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“I know it when I see it” – deprivation of liberty

 

Readers will know that I don’t always agree with Mostyn J on issues of deprivation of liberty, but I think that he makes some very powerful points in this case and he makes them well.

 

Bournemouth Borough Council v PS 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/39.html

It involves a 28 year old, who the Court is naming “Ben”  (not his real name) who is on the autistic spectrum and has learning difficulties. The Local Authority who are providing him with care, asked the Court to make a ruling as to (a) whether the care package they were providing amounted to a deprivation of liberty and (b) whether if so, the Court would declare that this was in his best interests.

 

Firstly, Mostyn J wanted to ensure that all of the savings that Ben had accrued during his life by living frugally were not immediately eaten up by lawyers, since he would have to pay for a lawyer if represented through the Official Solicitor.  Mostyn J put different arrangements in place to ensure that Ben’s voice was heard, without draining his savings.  I applaud him for that, and it is a shame, that as he says, this may be one of the last times that this clever solution is useable.

  1. By virtue of COP Rule 2007 rule 141(1), as presently in force, Ben, as a party lacking capacity, is required to have a litigation friend. By virtue of great frugality Ben has accumulated appreciable savings from his benefits. It was foreseeable that were Ben to have a litigation friend who instructed solicitors and counsel, his savings would soon be consumed in legal costs. In my own order of 17 March 2015 I caused a recital to be inserted recording my concern that his means should not be eroded by legal costs. That same order recorded that Ben would be referred to the IMCA service for the appointment of an IMCA. That has duly happened and I have had the benefit of a helpful report from the IMCA, Katie Turner, where Ben’s wishes and feelings are clearly set out.
  2. In Re X (Deprivation of Liberty) No. 2 [2014] EWCOP 37 [2015] 2 FCR 28 Sir James Munby P at paras 12 – 15 and 19 explained that Article 6 of the 1950 Convention required that a protected person should be able to participate in the proceedings properly and satisfactorily with the opportunity of access to the court and of being heard, directly or indirectly, in the proceedings. However, these standards did not necessarily require that the protected person should be a party to the proceedings. There was no obstacle to the protected person participating in the proceedings without being a party.
  3. This ruling has been put on a statutory footing by a new rule 3A to the COP rules. This permits the protected person’s participation to be secured by the appointment of a non-legal representative. However this new rule does not take effect until 1 July 2015, some three weeks hence.
  4. In the circumstances, in what I suppose will be one of the last orders of its kind to be made, I directed that Ben be discharged as a party. I was wholly satisfied that his voice has been fully heard through the IMCA Katie Turner. Further, in relation to the question of deprivation of liberty, all relevant submissions have been fully put on both sides of the argument by counsel for the applicant and the first respondent.

 

One of the real hopes about Cheshire West when it went to the Supreme Court was that there would be a working definition of what ‘deprivation of liberty’ actually amounts to.  I didn’t like the Court of Appeal solution that it could be person specific  (i.e that a person with special needs can have less liberty and more restrictions to his liberty than an average person because his needs require it), but the Supreme Court’s acid-test is not proving much simpler than the old tangled case law.

The facts in this case which might have amounted to a deprivation of liberty were these:-

  1. There are no locks on the doors but there are sensors which would alert a staff member were he to seek to leave, although he has never tried to do so. Mr Morrison explained the situation as follows:

    “The property is such he is in theory able to leave his home on his own volition. Since he has lived at his bungalow he has never left of his own accord or verbally requested to leave without staff. However a door alarm is in place which would alert staff should Ben attempt to leave without staff attendance. If Ben were to leave the property without this having been arranged by staff they would quickly follow him, attempt to engage with him, and monitor him in the community. Ben requires one to one staff support at all times in the community. If he decided he didn’t want to return to his home, staff would firstly verbally encourage him to return, if this proved unsuccessful the Manager of Ben’s care agency would be contacted and they or another staff member would arrive and assist. If this proved unsuccessful further advice, support and attendance by Crisis Team and Social Services for crisis management would be sought and to consider whether a Mental Health Act assessment would be required. If this proved unsuccessful then consideration would be given to the attendance of the Police. Police attendance would be determined by the circumstances and if it is deemed his health and safety and that of others are at risk of harm. At all times staff would remain with Ben.”

  2. In his oral evidence Mr Morrison explained that if all attempts to persuade Ben to return home failed they would ask the police to exercise the powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 to remove Ben to a place of safety. He also explained that consistently with a duty of common humanity if staff were out with Ben and he appeared to be about to step in front of a car they would prevent him from doing so. He stated in his witness statement:

    “Ben needs 1-1 staff support in the community as he lacks road and traffic awareness. Without staff support Ben would not take into account the traffic or road conditions at any given time. If Ben was unescorted in the community it is highly likely he would walk out into the road presenting a high risk of serious harm to him and potentially others. When Ben is escorted in the community he would be guided either verbally or physically and supported to cross a road and staff would intervene should he put himself at risk of significant harm.”

  3. He accepted under cross-examination that such an act of humanity could not amount to a deprivation of liberty, and I emphatically agree.
  4. In his witness statement Mr Morrison dwelt on one particular aspect of necessary supervision. He stated:

    “There is particular risk associated with Ben accessing public toilets in the community as the result of past incidents of Ben engaging in inappropriate sexual activity in public places including toilets. Ben has no understanding of the rights of other members of the public having access to public toilets safely and that any sexual activity in a toilet is illegal. Ben is supported by staff to access public toilets should he need to do so. … He is encouraged to use the locked cubicle of the disabled toilet and staff have a key to access should this be required. When Ben uses a male communal toilet the worker either remains outside the building or goes inside to support Ben. If Ben does not want to leave the toilet a male worker would enter the toilet and encourage him to leave. If a female worker was in attendance they would remain on site and the manager of the care agency would be called for assistance and attendance. A male worker or the intensive support team worker will arrive to support Ben. If this proved unsuccessful the Intensive support team would be called for specialist support and if unsuccessful then Police would be called.”

 

Remember that in deprivation of liberty, there’s a two stage test. Firstly, are the restrictions such as to amount to a deprivation of liberty? And secondly, if so, are those restrictions in the person’s interests?

I think it is really easy to conflate the two. It is really easy to look at this and say “of course he would be stopped if he tried to run into the road” and rather than answering it as a two stage question to simply combine the two, ending up with “someone with Ben’s difficulties would and should be stopped from running into the road, so no deprivation of liberty”  – but that’s a re-set to the Court of Appeal take on Cheshire West.

The comparison is not of Ben with other people with his difficulties and the liberty that they enjoy, but of Ben with other twenty-eight year olds, or Ben with other adults. Other adults are allowed to leave the place where they live, and are not going to be brought back by the police.  (unless their liberty is being deprived as a result of the criminal justice system, or secure accommodation, or the Mental Health Act, or a Deprivation of Liberty under the MCA).  You might consider it to be daft or irresponsible to give Ben the freedom to leave his home and go wherever he wants even if that’s in the middle of the night, but that’s why there’s the second limb – are the restrictions in his best interests?

Whether they are in his best interests or not, doesn’t stop the fact that the restrictions on his life amount to his liberty  being deprived, that’s a deprivation of liberty.

I think there’s also a blurring of whether deprivation of liberty is to be taken with a silent word ‘complete’ in there.  Few would argue that a man locked up in a prison cell, told when to eat and sleep and when he can exercise or go outside is a complete deprivation of liberty, and that what Ben is experiencing is not qualitively the same thing at all. But the Act doesn’t talk about ‘complete’ deprivation, and nor do the Supreme Court.

 

As Mostyn J says, the fuzziness around the edges of deprivation of liberty lead to applications of this kind being made, and as we saw at the outset, they don’t always make things better for Ben and people like him. He could have had all of his savings chewed up by a technical legal debate that he couldn’t care less about, because the chances are whether a Judge decides that his circumstances amount to a deprivation of liberty or not, the Judge is going to go on and say that the restrictions are in his best interests.

 

  1. In her lecture Lady Hale frankly stated that the decision of the Supreme Court of 19 March 2014 has had “alarming practical consequences”. I was told by Miss Davies that in the immediate aftermath of the decision the rate of suspected DOLs cases in this local authority rose by 1000% (it has recently reduced to 800%). This local authority is one of three in Dorset. Statistics from the Department of Health state that in the six month period immediately following the decision 55,000 DOLs applications were made, an eightfold increase on 2013-14 figures.
  2. The resource implications in terms of time and money are staggering. In the Tower Hamlets case I stated at para 60:

    “Notwithstanding the arrival of the streamlined procedure recently promulgated by the Court of Protection Practice Direction 10AA there will still be tens if not hundreds of thousands of such cases and hundreds of thousands if not millions of documents to be processed. The streamlined procedure itself requires the deployment of much man and womanpower in order to identify, monitor and process the cases. Plainly all this will cost huge sums, sums which I would respectfully suggest are better spent on the front line rather than on lawyers.”

  3. I do not criticise this local authority in the slightest for bringing this case. In the light of the decision of the Supreme Court local authorities have to err on the side of caution and bring every case, however borderline, before the court. For if they do not, and a case is later found to be one of deprivation of liberty, there may be heavy damages claims (and lawyers’ costs) to pay. I remain of the view that the matter needs to be urgently reconsidered by the Supreme Court.

Although I disagree with Mostyn J about the merits of returning to the Court of Appeal Cheshire West decision, I can’t argue with him on the underlined passage. This is not public money being well spent to make people’s lives better. This is a huge amount of money being expended to achieve very little.

