he is under constant supervision and control.

His school is integral to the building. He goes off site for all relevant school activities such as, to music sessions on site, and to activities which take place in the community, such as shopping and cafes. He leaves the unit on a daily basis, accompanied by staff.

He is independent in his self-care, and requires minimal support for this. He eats a varied diet independently, and is able to vocalise his preferences.

Attempts to engage him in more serious conversation unnerves him, and he will try to deflect the subject, or directly challenge the person, by telling them that he is not happy. I am of the view that this is reflected in the anxiety he has shown around his discharge. My team will need to manage this carefully within the discharge process.

When out in the community, D is supported one-to-one. He has stated that he would be anxious to go out on his own, and prefers to be accompanied by staff. On occasion he has to be reminded about his behaviour when out, as he might stare and pull faces at strangers. He has been encouraged to do some tasks independently, such as emptying the bins outside, but he has stated that he was too anxious to do it by himself and so he is accompanied when doing this.”

 

That does seem, from Cheshire West, to be deprivation of liberty, and indeed Keehan J found it to be so, and all parties accepted that those circumstances did amount to a deprivation of liberty following Cheshire West.

In the ultimate analysis counsel for the Trust and counsel for the local authority accepted that the circumstances in which D was accommodated amounted to a deprivation of liberty subject to the issue of consent to the placement.

On the facts of this case I am wholly satisfied that D lives in conditions which amount to a deprivation of his liberty. He is under constant supervision and control. The fact that D enjoys residing in the unit in Hospital B, that he is comfortable there and readily seeks out and engages with members of staff are irrelevant factors when considering whether there is a deprivation of liberty. So too are the facts that the arrangements have been made in his welfare best interests and have been, and are, to his benefit. A gilded cage is still a cage.

 

The issue then, was whether the parents could consent to D’s liberty being deprived in this way.

  1. Mr Cowen, on behalf of the local authority sought to contend that:

    i) Cheshire West did not apply to those cases where the young person concerned was under the age of 16 years;

    ii) in such a case the decision in Cheshire West, that the disability or mental disorder of the young person concerned was irrelevant to the question of whether there was a deprivation of liberty, did not apply; and

    iii) the court should prefer and apply the ‘relative normality’ test propounded by the Court of Appeal in P and Q.

  2. I do not accept any of those propositions. The protection of Article 5 of the Convention and the fundamental right to liberty applies to the whole of the human race; young or old and to those with disabilities just as much to those without. It may be those rights have sometimes to be limited or restricted because of the young age or disabilities of the individual but ‘the starting point should be the same as that for everyone else’, per Baroness Hale: Cheshire West at paragraph 45.
  3. The majority in Cheshire West decided that what it means to be deprived of liberty is the same for everyone, whether or not they have a physical or mental disability: per Baroness Hale in Cheshire West at paragraph 46.
  4. I accept the essential ratio of Cheshire West does not apply to the circumstances of this case. Nevertheless, in my view, the acid test definitions of a deprivation of liberty apply as much to D as they did to the subjects of the appeals in Cheshire West.
  5. In the premises I do not accept the local authority’s third submission that I should reject the approach of the Supreme Court in Cheshire West and apply the Court of Appeal’s test of ‘relative normality’. I do not understand the logic of the submission that I should hold that the decision of the Supreme Court does not apply to the facts of this case but then resurrect and apply the test propounded by the Court of Appeal which was expressly rejected by the majority of the Supreme Court.
  6. The essential issue in this case is whether D’s parents can, in the proper exercise of parental responsibility, consent to his accommodation in Hospital B and thus render what would otherwise be a deprivation of liberty not a deprivation of liberty (ie the 2nd limb in Cheshire West is not satisfied).

 

That’s quite dense, so I’ll walk you through it. The argument was that Cheshire West, being a Mental Capacity Act case, doesn’t strictly apply to minors. The Judge said that this was right, but that the Supreme Court’s acid test as to what sort of restrictions amounted to a deprivation of liberty DID apply also to children, and that the Local Authority’s argument that the restrictions in place for D were the sort of restrictions that a child like D would have (relative normality) was exactly the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in Cheshire West that had been rejected.

When considering whether D’s liberty had been deprived, his physical or mental disabilities were not a relevant factor  – they might well be relevant when later considering whether those restrictions were the right thing for him but not at the stage of considering whether they amounted to a deprivation of liberty.

The argument that children like D need these restrictions, so they aren’t a deprivation of liberty in the way that they would be for a child who didn’t have D’s issues was completely rejected by the High Court.