 

Mostyn J’s view on the individual case is that the current circumstances do not amount to a deprivation of liberty and that it would only arise at the point where the police were asked to bring him back

 

I cannot say that I know that Ben is being detained by the state when I look at his position. Far from it. I agree with Mr Mullins that he is not. First, he is not under continuous supervision. He is afforded appreciable privacy. Second, he is free to leave. Were he to do so his carers would seek to persuade him to return but such persuasion would not cross the line into coercion. The deprivation of liberty line would only be crossed if and when the police exercised powers under the Mental Health Act. Were that to happen then a range of reviews and safeguards would become operative. But up to that point Ben is a free man. In my judgment, on the specific facts in play here, the acid test is not met. Ben is not living in a cage, gilded or otherwise.

Famously, a group of professionals working in the field were given case studies about various scenarios and asked to conclude whether each was, or was not, a deprivation of liberty and there was barely any consensus. Have things got better post Cheshire West, or are we now arguing relentlessly about ‘acid tests’ and ‘freedom to leave and ‘continuous supervision”?

 

What I like most about Mostyn J is that you never leave one of his judgments without having learned something new. There are not many people who would produce both poetry and an American case about hard core pornography to prove a point, but Mostyn J is one of them, and he has enriched my day by doing so.  I also believe that this case is now legal authority for both the elephant test and ‘if it looks like a duck’ and should you need to demonstrate those principles, you may pray this case in aid.   [The formulation of the duck principle is expressed in slightly different wording to the traditional use, so beware of a pedant challenging you]

 

  1. The continuing legal controversy shows how difficult it is to pin down a definition of what is a deprivation of liberty (i.e. detention by the state) as opposed to a restriction on movement or nothing beyond humane and empathetic care. It has been said on a number of occasions by the Strasbourg Court that the difference is merely one of degree or intensity, and not one of nature or substance (see, for example, Stanev v Bulgaria (2012) 55 EHRR 22 at para 115). Ultimately I think that whether a factual situation does or does not satisfy the acid test is likely to be determined by the “I know it when I see it” legal technique. That received its most famous expression from Justice Potter Stewart in the US Supreme Court in Jacobellis v Ohio (1964) 378 U.S. 184, an obscenity case, where he stated “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [of hard-core pornography]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” The technique has been expressed in zoological metaphor. In Cadogan Estates Ltd v Morris [1998] EWCA Civ 1671, a case about a claim for a new lease, Stuart-Smith LJ stated at para 17 “this seems to me to be an application of the well known elephant test. It is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it”. Another expression is the well known aphorism attributed to the American poet James Whitcomb Riley who wrote “when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck”. The case of Stanev was perfectly obviously one of rigorous state detention. In describing Mr Stanev’s circumstances the court referred to the “severity of the regime”. The complainant was held in dire conditions in a remote compound enclosed by a high metal fence. Apart from the administration of medication, no therapeutic activities were organised for residents, who led passive, monotonous lives. The complainant needed prior permission to leave the compound, even to visit the nearby village. He had been denied permission to travel on many occasions by the management. In accordance with a practice with no legal basis, residents who left the premises for longer than the authorised period were treated as fugitives and were searched for by the police. The complainant had in fact been arrested by the police on one occasion.
  2. One does not need to reach for many legal tomes to realise that this was unquestionably a case of deprivation of liberty. The Strasbourg court knew it when it saw it.
  3. In KC v Poland [2014] ECHR 1322 a 72 year old widow, under the apparent care of a social guardian, who had previously been declared to be partially incapacitated, was placed by a court, against her wishes, in a care home on account of chronic schizophrenia and a disorder of the central nervous system. She could ask for permission to leave the care home on her own during the day. When she asked for the court order to be varied to allow her to leave for one hour a day to go to the shops and to allow her to stay in her room all day, this request was declined by the court on the basis that it was provided for by the internal regulations of the care home. The Polish government’s position was that she had never requested permission to leave on her own even for a short period of time. However, and unsurprisingly, the government did not contest that she had been deprived of her liberty under Article 5. It knew it when it saw it. The court, inevitably, agreed. At para 51 it stated:

    “In the present case, although the applicant has been declared only partially incapacitated and although the Government submitted that she could ask to leave the social care home on her own during the day, they did not contest that she had been deprived of her liberty. She was compulsory placed in the social care home, against her will, on the basis of a court decision. Therefore, the responsibility of the authorities for the situation complained of is engaged.”

  4. In my opinion that was a very obvious case of state detention

 

The problem with “I know it when I see it” is that it is going to be completely subjective. As Mostyn J pointed out, if a Local Authority worker or lawyer decides “I know it when I see it” and this isn’t a Deprivation of Liberty, and someone later challenges that it was and was an unlawful one, that then hangs on what a Judge will decide when he or she runs the “I know it when I see it” exercise. If they disagree with the LA, financial consequences will rack up. It is risk and uncertainty, and who wants risk and uncertainty?  (other than casinos and fans of Game of Thrones)

Somerset v MK – conduct of a Local Authority and deprivation of liberty

 

 

This is a Court of Protection case, involving a 19 year old “P”.

 

Somerset v MK – Court of Protection,Deprivation of Liberty ,Best Interests Decisions ,Conduct of a Local Authority 2014

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2014/B25.html

 

P is aged 19, she was born on 10/10/1994 and has severe learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. She has almost no verbal capacity and communicates through gestures and via PECS

 

In May 2013, P presented with bruising on her chest and was examined by a paediatrician

 

His report (G25) said: “the bruising is felt to be comparable with a blow / blows to P’s anterior chest with a significant force or fall onto an object… this would be an unusual injury pattern to have been self-inflicted but if this was the case then it would be expected that such self-harm, which would have been demonstrably significant and painful, would have been witnessed”.

 

 

Sadly, when considering how those bruises came about, nobody seemed to have grasped the significance of the report from the school two days earlier of P being observed to hit herself hard and repeatedly on the chest.

 

The Judge notes,with a degree of acidity, that it seemed to only be when the papers in the case were sent by the Local Authority to leading counsel that the two matters were linked and the Local Authority ceased to seek a finding that P had been injured by her parents.

 

The belief that P was not safe with her parents was what had led the LA to remove her and deprive her of her liberty, and hence to make the application authorising that deprivation of liberty. Initially it had been for two weeks respite, but that stretched on and on, to over a year.

 

16. In addition the LA changed its position on the factual issues so that it was unlikely to pursue factual findings with regard to the injuries sustained by P. Previously the chest bruising seemed to form a vital part of the LA case and one might, for instance, have expected findings being sought about a perpetrator or perpetrators and failure to protect but now it was clear that no such findings were being sought. It is also clear from the document that the significance of the reported hitting by P of herself in the chest on 21/5/13 had been realised (the class trip evidence had not yet been identified). I suspect the realisation of the significance of this evidence in any Finding of Fact hearing and the instruction of very experienced leading and junior counsel just prior to this document being filed are not entirely coincidental.

 

Given that the reason for keeping P apart from her family had been the suspicion that they had injured her, when the truth is that the bruising was explained by the school’s observations of her hitting herself in the very same place, the LA were in a very tough spot.

 

14. On the 26th March the LA filed its position statement dated 25/3/14 to be found at A12 to 15. In this document the LA conceded that P had been deprived of her liberty (it contended that there may have been some doubt about that before but not after the Supreme Court ruling in the Cheshire West case).

 

15. In addition the LA accepted that there had been a period when they had unlawfully deprived P of her liberty contrary to Article 5 ECHR. It had not been authorised by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and was not therefore “a procedure prescribed by law”. This it accepted continued from 8th June 2013 (the date when the respite care was supposed to have ended and 28th November 2013 when the first authorisation was obtained. It goes on to concede that P’s deprivation of liberty and the loss of her society to her family was a breach of both P and M’s Article 8 rights and not in accordance with the law.

 

 

If they had stuck with the apology and worked up a rehab plan without delay, things probably would have gone better for them, but instead they decided that it was in P’s best interests for her NOT to return to the family home but to be in a long term placement at a care home.

 

17. The LA make it clear that the best interests decision as to what should happen from now on to P is one to be considered purely in terms of her present and future welfare needs. The document indicates that the LA wish to apologise to the family for its “procedurally inappropriate and unlawful” actions. It still proposes that the best solution is for P to be in LA care and accommodation (up to April 2014 it had suggested a long term placement at a care home in Bournemouth was appropriate). Now it accepts a new social worker should be involved and make another best interests assessment and the case should be returned to court for an interim consideration of where P should be.

 

 

As part of that, the LA had drawn up a schedule of findings of fact on other matters. It is significant to read what the Official Solicitor had to say about that schedule

“…the reliance on this long and historical schedule to paint a damaging picture of this family is unnecessary and disproportionate. It does not build bridges.”

 

 

The Judge agreed with that, and also in conclusion said this:-

 

the adversarial nature of the argument and cross-examination needed to advance the schedule robbed the LA’s apology for its conduct of at least some of it credibility, no matter how carefully and dextrously leading counsel for the LA put the case.

 

 

{It is rather difficult to look sincere in your apology when you’re also trying to stick the boot in at the same time}

 

25. The siren song behind the argument is if I make the findings of fact and apply them and all the other relevant considerations to the case I will be driven to find that P’s best interests will be served by her not returning home but as far as the LA are concerned that is a matter for the judge. An outside observer might ask himself the question if everyone including the independent social worker and the OS for P are agreed on a return home and the LA are neutral why has it taken 9 days to litigate the case? However the reality is that the past conduct of the family and the LA are the context for the best interests decision and also the components of the breach of the ECHR application and thus needed to be carefully examined.

 

 

The Court did not make the findings that the LA sought, including one that the Judge said was “unprovable and irrelevant at the same time”   (a difficult combination to achieve)

 

What makes this case potentially important is the evidence of the senior manager of the LA, who the Judge remarked a number of times had the principal role of being there to fall on his sword.

 

 

The senior social work manager is a highly intelligent and senior social worker but he is essentially there to fall on his sword for the LA failings and on the best interests issue does not add anything to the LA case

 

However,

 

 

57…He was in my view a highly intelligent, experienced and well-intentioned manager and social worker who was, having observed him not just when he was giving evidence but when he was listening to evidence, genuinely shocked at some points by what he heard. At the start of his evidence he said: “I think the crucial aspect relying on what I have heard in court is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of adult social care and how to go about their jobs“.

 

[Oh. My. God]

 

58.  He (and I) did not question the motivation of LA to do the right thing, as they saw it, for P but he described the conduct of social workers on the ground as misguided. There was no understanding of the law in this area and that extended to the LA lawyers as well as social workers. He accepted when I asked him that not only were individual actions wrong but the philosophy behind those actions was wrong as well. In particular he said that practice was inadequate when consulting with the family: “I have to ensure the staff who work in this area understand their role and I clearly failed in my responsibilities, failure as team manager, they failed to seek or take advice given the complex nature of the case. The beliefs and intentions of what people did was misguided in its approach”. He was very critical of the delay from September when the police indicated they were not taking their investigation of bruising any further to issuing proceedings which seemed to him to be time taken to, “put a good case together, which was not what we got”. He also highlighted the failure of the LA in not having a lawyer who specialised in adult social care.

 

[Oh. My. Flipping. God]

 

He was not wrong. The Judge analysed the conduct of the LA very carefully.

 

67. The police finally finished their investigation in September 2013, it was inconclusive. The LA were now in a position where prior to May they had not taken any action and the bruising in May could not be used to substantiate a retention of P. At the same time they had a very distressed young woman on their hands to whom medication was now being or about to be administered.

 

 68. Around about the time of the move to SASS people at last start to show alarm at the legal position. Why had they not appointed an IMCA (e-mails at O1169): “I am really not clear how we are holding P at Selwyn”, a colleague to Mr M 22/11/13, later that day in another e-mail should they not have gone to the CoP? Mr M on the same day: “P is still under safeguarding procedures”. One asks the questions why does he think that now the investigation has been over for two months and how does he think that justifies holding her?

 

 69. There had been other meetings the family should have been invited to but were not on 5/9/13 and on 12/11/13. The first of these meetings comprises of a massive amount of criticism being levelled at M and Mr E in particular most of which is either hearsay or from an anonymous source who is quoted at length but seems to be highly unreliable and possibly had some kind of personal agenda.

 

 70. At the meeting of 17/12/13 it was explained according to the minutes at J35 that the family were invited to discuss plans about P’s future and express their views. In fact it is clear that was not the reason they were invited at all. Far from a change of heart and an attempt to communicate the reason is clear. It was felt by Mr M on advice from the LA lawyers that: “The COP might pick up that no ’round table’ meeting has been held and this might disadvantage us during the hearing” (see the bundle at part O page1086).

 

[Oh. My. Martha. Flipping. God]

 

 

The Judge concludes

 

74. This is already a very long judgment and so I do not propose to go on reviewing the LA’s conduct further. The overall summing up by the senior social work manager was: “There has been a corporate failure and a failure of those on the ground to realise that they are out of their depth, most worrying was that they looked more sure about what they were doing than they ought, … it’s going to be difficult to re-establish that trust (with the family) if it’s rebuilt it is going to be with good practice”.” Mr Justice Ryder (as he then was) in a leading authority on FII cautioned social workers in child care cases not to decide what the picture was and then make the facts fit the picture, it seems to me that is what happened here.

 

 

Undertaking the best interests analysis, it is a demolition and as one-sided as a Harlem Globetrotters match

 

The balance sheet therefore shows the following –

 

 

In favour of P returning home

 

i Her wishes

 ii The wishes of her family

 

iii.             The right to a family life of P and her family

 iv The fact that at home she may not be subject to any deprivation of liberty and therefore this will be the least restrictive option

 v Concerns about the bruising have been abandoned as a reason for her not going home

 vi The OS supports return

 

vii.           The independent social work reporter supports return

 

viii.         I have found nothing in the Schedule of Facts to prevent return

 ix I have found there will be a degree of co-operation between the principal family members and the LA.

 

 

For a placement in a specialist home

 

 i The view of the LA that P will best reach her full potential in terms of her development, social life, communication skills and so on in a specialist home.

 

 

 

P therefore returned home and the Court found that there had been breaches by the Local Authority of her article 8 right to private and family life

 

76. There is no question here that P was removed unlawfully from her family, she went into Selwyn for respite care and it is from the date of her mother’s return from holiday that the breach flows. I further accept that the LA had a duty to investigate the bruising but I find that a competently conducted investigation would have swiftly come to the conclusion that no or no sufficient evidence existed to be able to conclude P’s safety was at risk by returning her home. This conclusion should have been reached within a week or so after the family asked for her back. If the LA came to a different conclusion, as they did, they should have applied to the CoP by early June for a hearing. Not doing so is a further breach. Having not done so they should have told the family they could make an application, not doing that is a further breach. After the Police investigation ended in September P should again have been returned but was not nor was an application made to CoP as it should have been. The limitations and conditions placed on contact between the family and P constitute another breach.

               

 

I make that five breaches

 

78. These findings illustrate a blatant disregard of the process of the MCA and a failure to respect the rights of both P and her family under the ECHR. In fact it seems to me that it is worse than that, because here the workers on the ground did not just disregard the process of the MCA they did not know what the process was and no one higher up the structure seems to have advised them correctly about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Deprivation of liberty and Mental Capacity Act – Europe beats Supreme Court to the punch?

The ECHR judgment in MH v UK is out today, even as we all await the Supreme Court deliberations and decision in Cheshire West.

I honestly can’t put it better than Lucy Series does, and if I can send a few people interested in mental capacity / civil liberties over to her sensational blog, I’ll count that as a very good day, so here it is.

 

I’ll give you her opening, to whet your appetite

Whilst 18 barristers fought it out over the Cheshire case in the Supreme Court this week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) handed down a judgment which could have equally dramatic consequences for the Mental Capacity Act 2005 deprivation of liberty safeguards (MCA DoLS): MH v UK.  MH v UK confirmed what I have suspected for a long time, that the DoLS fall short of the requirements of Article 5(4) ECHR – the right to ‘take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful’.  The key issue is that without the assistance of a third party a person detained under the DoLS is unable (in practice) to be able to exercise their right of appeal, but there is no failsafe means by which the DoLS guarantee the requisite support.  In essence, there may be duties upon various entities to assist a person in exercising their right of appeal under the DoLS, arising via the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA).  But it is not entirely clear who, and few people – at present – are interpreting them in that way.  The million dollar question is – how do we respond to this?

 

http://thesmallplaces.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/mh-v-uk-implications-for-deprivation-of.html

 

Her beginners guide to Cheshire West is also very good

 

http://thesmallplaces.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-cheshire-case-beginners-guide.html

 

(See folks, this is what law writing actually looks like when it is done properly rather than my sarcasm and cut-and-paste.  Even if you aren’t involved in adult social care law, Lucy’s stuff is good for the brain)

Deprivation of liberty and force-feeding

The Court of Protection grappled with a difficult issue in A NHS Trust v Dr A 2013

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/COP/2013/2442.html

Apologies in advance – this is a long article, it is complex and if you don’t do mental capacity or mental health law you probably don’t need to read it.

The facts of the case involved a Doctor who began manifesting erratic behaviour, for example insisting that anyone in the colour red was a member of the Iranian Secret Police and that a book he was writing disproving evolution would make him famous after his death. Dr A also went on hunger strike, following the confiscation of his passport by the UK Border Agency.

Although one expert was of the view that Dr A’s behaviour was all an attempt to apply pressure to reverse decisions about his asylum case, the vast majority of the experts considered that he had had a genuine breakdown of his mental health.

Without going into the details too much, the Court were satisfied that Dr A was suffering from a delusional disorder impairing the functioning of his brain affecting his ability to use or weigh up information relevant to his decision as to whether or not to accept nourishment.  (And thus in terms, that he did not have the capacity to decide to refuse nourishment)

The Court then weighed up whether it was in Dr A’s best interests to receive nutrition by way of force feeding or not  – this is not a simple decision, and a number of competing factors were weighed up and considered. The Court determined that it would be in Dr A’s best interests to receive nutrition by way of nasogastric tube feeding.

However, an issue then arose about whether, having made the declaration that Dr A lacked capacity, and that force-feeding would be in his best interests, whether the Court actually had jurisdiction to compel it.

  1. I therefore conclude that it is in Dr. A’s best interests for this court to make an order that permits the forcible administration of artificial nutrition and hydration.
  1. I now turn to consider the power of the court to make the order in his best interests. The question emerged in the course of argument as to whether, in the circumstances of this case, the court had the power under the MCA to make an order for the forcible feeding of Dr. A. Subsequently, the investigation and analysis of that question has taken a considerable amount of time, both for the parties’ legal representatives and the court. It is alarming to find that the legal position on this fundamental issue is far from straightforward

 

The fact that the next part of the judgment is headed “Eligibility – a new gap?” will make practitioners in this field very nervous – the last gap went all the way to Europe, and ended up with the Mental Capacity Act and all of the impenetrability that the MCA has become in practice.

The Court had to look at whether force-feeding was a deprivation of liberty, and concluded that yes it was. This may well turn out to be important in other cases involving for example political protests,  Brady-type efforts to end ones own life or persons with eating disorders.

When determining whether the circumstances amount objectively to a deprivation of liberty, as opposed to a mere restriction of liberty, the court looks first at the concrete situation in which the individual finds himself. In this case, there is no dispute that subjecting Dr. A. to forcible feeding amounts to a deprivation of liberty. In order to feed him he will be physically restrained by NHS staff against his will while a nasogastric tube is inserted. The restraint continues to prevent him removing the tube. On occasions, in this process, he is sedated. He is not allowed to leave the hospital. The staff are effecting complete control over his care, treatment and movements, and, as a result, he loses a very significant degree of personal autonomy.