The sole issue was whether the parents could exercise parental responsibility to CONSENT to those restrictions, thus making the deprivation of liberty one that was effectively consented to, and thus not a breach of Article 5.  IF the parents could consent, then there would not NEED to be a court order or declaration to justify the article 5 breach, since the restrictions would be by consent and the breach would fall away.

 

Mr McKendrick for the Trust set out the arguments for why the Trust considered that the parents could NOT consent.  (I have to confess that in reading this, much as I want the LA to win this argument and so much rides on it, I was thinking that Mr McKendrick’s points were right)

48. Mr McKendrick reminds me that Dr K does not consider D to be Gillick competent to consent to his residence, treatment or care. He referred me to the provision of the new MHA Code of Practice which comes into effect on 1 April 2015. Paragraphs 19.47 – 19.48 provide:

      1. 19.47 An additional and significant factor when considering whether the proposed intervention in relation to a child or young person is a restriction of liberty or amounts to a deprivation of liberty is the role of parental control and supervision. Practitioners will need to determine whether the care regime for, and restrictions placed on, the child or young person accord with the degree of parenting control and supervision that would be expected for a child or young person of that age. For example, whereas it is usual for a child of under 12 years not to be allowed out unaccompanied without their parent’s permission, this would not usually be an acceptable restriction on a 17 year old. Account also needs to be taken of the particular experience of the child or young person. For example, a younger child who has been caring for their parent, including shopping for the household and/or accompanying their parent to medical appointments, might not be used to being prevented from going out unaccompanied.
      1. 19.48 Prior to the Supreme Court’s judgment in Cheshire West, case law had established that persons with parental responsibility cannot authorise a deprivation of liberty. Cheshire West clarified the elements establishing a deprivation of liberty, but did not expressly decide whether a person with parental responsibility could, and if so in what circumstances, consent to restrictions that would, without their consent, amount to a deprivation of liberty. In determining whether a person with parental responsibility can consent to the arrangements which would, without their consent, amount to a deprivation of liberty, practitioners will need to consider and apply developments in case law following Cheshire West. In determining the limits of parental responsibility, decision-makers must carefully consider and balance: (i) the child’s right to liberty under article 5, which should be informed by article 37 of the UNCRC, (ii) the parent’s right to respect for the right to family life under article 8, which includes the concept of parental responsibility for the care and custody of minor children, and (iii) the child’s right to autonomy which is also protected under article 8. Decision makers should seek their own legal advice in respect of cases before them. (Chapter 26 provides guidance on the use of restrictive interventions.)
  1. The Trust submitted that D’s parents cannot consent to a deprivation of his liberty in Hospital B for 11 reasons: i) D has the same Article 5 ECHR rights as an adult and the same definition of deprivation of liberty applies to him as it does to adults;

    ii) D has a mental disorder, he is deprived of his liberty pursuant to Article 5 (1) (e) – see Cheshire at paragraph 6, per Baroness Hale: “Article 5(1)(e) permits the lawful detention of persons of unsound mind, but that detention has to conform to the Convention standards of legality, and the doctrine of necessity did not provide HL with sufficient protection against arbitrary deprivation of his liberty. The court was struck by the difference between the careful machinery for authorising the detention and treatment of compulsory patients under the Mental Health Act and the complete lack of any such machinery for compliant incapacitated patients such as HL”;

    iii) D has been resident on a locked psychiatric ward for fifteen months;

    iv) D can only leave that ward with adult 1:1 supervision;

    v) whilst his parents consented to his placement, such consent much be seen in the context they could not accommodate him at their home;

    vi) he does not lead a life of relative normalcy;

    vii) D is fifteen and shortly will be afforded the protection of the MCA to authorise and review any deprivation of liberty occasioned by being deprived of his liberty at Hospital B (by way of application of s. 4A MCA, given Schedule A1 would not apply to him until he is 18);

    viii) to rely (effectively solely) on parental consent, when D’s parents cannot accommodate and care for him (and have no or other limited options for their son) is an insufficient safeguard to protect D’s Article 5 ECHR rights;

    ix) parental consent over a period of fifteen months, as means of review and safeguard, is not compliant with Article 5 (4);

    x) it is out with the reasonable zone of parental control to authorise the deprivation of liberty for such a prolonged period of time and is inconsistent with a child’s Article 5 ECHR right;

    xi) hospital clinicians remain uneasy about caring for and depriving a child of his liberty, given the length of time and given his age, with only authority provided by way of parental consent.