The issue then was whether the Court had powers under the MCA to make an order that had the effect of depriving Dr A of his liberty. This becomes very complex, very quickly, even by MCA standards.

  1. 16A(1) of the MCA are clear:

“If a person is ineligible to be deprived of liberty by this Act, the court may not include in a welfare order provision which authorises the person to be deprived of his liberty.”

And then a long trawl through Schedule 1A of the MCA which sets out when a person is ineligible to be deprived of liberty under the MCA shows that the MCA can’t be used to deprive a person of their liberty if they are being, or are capable of being , detained under the Mental Health Act.

In the light of the evidence suggesting that the criteria set by section 2 MHA might be met in respect of Dr. A., it seemed to me that it was at least arguable that he was “within the scope of the MHA” and therefore, by virtue of paragraph 5 of schedule 1A of the MCA, ineligible to be detained under the MCA.

The hospital actually detained Dr A under s3 of the Mental Health Act during the interim period between the Judge asking trial counsel how the heck this could be fixed and them coming up with solutions. Did that help?

  1. The consequence of placing Dr. A under section 3 was, however, merely to accentuate the difficulties about the application of section 16A because, although removing him from the ambit of case E of schedule 1A, it put him squarely within case A. On any view, he is both subject to a “hospital treatment regime” within the meaning of paragraph 8(1) of the schedule and also detained in a hospital under that regime. In those circumstances he is, prima facie, ineligible to be deprived of his liberty under the MCA and the Court of Protection may not include in any welfare order any provision which authorises him to be so deprived.
  1. Put boldly in that way, it will be seen that this might make it impossible for someone to be treated in a way that is outwith his “treatment” under the MHA if that treatment involves a deprivation of liberty. To take a stark example: if someone detained under section 3 is suffering from gangrene so as to require an amputation in his best interests and objects to that operation, so that it could only be carried by depriving him of his liberty, that process could not prima facie be carried out either under the MHA or under the MCA. This difficulty potentially opens a gap every bit as troublesome as that identified in the Bournewood case itself.

 

So, you can provide treatment to a person who is, or is capable of being, detained under the Mental Health Act, in accordance with the MHA  BUT if the treatment isn’t capable of being provided under the MHA you cannot then turn to the MCA as being a vehicle for providing that treatment even if the person does not have capacity and the Court has declared that the treatment is in their best interests, because of Schedule 1 A of the MCA.

Sorry, this is going to be  complex, it takes about five pages of going through the Act itself to get to that point – the Judge was so exasperated by what he described as  the ambiguity, obscurity and possible absurdity of the legislation, that he authorised counsel to look at the Parliamentary debates in a Pepper v Hart exercise to see if this idiocy was what Parliament had intended, or whether it was a cock-up.  (Judges hardly ever embark on the exercise of looking at what Parliament said about the construction of the Act  – it’s that Otto von Bismarck  “laws are like sausages – it is better not to see them being made” thing)

  1. The Official Solicitor now suggests three solutions to the problem described above:

(1) The necessary feeding and associated measures can be taken under the MHA. There is therefore no need for an order under the MCA.

(2) If the necessary feeding and associated measures cannot be taken under the MHA, an order can still and should be made under the MCA interpreted in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998.

(3) If the necessary feeding or associated measures cannot be taken under the MHA or the MCA, an order should be made under the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction.

I shall consider these options in turn.

Authorising the treatment under the Mental Health Act

Understandably, the Official Solicitor cited the Ian Brady case as authority for the suggestion that force-feeding can be authorised under the Mental Health Act.

This is the key passage in the Brady judgment that sanctioned his force-feeding under the MHA  (a decision that frankly, I found a bit ‘iffy’ at the time, going much further than traditional views that one can forcibly treat the mental disorder but not physical disorders under the MHA)

71.   “On any view, and to a high degree of probability, section 63 (MHA) was triggered because what arose was the need for medical treatment for the mental disorder from which the Applicant was and is suffering. The hunger strike is a manifestation or symptom of the personality disorder. The fact (if such it be) that a person without mental disorder could reach the same decision on a rational basis in similar circumstances does not avail the Applicant because he reached and persists in his decision because of his personality disorder.”

The medical evidence in this case did not back that up

In this case, therefore, the clinicians treating Dr. A. feel strongly that artificial nutrition and hydration and ancillary treatment are, on the facts of the case, treatment for a physical disorder, starvation and dehydration, and not for the underlying mental disorder. Dr. A. is not suffering from an eating disorder. Whilst feeding him may make him feel better, it is not treating him for a mental disorder as it would be were he suffering from anorexia nervosa.

  1. On this point I have found the views articulated by the treating clinicians, and in particular Dr. WJ, persuasive. She does not consider that the administration of artificial nutrition and hydration to Dr. A. in the circumstances of this case to be a medical treatment for his mental disorder, but rather for a physical disorder that arises from his decision to refuse food. That decision is, of course, flawed in part because his mental disorder deprives him of the capacity to use and weigh information relevant to the decision. The physical disorder is thus in part a consequence of his mental disorder, but, in my judgement, it is not obviously either a manifestation or a symptom of the mental disorder. This case is thus distinguishable from both the Croydon case and Brady.
  1. I also accept the submissions put forward by Miss Paterson, and acknowledged by the Official Solicitor, that it is generally undesirable to extend the meaning of medical treatment under the MHA too far so as to bring about deprivation of liberty in respect of sectioned or sectionable patients beyond what is properly within the ambit of the MHA. I recognise the need for identifying, where possible, a clear dividing line between what is and what is not treatment for a mental disorder within the meaning of the MHA; but I venture to suggest that in medicine, as in the law, it is not always possible to discern clear dividing lines. In case of uncertainty, where there is doubt as to whether the treatment falls within section 145 and section 63, the appropriate course is for an application to be made to the court to approve the treatment. That approach ensures that the treatment given under section 63 of the MHA will be confined to that which is properly within the definition of section 145 as amended. It would help to ensure that patients with mental disorders are, so far as possible, treated informally rather than under section. Finally, it ensures compliance with Article 8 and provides the patient with a more effective remedy than would otherwise be available, namely a forensic process to determine whether the treatment is in his best interests.
  1. I therefore decline to make a declaration that artificial nutrition and hydration can be administered to Dr. A. under the MHA

Authorising the treatment under the MCA, by interpreting it in light of the Human Rights Act

I liked this argument, it is clever. If the MCA as drafted, puts a Court in a position of not being able to protect the right to life of a person who the Court has determined does not have the capacity to refuse treatment which would save his life, the Court ought to interpret the MCA in such a way that it does NOT clash with the article 2 right to life. And using the powerful tool of s3 (1) Human Rights Act to do so

Under section 3(1) of the Human Rights Act:

“So far as it is possible to do so, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the Convention rights.”

 

  1. The second basis on which the Official Solicitor invites the court to authorise the forcible feeding of Dr. A. is under section 16 of the MCA. He submits that the provisions of the MCA read in compliance with the Human Rights Act and the European Convention permit the court to take this course. Mr. Moon and Miss Street submit, first, that, so far as it is possible to do so, the MCA must be interpreted so as to be consistent with the best interests of the person lacking capacity (section 1(5) of the MCA). Unless the court authorises the forcible administration of artificial nutrition and hydration to Dr. A. he will die. The court is thus under an obligation to interpret its powers in a way that ensures his life is saved.
  1. It is submitted by Mr. Moon and Miss Street, however, that the obligations on the court go further. Under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights “everyone’s rights to life shall be protected by law”. Amongst the duties imposed on the State by Article 2 is the so-called “operational duty” requiring the State in certain circumstances to take preventative measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk: Osman v. United Kingdom [1998] 29 EHRR 245.

 

 

But it is still No

  1. The course proposed by counsel, though in some ways attractive, involves reading into section 16A a provision that would have the effect of fundamentally altering its clear meaning. The scheme of the amendments to the MCA, introduced in 2007, is plain. In certain circumstances defined in schedule 1A, the MHA regime takes precedence over the MCA. No argument has been advanced which has persuaded me to disagree with the assessment of Charles J in Re GJ (supra) that the MHA has primacy over the MCA and, in particular, his observation at paragraph 96 of the judgment:

“Case A is a clear indication of the primacy of the MHA 1983 when a person is detained in hospital under the hospital treatment regime and it would seem that when it applies P cannot be deprived of liberty under the MCA in a hospital for any purpose.” [my emphasis]

In such circumstances, and notwithstanding the uncompromising words of Lord Nicholls quoted above, any court, particularly a Judge at first instance, must at least hesitate before reading into a statute words that would have the effect of fundamentally altering its meaning and undermining the apparent scheme of the legislation. He should hesitate still further when the proposed reading in has not been the subject of full argument on both sides nor referred to the relevant Government department. Despite the great efforts of counsel, I am far from satisfied that all the consequences of their proposed reading in of words into section 16A have been fully identified. It may be that, with further thought, an alternative reading or reinterpretation may seem prevalent. For example, it may be thought that, if any statute or provision needs to be reconsidered to ensure capability with ECHR in this context, it should be the MHA rather than the MCA.

  1. I acknowledge, of course, my obligation under section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act not to act in a way that is incompatible with that Act. Were it not for the availability of the inherent jurisdiction, I might be more inclined to adopt the course proposed above or to arrange further hearings before making a decision. Happily, however, for the reasons I will now explain, I am satisfied that the powers available to me under the inherent jurisdiction enable me to comply with my obligations under that section.

Inherent jurisdiction then?

The Judge set out the body of authority which endorses the view that the Court hold an inherent jurisdiction in relation to adults just as it does for children, ending with the most recent authority.

90.   Confirmation is provided by the more recent decision of the Court of Appeal in DL v. A Local Authority [2012] EWCA Civ. 253 in which Davis LJ said at paragraph 70:

“Where cases fall precisely within the ambit of the MCA 2005 and are capable of being dealt with under its provisions there is no room for – as well as no need for – invocation of the inherent jurisdiction. However, even in the case of an adult who lacks capacity within the meaning of the MCA 2005, it appears that the inherent jurisdiction remains available to cover situations not precisely within the reach of the statute.”

  1. The issue is considered at greater length in the judgment of McFarlane LJ who, in reaching the same conclusion, pointed out the MCA contains no provision restricting the use of the inherent jurisdiction in terms of those found in section 100 of the Children Act 1989, “Limited use of Wardship and Inherent Jurisdiction in matters relating to Children”. On this, McFarlane LJ said at paragraph 61:

“It would have been open to Parliament to include a similar provision, either permitting or restricting the use of the inherent jurisdiction in cases relating to the capacity to make decisions which are not within the MCA 2005. In the absence of any express provision, the clear implication is that if there are matters outside the statutory scheme to which the inherent jurisdiction applies then that jurisdiction continues to be available to continue to act as the ‘great safety net’ described by Lord Donaldson.”

In essence, if Parliament wanted to stop the use of inherent jurisdiction to creatively solve problems, they need to legislate this explicitly.

This is the cunning argument deployed  (which involves assuming that when the MCA says “Court” it means only the Court of Protection, not the High Court, even though in practice, as here, it is likely to be the same Judge, sitting in the same room, who just metaphorically puts on a different hat for a moment.

 

93.   (1) The prohibition on making an order which authorises the person being deprived of his liberty is expressly restricted to the Court of Protection exercising its statutory jurisdiction under the MCA and is not, but could have been, extended to the High Court exercising its inherent jurisdiction.

(2) Following McFarlane LJ in DL, the clear implication is that Parliament did not intend to prevent the High Court exercising its jurisdiction to make an order in the best interests and in order to uphold the Article 2 rights of a person lacking capacity in the circumstances of a case such as this.

(3) Furthermore, Parliament cannot have intended to remove the safety net from a person lacking capacity who requires the orders sought to be made in order to prevent his death.

(4) The relevant concept is his ineligibility to be “deprived by this Act” (section 16A(1) and schedule 1A at paragraph 2).

(5) If a person is ineligible to be deprived of his liberty by the MCA, section 16A provides that “the court may not include in a welfare order provision which authorises the person to be deprived of his liberty”. In this provision:

(a) “The court” means the Court of Protection; and

(b) “the welfare order” means an order under section 16(2)(a) of the Mental Capacity Act by the Court of Protection.

I agree with those submissions.

So, having determined that the Court had power under the Inherent Jurisdiction (which is like the legal equivalent of Duct Tape, or perhaps more accurately Polyfilla to cover up the cracks), the Judge then had to consider whether he should go on to use that power.

  1. the court, as a public authority, cannot lawfully act in a way that is incompatible with a right under ECHR. I accept the submission that I am under an operational duty under Article 2 to protect Dr. A., a man who, as I have found, lacks capacity to decide whether to accept nutrition and hydration against the risk of death from starvation. By making the orders sought by the Trust under the inherent jurisdiction, I will be complying with that operational duty.
  1. In all the circumstances, I hold that this court has the power under its inherent jurisdiction to make a declaration and order authorising the treatment of an incapacitated adult that includes the provision for the deprivation of his liberty provided that the order complies with Article 5. Unless and until this court or another court clarifies the interpretation of section 16A of the MCA, it will therefore be necessary, in any case in which a hospital wishes to give treatment to a patient who is ineligible under section 16A, for the hospital to apply for an order under the inherent jurisdiction where the treatment (a) is outside the meaning of medical treatment of the MHA 1983 and (b) involves the deprivation of a patient’s liberty.
  1. Under that jurisdiction, I am satisfied, for the reasons set out above, that an order for forcible feeding of Dr. A. is in his best interests. I therefore make the orders sought by the applicant Trust, that is to say declaring that it shall be lawful for the Trust clinicians to provide Dr. A. with artificial nutrition and hydration and to use reasonable force and restraint for that purpose, and further declaring that, insofar as those measures amount to a deprivation of liberty, they shall be lawful.

An elegant fix of a mess caused by Parliament.

There is a postscript update on Dr A, which may be of interest

98.   On 1st July 2013 (before the transcript of the judgment was finalised) the Trust notified my clerk that Dr A had returned to Iran, having made, in the doctors’ opinion, a capacitous decision to do so. I received statements from Drs R and WJ and correspondence from the parties, detailing the clinical decisions and events, which preceded his departure. I am informed that Dr A had continued to be provided with artificial nutrition and hydration requiring restraint. He also received amisulpride, an anti-psychotic. His mental state gradually improved, in response to the medication. Dr A started drinking and eating voluntarily on 8 and 10 May respectively. His weight returned to a level within a normal range. The Trust states that Dr A first mentioned he was returning to Iran on 23 May 2013. He made the final decision on 4 June 2013; after taking medical advice and legal advice from his immigration solicitor. On 14th June 2013 Dr WJ rescinded Dr A’s detention under section 3 MHA; his mental condition having continued to improve. He returned to Iran on 24 June 2013. I will now make an order concluding these proceedings, discharging the declarations and the order for a review hearing.

Parents can consent to restriction of liberty for children under 18, Court of Appeal rules

This appeal overturns Keehan J’s decision that whilst a parent could consent to a foster care arrangement that involves a restriction of liberty for a child under 16 (which thus means that it does not require either Secure Accommodation or court authorisation), they cannot do so for a child aged 16-17 and 363 days.

Re D (A child) 2017

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2017/1695.html

The Court of Appeal considered things very carefully and in huge detail. I don’t have time for the detailed analysis that the case merits, but it is an important decision, so people need to know it. The Court of Appeal felt, looking at things closely, that there was no magic in the age 16 when dealing with young people who lack capacity.

84.This has an important corollary. Given that there is no longer any ‘magic’ in the age of 16, given the principle that ‘Gillick capacity’ is ‘child-specific’, the reality is that, in any particular context, one child may have ‘Gillick capacity’ at the age of 15, while another may not have acquired ‘Gillick capacity’ at the age of 16 and another may not have acquired ‘Gillick capacity’ even by the time he or she reaches the age of 18: cf, In Re R (A Minor) (Wardship: Consent to Treatment) [1992] Fam 11, pages 24, 26.

128.In my judgment, in the context with which we are here concerned (see paragraphs 84-85 above), parental responsibility is, in principle, exercisable in relation to a 16- or 17-year old child who, for whatever reason, lacks ‘Gillick capacity’.

Consider a dentist, who is deciding whether to treat someone who is not an adult. If a 7 year old says “I don’t want you to take my teeth out” the dentist will of course look to the parent to say yes or no, and won’t take the child’s views as being final. If a 15 year old says that, the dentist may try to encourage and persuade, but can’t really just operate against the 15 year old’s will, and nor can they just take parental consent. The 16 year old with capacity has autonomy over their own body and mouth. BUT if the parents come with a 16 year old and explain that as a result of special needs, the young person lacks capacity, the dentist would probably be able to take the parental consent as being valid. The parents are exercising parental responsibility for a young person who does not have Gillick competence to make their own decisions (even though they are of an age where most young people would be)

I’m not sure that I agree with this conclusion, and I feel that it has some issues with Lord Kerr’s formulation in Cheshire West.

“77 The question whether one is restricted (as a matter of actuality) is determined by comparing the extent of your actual freedom with someone of your age and station whose freedom is not limited. Thus a teenager of the same age and familial background as MIG and MEG is the relevant comparator for them. If one compares their state with a person of similar age and full capacity it is clear that their liberty is in fact circumscribed. They may not be conscious, much less resentful, of the constraint but, objectively, limitations on their freedom are in place.

78 All children are (or should be) subject to some level of restraint. This adjusts with their maturation and change in circumstances. If MIG and MEG had the same freedom from constraint as would any child or young person of similar age, their liberty would not be restricted, whatever their level of disability. As a matter of objective fact, however, constraints beyond those which apply to young people of full ability are – and have to be – applied to them. There is therefore a restriction of liberty in their cases. Because the restriction of liberty is – and must remain – a constant feature of their lives, the restriction amounts to a deprivation of liberty.

79 Very young children, of course, because of their youth and dependence on others, have – an objectively ascertainable – curtailment of their liberty but this is a condition common to all children of tender age. There is no question, therefore, of suggesting that infant children are deprived of their liberty in the normal family setting. A comparator for a young child is not a fully matured adult, or even a partly mature adolescent. While they were very young, therefore, MIG and MEG’s liberty was not restricted. It is because they can – and must – now be compared to children of their own age and relative maturity who are free from disability and who have access (whether they have recourse to that or not) to a range of freedoms which MIG and MEG cannot have resort to that MIG and MEG are deprived of liberty.”

And later

157.The ECHR enshrines the rights of the citizen, but its principal purpose and function is the protection of rights by engaging the State. The Convention is not an academic exercise. Key questions in every case where the Convention is invoked are: on the facts, is there an obligation for the State to become involved? Are the domestic laws and procedures apt to engage the State when necessary, and to protect the citizen’s rights? But these are questions to be asked and answered of the domestic law, for our purposes the common law.

158.It should be no surprise that the common law has provided the answer here. Although it is not necessary for the decision in this case, I also agree with the President that the question whether there is “confinement” should be approached in the careful way analysed by Lord Kerr in Cheshire West, at paragraphs 77 to 79. A three year-old child must be restrained for her own safety if walking near a busy road, or playing near a bonfire. This restraint would be unlawful if exercised over an adult. But it is lawful if exercised by any adult looking after the child. In my view, there is no need for an elaborate analysis of delegated parental responsibility to explain this. In such circumstances, restraint to keep the child safe lawfully could (and normally should) be exercised by any nearby adult. The true analysis is that explained by Lord Kerr. For all present purposes, “confinement” means not simply “confining” a young child to a playpen or by closing a door, but something more: an interruption or curtailment of the freedom of action normally to be ascribed to a child of that age and understanding. In most of the myriad instances in life where children are restrained in one way or another – by being compelled unwillingly to go to school, go to bed at a given time and so forth – there can be no question of their being “confined” so as to fulfil the first limb of the test in Storck.