  2. The Trust concludes its submissions as follows:

    The applicant recognises there may be cases where parents can authorise the deprivation of liberty of a younger child for a shorter period of time, in a hospital setting. The applicants are not certain the concession approved by the court in RK is correct. Indeed it seems clear parents can authorise the first stage of the deprivation of liberty test (i.e. they can deprive, rather than just restrict, the liberty of their children, at home) but that such deprivation is not an Article 5 deprivation of liberty, because it is not attributable to the state. Each case ultimately must be considered on its facts (however unpalatable such an approach may be in respect of public resource considerations).

    Whilst the applicant (in many ways) would gratefully submit that D is not deprived of his liberty, it does not consider it is appropriate for a public body to interpret the law in a manner disadvantageous to the protection of a vulnerable child’s rights. Whilst the applicant would readily adopt a “pragmatic approach” as identified by Gross LK in RK, the applicant submits the preferred conclusion, on the facts of these proceedings, is that D is deprived of his liberty, such deprivation is attributable to the state and his parents cannot provide valid consent.

 

Powerful stuff.

Here comes the decision.

  1. When considering the exercise of parental responsibility in this case and whether a decision falls within the zone of parental responsibility, it is inevitable and necessary that I take into account D’s autism and his other diagnosed conditions. I do so because they are important and fundamental factors to take into account when considering his maturity and his ability to make decisions about his day to day life.
  2. An appropriate exercise of parental responsibility in respect of a 5 year old child will differ very considerably from what is or is not an appropriate exercise of parental responsibility in respect of a 15 year old young person.
  3. The decisions which might be said to come within the zone of parental responsibility for a 15 year old who did not suffer from the conditions with which D has been diagnosed will be of a wholly different order from those decisions which have to be taken by parents whose 15 year old son suffers with D’s disabilities. Thus a decision to keep such a 15 year old boy under constant supervision and control would undoubtedly be considered an inappropriate exercise of parental responsibility and would probably amount to ill treatment. The decision to keep an autistic 15 year old boy who has erratic, challenging and potentially harmful behaviours under constant supervision and control is a quite different matter; to do otherwise would be neglectful. In such a case I consider the decision to keep this young person under constant supervision and control is the proper exercise of parental responsibility.
  4. The parents of this young man are making decisions, of which he is incapable, in the welfare best interests of their son. It is necessary for them to do so to protect him and to provide him with the help and support he needs.
  5. I acknowledge that D is not now cared for at home nor ‘in a home setting’. His regime of care and treatment was advised by his treating clinicians and supported by his parents. They wanted to secure the best treatment support and help for their son. They have done so. It has proved extremely beneficial for D who is now ready to move to a new residential home out of a hospital setting. What other loving and caring parent would have done otherwise?
  6. Those arrangements are and were made on the advice of the treating clinicians. All professionals involved in his life and in reviewing his care and treatment are agreed that these arrangements are overwhelmingly in D’s best interests. On the facts of this case, why on public policy or human rights grounds should these parents be denied the ability to secure the best medical treatment and care for their son? Why should the state interfere in these parents’ role to make informed decisions about their son’s care and living arrangements?
  7. I can see no reasons or justifications for denying the parents that role or permitting the state to interfere in D’s life or that of his family.
  8. I accept the position might well be very different if the parents were acting contrary to medical advice or having consented to his placement at Hospital B, they simply abandoned him or took no interest or involvement in his life thereafter.
  9. The position could not be more different here. D’s parents have regular phone calls with him. They regularly visit him at the unit. Every weekend D has supported visits to the family home. He greatly enjoys spending time at home with his parents and his younger brother.
  10. In my judgment, on the facts of this case, it would be wholly disproportionate, and fly in the face of common sense, to rule that the decision of the parents to place D at Hospital B was not well within the zone of parental responsibility. Conclusions
  11. I am satisfied that the circumstances in which D is accommodated would amount to a deprivation of liberty but for his parents’ consent to his placement there.
  12. I am satisfied that, on the particular facts of this case, the consent of D’s parents to his placement at Hospital B, with all of the restrictions placed upon his life there, falls within the ‘zone of parental responsibility’. In the exercise of their parental responsibility for D, I am satisfied they have and are able to consent to his placement.

 

So whilst for D, a gilded cage is still a cage and one doesn’t take into account his disabilities, whether or not his parents are able to consent to him being in that cage is a decision that CAN take into account his disabilities.

 

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About suesspiciousminds

Law geek, local authority care hack, fascinated by words and quirky information; deeply committed to cheesecake and beer.

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