159.Where there is confinement in the sense I have indicated, so that there may be a need for the State to engage to prevent possible abuse, the questions then become whether parental rights (and duties) can justify the confinement, and whether the State may have an obligation, to be discharged by local authorities and perhaps by the courts, to intervene. Excessively cautious or strict parenting, leading, let us say, to a fourteen year-old who is prevented from ever leaving the house save to be transported to and from school by a parent, might be a case of “confinement”. Other more extreme examples clearly would do so. Then the issue of whether the confinement is justified may arise. It will be evident that such cases are highly fact-specific and that the State will accord great flexibility to parents in caring for their children. That flexibility must reflect the facts, including the “discretion” of the child.

It rather seems to me that the nuts and bolts of Cheshire West are that one compares whether the restrictions on a child are part and parcel of family life or above and beyond that, not by comparing X child with one of similar needs and circumstances but with a child of a similar age. And that means that it would NOT be reasonable for a foster parent to lock the bedroom door of a 17 year old or restrain them if they tried to leave the home, and it doesn’t become reasonable just because X happens to lack capacity and needs those restrictions to keep them safe.

The Court of Appeal have clearly spent hours and hours on this, and my gut feeling is just my gut feeling, so it would be utterly wrong of me to try to argue that the Court of Appeal are wrong here.

Re D is the law now. Re D is.

Re D is.

Re D is

Re D is

(And if you aren’t reading Tom King and Mitch Gerard’s “Mister Miracle”, can I urge you to do that in the strongest possible terms? It is a mark of how great they currently are that the only work to compare to it this year is the same creative team’s run on Batman. )

The Court of Appeal stress that if a Local Authority are relying on parental consent to authorise a restrictive regime in foster care, they can’t simply rely on generic section 20 consent to authorise this.

149.Finally (paras 126-128), Keehan J rejected the local authority’s contention that the parents’ consent to D being accommodated pursuant to section 20 of the Children Act 1989 was a valid consent to D’s confinement at the residential unit. He disagreed with Mostyn J’s analysis in Re RK (Minor: Deprivation of Liberty) [2010] COPLR Con Vol 1047. Furthermore, he said (para 128):

“the “consent” is to the child being accommodated. It cannot be inferred that that consent means that those with parental responsibility have consented to whatever placement the local authority considers, from time to time, appropriate.”
150.I agree with Keehan J that the mere fact that a child is being accommodated by a local authority pursuant to section 20 does not, of itself, constitute a parental consent for Nielsen purposes to the particular confinement in question. In the first place it needs to be borne in mind that parental consent is not, in law, an essential pre-requisite to a local authority’s use of section 20: see Williams and another v Hackney London Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 26, [2017] 3 WLR 59. Moreover, even where there is such consent, there remains the powerful point made by Keehan J: to what precisely have the parents consented? That is a matter of fact to be decided in light of all the circumstances of the particular case. Here, as we have seen, Keehan J, found (see paragraph 9 above) that his parents had agreed to D’s being placed at Placement B just as he had earlier found (paragraph 107 above) that they had previously agreed to his being placed at Hospital B. I can see no basis for challenging either of those findings of fact.

(I’m not at all sure now of the status of Keehan J’s previous assertion that whilst parents can consent to restriction of liberty in foster care under s20, they can’t do so under ICOs because the threshold has been found to be crossed. That wasn’t in the case that was appealed, and it has always seemed to me a rather arbitrary distinction. I can’t see that the Court of Appeal look at this, but it is a long judgment, I may have missed it.)

Re D is.

Deprivation mmmmeltdown

 

The case of MOD & Others (Deprivation of Liberty) 2015   http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/47.html   involved nine unrelated cases where Local Authorities were seeking test cases under the President’s new scheme for ‘fast-tracking’ Deprivation of Liberty authorisations.

 

You may recall that the Court of Appeal dealt with the President’s scheme as it was laid out in Re X  (saying that he did not have the power to do this in a judgment, but as it wasn’t really a judgment they had no jurisdiction to overturn it on appeal, but that in any event, a scheme which didn’t include a voice for P  – the person being detained, would almost certainly be wrong)   http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2015/599.html

 

There’s a Practice Direction for the fast track process now, which will need some slight tweaking in light of Re X.

 

Anyway, this is the first reported authority on how these ‘fast track’ cases will work in practice.  The answer, in short would be  “not well” and “not fast”

 

The problem here is that the current scheme for P to be represented is through the Official Solicitor.   The Official Solictor told the Court that in the month after the Court of Appeal decided Re X  (which was effectively the green light to start bringing the DoLs cases) requests doubled.

 

District Judge Marin said this:-

I understand that at present, about 100 applications have been issued since the Court of Appeal’s decision three weeks ago with more arriving each week. At the hearing, one local authority told me that they alone have “hundreds” that are to be issued imminently.

 

[If anything, that’s something of an understatement. The ballpark figure nationally is that up to 100,000 such cases might be issued in a year, as a result of the wider definition for restriction of liberty settled on by the Supreme Court in Cheshire West]

 

20….the Official Solicitor wrote a letter which is not only referable to the cases before me but also to all other similar cases where he has been invited to act.

  1. The Official Solicitor said this:

    “..I am not currently in a position to accept the invitations to act as litigation friend in the ‘referrals’ in these cases.

    I am most unlikely, on my current understanding of my budgetary position, to be able, even when I have established a light touch process for this class of case, which is nevertheless consistent with my duties as litigation friend, and the external outsourcing to fund them, to be able to accept invitations to act in more than a relatively small proportion of the total expected numbers of these former streamlined procedure cases.

    Even before the dramatic increase for the month of June 2015 …. and these 43 actual and impending invitations to me to act as litigation friend in this class of case, in resource terms my CoP Healthcare and Welfare team was then running at or beyond full stretch, ‘fire fighting’ in a way that was unlikely to be sustainable beyond the short term.”

  2. He went on to elaborate:

    “There has been an increase in the number of invitations to me to act as litigation friend (‘referrals’) for P in Court of Protection welfare applications, including applications for orders the giving effect to which deprives P of their liberty.

    For the three calendar years 2011, 2012 and 2013 the number of new referrals a month averaged 28 cases. In 2014 this increased to an average monthly referral rate of 50 cases. In the five months to the end of May 2015, the monthly referral rate was in excess of 53 cases. In resource terms my CoP Healthcare and Welfare team was then running at or beyond full stretch, ‘fire fighting’ in a way that was unlikely to be sustainable beyond the short term.

    There has been a dramatic increase for the month of June 2015 with 99 new referrals to the end of the month. But that number for June does not include the 43 new invitations to act to which I am responding. As at the end of May I had 137 referrals in my CoP Healthcare and Welfare team, in the ‘pre-acceptance’ stage (which clearly did not include these former streamlined procedure cases).

    From time to time, I have taken those steps I have been able to take, having regard to budgetary constraints and balancing the needs of all my teams, to increase staff available to the work of the healthcare and welfare team as its caseloads have risen.

    But, as has been frequently noted publicly, I do not have the staff resources to manage the expected significant additional increase in caseload arising from the decision of the Supreme Court in Cheshire West.”

      1. Despite reference in the letter to a light touch scheme to allow cases to be processed quickly, the Official Solicitor nonetheless commented that:
        1. “But the simple facts are that:
  • I am not currently in a position to accept the invitations to act as litigation friend in the referrals in these cases; and,
  • I am most unlikely, on my current understanding of my budgetary position, to be able, even when I have established a light touch process, which is nevertheless consistent with my duties as litigation friend, and the external outsourcing to which have I referred above, to be able to accept invitations to act in more than a relatively small proportion of the total expected numbers of these former streamlined procedure cases.”
  1. As if to emphasise the seriousness of the matter, the Official Solicitor copied his letter to the President and Vice President of the court, the local authority applicants in the cases and the Ministry of Justice as his “sponsoring department”.

 

 

The Supreme Court have made a ruling that means there will be thousands more of this case, probably tens of thousands. The Court of Appeal has said that P must have a voice. The organisation who are responsible for P having a voice say that they are already operating at a referral rate four times that which they can actually take (and the deluge hasn’t even begun yet – it is something like 100 a month at the moment, and when these cases really get going, it will be more like five to eight THOUSAND a month)

 

As the wise Lucy Series has said, this is now an engineering problem, rather than a logical one. The system as it is, clearly is not going to cope with what is coming at it.   And once we solve the representation of P problem, we will then have the Best Interests Assessor problem, then the social work problem, then the lawyers for relatives problem, then the Judges problem, then the Court time problem.

You can’t go from a system which just about functions at 25 cases a month and turn it into one that can handle 5,000-8,000 cases a month.  Everyone in family law can tell the Court of Protection just how hard it was to cope with the post Baby P deluge, and that was at worst a doubling of demand. Here demand is going up TWO HUNDRED to THREE HUNDRED times.

 

We shall see what happens when these test cases come before Charles J, the vice president of the Court of Protection, but there really are no easy solutions here.  The Law Commission has recognised the need for a complete overhaul of the law on DoLS, but that’s years off.

 

  1. So far as the remaining eight cases are concerned though, I decided to transfer them to the Vice President of the Court of Protection to decide issues at a hearing which I listed as follows:

    1. Whether P must be joined as a party in a case involving deprivation of liberty

    2. Whether the appointment of a rule 3A representative is sufficient in a case involving deprivation of liberty

    3. If P must be joined as a party, in the absence of any suitable person to act as litigation friend, what should be done in circumstances where the Official Solicitor cannot accept an invitation to act.

    4. Whether a family member can act as litigation friend in circumstances where that family member has an interest in the outcome of the proceedings.

    5. Whether other deprivation of liberty cases not before the court on this occasion but which raise similar issues to this case should be stayed pending a determination of the issues recorded at paragraphs 1 to 4.

  2. With regard to the fifth issue, some of the parties expressed the concern that they have other cases listed and they were loathe to incur the cost of a hearing if a similar order is likely to be made or the court will stay the case pending determination of these issues. To address this, I have invited the Vice President to consider staying the cases presently listed such that hearings already listed may be vacated. It occurs to me that he may also wish to consider whether an automatic stay should be imposed on future cases that are issued.
  3. I have taken the course of referring these cases to the Vice President because it is vital that a decision is made on these issues as quickly as possible. None of the parties were equipped to fully argue the issues at the hearing as they would need to prepare: this is not a criticism as the issues were not identified until the hearing. There would therefore need to be another hearing and if so, it must make sense that this hearing produces a judgment from a senior judge which will set out the court’s view on these matters and direct the way forward. There will thus be a saving in time and costs which is consistent with the overriding objective in the court process.
  4. So far as the Official Solicitor is concerned, I do not discharge him in any of these cases and I have ordered him by 4pm on 22 July 2015 to file and serve on the parties a statement which shall:

    1 Provide a full and evidence based explanation of why he cannot cope with the number of deprivation of liberty applications in which he is invited to act as litigation friend

    2 Explain in full detail providing evidence where appropriate as to which areas or processes cause him difficulty and why

    3 Inform the court when he expects to be able to cope with deprivation of liberty cases and the likely time scale in which he can start work on a case.

    4. Provide any other information to the court that will assist the court to make decisions in this case regarding the position of the Official Solicitor.

  5. I believe that this information is vital to allow the court to properly consider his position.
  6. I am also anxious that the court can properly evaluate the availability of a litigation friend in all of the cases apart from MOD where one has been appointed. I therefore ordered the Applicants in each case by 4pm on 22 July 2015 to file a statement which shall:

    1 Explain what steps have been taken to find a litigation friend for P

    2 Set out whether IMCAs or other Advocates or resources are available to act as litigation friend or if not, why they are not available.

    3 List all family members who are willing to act as litigation friend.

  7. I was asked in all the cases to approve the deprivation of liberty of P on an interim basis. I declined to do so because it seems to me that the effect of the Court of Appeal’s judgment is to demand a higher level of scrutiny than the Re X process demanded and on the information available which is in the form of Re X, I am unable to do so. There are also some cases where the information is incomplete. However, my order provides that applications for interim orders can be renewed at the next hearing.
  8. By setting out the issues as they emerged at the hearing and making the orders I have referred to, my aim is to ensure that matters can be adjudicated upon and resolved as soon as possible.

 

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

 

 

The compelling case of Re M (Best Interests : Deprivation of Liberty) 2013

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/COP/2013/3456.html

 

This is a Court of Protection case,  decided by Justice Peter Jackson – who has delivered a number of very cogent judgments in the short time I have been running this blog. I think this one is a model of its kind.

 

The issue was whether the Court would approve a Deprivation of Liberty for a woman, meaning that she would have to live in a care home, or reject it meaning that she could return to her own home. The care home option would be safe but make her unhappy, being in her own home carried considerable risks but would make her happy.   [Hence the title of the piece]

 

There was no doubt in this case that the woman in question, M, lacked capacity to make decisions on her own behalf, and that the professional agencies concerned could have done nothing other than make the recommendation they did

 

my decision implies no criticism whatever of any of the witnesses from the local authority or by the CCG. I understand the position taken and the reasons for it; indeed it would be difficult for them to have taken a different view on the facts of the case. There are risks either way and it is perfectly appropriate that responsibility for the outcome should fall on the shoulders of the court and not on the shoulders of the parties.

 

 

Another interesting point for wider application is this :-

 

I have already noted the visit made by the District Judge to M in the care home about a month before this hearing. A careful written record was made and placed with the papers. The visit has therefore had the dual purpose of informing the court of M’s views and of making M feel connected to the proceedings without putting her into the stressful position of having to come to court in person. I commend this as an approach that may be of value in other cases of this kind.

 

 

The fundamental issue in the case was the management of M’s diabetes, the assessment being that she needed 24 hour supervision to manage this so that it would not be life-threatening. The authorities therefore wanted M to live in a care home, where this supervision could take place. M (despite lacking capacity to make a decision) was clearly expressing her huge antipathy to this and her desire to live at home.

 

 

 

 

The risk from the management of her diabetes was real and vivid

 

In relation to the management of M’s diabetes, Miss L, a senior specialist nurse, clearly explained the processes involved, the nature of the medication regime, and the range of consequences arising from non-compliance of different kinds. Her evidence establishes that if there is a default in the insulin supply that M receives there will undoubtedly be a deterioration in her physical health. The probability is that this would be picked up, but the length of time that would be available to take action would be limited with the likeliest scenario being a situation that had to be resolved within a certain number of hours or a few days; however the possibility of a more urgent and possibly fatal event cannot be discounted.

 

Counsel for the Care Commissioning Group (the agency responsible for M’s care) put it very crisply to the Court

 

at the care home there is almost complete certainty of physical safety at the cost of the happiness of M

 

 

 

You may already be anticipating that we are about to move into very interesting territory in Deprivation of Liberty law   – if someone needs to be detained to preserve their physical safety, but the effect of that is to lose their happiness and quality of life, where does that balance fall?

 

 

  1. In relation to the views of others, I have taken account of the views of all those referred to above. I am in no doubt that everyone concerned has thought hard about what is in M’s best interests. It is not surprising that witnesses called by the CCG are by vocation highly motivated by their responsibility to keep her safe. I also place substantial weight upon the judgement of A, who knows M and her situation extremely well.
  1. Ultimately the court must balance these factors:
  • M’s wishes, feelings and values which point towards a return home.
  • The best possible control of her diabetes, which points towards her remaining in the care home.
  • The risks to her health that exist in the care home, both by way of a possible deterioration in her physical and mental state consequent upon her being made to stay there, and by way of her threats of self-harm.
  • The risks to her health that would exist following a return home, as described by Miss L.
  • The possibility that cannot be ignored that M will cause herself serious physical harm if she is told that she is not going home.
  • The real possibility that her enjoyment of life might to some degree be recovered following a return home even if it does not fully meet her expectations.
  1. Having weighed these matters up I have reached the clear conclusion that the case for a continued deprivation of M’s liberty has not been made out. I accept that there are many uncertainties in a return home, indeed more uncertainties both of a good and a bad kind than in maintenance of the status quo. Negatively these include a possible deterioration in her physical and mental state as a result of non-cooperation. The deterioration may be gradual, but might also be sudden, occurring in a matter of a few hours, and may even, though perhaps less likely, be instantly life-threatening. Any decision that M returns home must accept the real possibility that the attempt will fail and the possibility in the worst case that she may die as a result of a sudden deterioration in her condition. Like Dr Leonard, I do not however accept the view that failure is inevitable.
  1. The above disadvantages are, in my view, outweighed by the following considerations.
  1. In the end, if M remains confined in a home she is entitled to ask “What for?” The only answer that could be provided at the moment is “To keep you alive as long as possible.” In my view that is not a sufficient answer. The right to life and the state’s obligation to protect it is not absolute and the court must surely have regard to the person’s own assessment of her quality of life. In M’s case there is little to be said for a solution that attempts, without any guarantee of success, to preserve for her a daily life without meaning or happiness and which she, with some justification, regards as insupportable

 

 

The Judge therefore ruling that in this case, M’s best interests would be better served by being at home and being at happy (albeit with an element of risk) rather than being safe but unhappy in the care home.

 

Obviously, there was some emphasis on trying to make the option at home safer, and the Judge had this message for M

 

My message to M is this: I hope that you will be happy when you return home. If you accept the support you will be getting from district nurses and carers it may be possible for you to stay there. If you do not accept that support you will probably have to return to a care home

Re B-S for Secure Accommodation BIG BIG BIG


 

 

It could easily be said that a big over-arching Court of Appeal analysis of Secure Accommodation has been long overdue, but it is here now. And just like B-S did (or did, then didn’t, but did but didn’t, depending on which subsequent Govt press release/Court of Appeal authority you read and when), this changes everything.

I’m sorry, this is LONG. The new test on secure is in large font or  para 98 of the decision http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2019/2025.html

 

If you represent LA’s who apply for secure orders, or represent parents whose children may be placed in secure, or guardians / children who are the subjects of such applications you NEED to READ this. The landscape changes completely.  There are brand new areas of proper challenge to the making of such orders, and they will be much more wide-ranging hearings than previously.

It is long, but read it.

To recap a bit for those who aren’t as invested as I am in the intricacies of Secure Accommodation, we’ve had three problems in this field and the law on this field.

 

  1. Is the making of a Secure Accommodation Order mandatory if the section 25 test is made out? The statute says so, but there are two different branches of authorities, one saying yes and one saying the other philosophy of the Act that the order must be better for the child than making no order still applies.
  2. To what extent is proportionality and necessity an issue? (Again, two different branches of authorities)
  3. Due to a massive shortage of spaces and beds, what are the circumstances in which it is okay to use inherent jurisdiction (magical sparkle powers TM) to make a non-approved secure unit look after a child and use the same sorts of powers as s25 offers?

And we can add now a fourth problem/ question that we didn’t know we had

 

4. Is secure binary? (i.e if the Court makes a secure accommodation order under s25, is it then up to the Unit to decide how to manage the child, or does the Court have a role in deciding what particular restrictions of liberty are authorised and which are not?)

 

The legal test for making a secure accommodation order is this:-

 

(a)that—

(i)he has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation; and

 

(ii)if he absconds, he is likely to suffer significant harm; or

 

(b)that if he is kept in any other description of accommodation he is likely to injure himself or other persons.

 

And the statute goes on to say :-

 

(3)It shall be the duty of a court hearing an application under this section to determine whether any relevant criteria for keeping a child in secure accommodation are satisfied in his case.

(4)If a court determines that any such criteria are satisfied, it shall make an order authorising the child to be kept in secure accommodation and specifying the maximum period for which he may be so kept.

 

So the Act says :- if the LA apply for a Secure Accommodation Order, the Courts job is to consider whether the factual basis for saying that the s25(1) criteria are made out and IF SO to MAKE the order (there isn’t a judicial discretion element there. That obviously troubles people post Human Rights Act, because welfare, proportionality and necessity have become the fundamental underpinning mechanisms of all Family Court decision-making since the HRA and the authorities that have arisen from it. Everyone thought in the late 90s that s25(4) was going to be declared incompatible with the HRA but it just didn’t happen. And instead we just saw some cases saying ‘it is manadatory if the s25(1) criteria is made out’ and some saying ‘I can take into account the child’s welfare and whether this is a proportionate way of managing the child’s welfare’

(An argument about proportionality is that the s25(1) criteria are in and of themselves a proportionality test – you can’t lock a child up unless that test (which gives the reasons why they would need to be locked up) is met. The counter argument to that is that whilst that means the Court have to lock up every young person who meets the test IF they are asked to make a s25 order, the LA have children who meet the test but they decide not to lock up and manage the risk in other ways – and why is that decision resting solely with a Local Authority and not with a Judge? Why can’t a Judge decide that Child A properly belongs in the group of children who are at serious risk but can be managed without locking them up?)

Given that the decision ultimately is whether a young person is going to live in a home with locked doors and controlled access to their movements, it is very important to know which route we are taking – the strict statute, or the HRA-informed proportionality.

 

I’ll come onto the facts of the case and the decision later (assuming I keep up my enthusiasm), but I’m going to deal with these four questions first.

B (Secure Accommodation Order), Re (Rev 1) [2019] EWCA Civ 2025 (21 November 2019)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2019/2025.html

 

 

 

 

The Court of Appeal frame four questions (wording them differently to my four)

2.The appeal raises four important and overlapping questions on the interpretation of s.25.

 

 

 

(1) What is the meaning of “secure accommodation” in s.25?

 

(2) What are the relevant criteria for making a secure accommodation order under s.25?

 

(3) What part does the evaluation of welfare play in the court’s decision?

 

(4) When considering an application for an order under s.25, is the court obliged, under Articles 5 and 8 of the ECHR, to carry out an evaluation of proportionality?

 

 

The Court of Appeal decisions follow:-

 

What is ‘secure accommodation’?

In my judgment, “secure accommodation” is accommodation designed for, or having as its primary purpose, the restriction of liberty. As Wall J acknowledged, however, premises which are not designed as secure accommodation may become secure accommodation because of the use to which they are put in the particular circumstances of the individual case.

 

 

60.Unlike Re D, the present appeal does require the court to interpret the section with reference to a “real factual situation”. As Lady Black recognised, however, training the spotlight on the accommodation does not provide a complete answer to the question. She acknowledged that, while some types of secure accommodation will be readily recognisable as such, others will not. In some cases, it will not be easy to say whether the accommodation is or is not “secure”.

 

(oh good)

 

Is the child’s welfare paramount? (short answer NO)

 

68.The decision in Re M clearly establishes that the paramountcy principle in s.1 of the Children Act does not apply to applications under s.25. It has been followed by all courts hearing applications under the section and is binding on this court. There is, however, less clarity as to the extent of the evaluation of welfare which the court is required to carry out. There is a small but perceptible difference between the view expressed by Butler Sloss LJ and that of Hoffmann LJ. Both agreed that the court must apply the same criteria as the local authority and that the relevant criteria include welfare. Butler-Sloss LJ considered that the distinction between a reviewing power and a general duty to consider welfare was “a matter of words” but that “the court has the specific duty to determine whether any relevant criteria are satisfied” and that, in performing that duty, welfare is “of great importance”. Hoffmann LJ, however, thought that function of the court under s 25 is “merely to control the exercise of power by the local authority rather than to exercise an independent jurisdiction in the best interests of the child”.

 

 

69.Some might consider this to be a distinction without a difference. It should be noted that the third judge in the constitution, Sir Tasker Watkins, agreed with both judgments. In my view, however, there is a difference of approach in the two judgments. It is therefore unsurprising that in subsequent cases, courts have sometimes struggled with the issue of how to deal with cases where they perceive that, whilst the conditions in s.25(1) are satisfied, the placement proposed by the local authority would be contrary to the child’s overall welfare.

 

[By the time you get to the bottom of this, you might well think that unless there’s a ‘protection of the public’ element to the case, the distinction between the child’s welfare ‘not being paramount’ and what is described below looking very much as though the child’s welfare is paramount is wafer-thin]

 

What role does welfare have in the decision?

72.In my judgment, the “displacement of the court’s welfare role” as required by the decision in Re M extends only to the displacement of the paramountcy principle. It does not require the court to abdicate responsibility for evaluating impact of the proposed placement on the child’s welfare. On the contrary, as Butler-Sloss LJ said, the child’s welfare is plainly of great importance in deciding whether or not an order should be made. The local authority and the court must each consider whether the proposed placement would safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. In some cases, the child’s welfare needs will be served by a period in secure accommodation, particularly if supported by a comprehensive therapeutic programme. In other cases, the child’s welfare will not be promoted by such a placement. However, just as s.22(6) allows the local authority to exercise its powers in a way that does not promote the child’s welfare if necessary to protect the public, there may be cases where the court concludes that the child’s welfare needs are outweighed by the need to protect the public from serious harm. Welfare is therefore not paramount but is plainly an important element in the court’s analysis. It is one of the relevant criteria.

 

 

73.This interpretation of s.25 is fortified by the Human Rights Act 1998, which came into force five years after Re M was decided in 1995

 

Proportionality – is it relevant ? (short answer, yes, the Court need to conduct an exercise before deciding whether or not to make a secure accommodation order)

 

 

 

 

88.In my judgment, an evaluation of proportionality must be carried out by the local authority before applying for an order under s.25 and by the court before granting such an order. Proportionality is one of the “relevant criteria” which must be satisfied before an order is made.

 

 

89.The ECHR, in particular Article 8, is part of the bedrock of the Children Act. As Baroness Hale observed in Re B [2013] UKSC 33, at paragraph 194:

 

 

 

“The Act itself makes no mention of proportionality, but it was framed with the developing jurisprudence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights very much in mind. Once the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, not only the local authority, but also the courts as public authorities, came under a duty to act compatibly with the Convention rights.”

 

In exercising their duties and powers under s.25, local authorities and courts must comply with the ECHR and, in particular, Articles 5 and 8. Since the principle of proportionality is integral to Convention rights, it is incumbent on local authorities and courts not to apply for, or grant, orders under s.25 where, to adopt the phrase used by Lord Reed in the Bank Mellat case, the impact of the rights infringement is disproportionate to the likely benefit.

 

The 2014 statutory guidance refutes the well-established principle that secure accommodation is a last resort

 

 

“40. Restricting liberty of a child is a serious step that can only be taken if it is the most appropriate way of meeting the child’s assessed needs. A decision to place a child in secure accommodation should never be made because no other placement is available, because of inadequacies of staffing in a child’s current placement, or because the child is simply being a nuisance. Secure accommodation should never be used as a form of punishment.

 

  1. This does not mean, though, that restriction of liberty should only be considered as a ‘last resort’. Restricting the liberty of a child could offer a positive option. A decision to apply for an order under s25 of the Act should be made on the basis that this represents the best option to meet the particular needs of the child. The placement of a child in a secure children’s home should, wherever practicable, arise as part of the local authority’s overall plan for the child’s welfare.

 

The Court of Appeal say that the statutory guidance is WRONG

 

91.In these circumstances, it seems to me that the passage in the latest edition Guidance (quoted at paragraph 23 above), which refutes the proposition that restriction of liberty should only be considered as a last resort, is inconsistent with principle. To deprive a child of liberty in circumstances which were not a last resort would surely be disproportionate.

 

We have for a long time (prior to the 2014 guidance) had a weird divergence where LA’s were told that they could not ASK for secure accommodation unless it was a last resort, but the Courts were told they had to make the order if the criteria were met and were not required to find that it was a last resort. The Courts now DO have to make such a finding (implicit in para 91 above that in finding that secure is a proportionate order to make, such decision would be flawed in circumstances where secure was not the last resort)

 

 

 

Evaluation of welfare – Court must carry out an evaluation of how secure meets the child’s welfare needs before making an order – the evaluation CAN include the need to protect the public

 

The assessment of proportionality which the court is obliged to carry out as a public authority will inevitably involve an evaluation of welfare. In my judgment, this analysis applies equally to applications under s.25. Accordingly, the interpretation of s.25 proposed by Hoffman LJ in Re M – that the function of the court is to control the exercise of power by the local authority rather than to exercise an independent jurisdiction in the best interests of the child – and the approach suggested by Charles J in S v Knowlsey – that the court should assess welfare issues under s.25 on the basis that the local authority is the decision maker – are, in my view, incompatible with the court’s duty under s.6 of the Human Rights Act. On an application under s.25, the court must carry out its own evaluation of whether the order would safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. The intensity of that evaluation will depend on the facts of each case. In most cases, it is unlikely to involve a wide-ranging inquiry. The question for the court is whether, in all the circumstances, including the need to protect the public, the proposed order would safeguard and promote the child’s welfare

 

 !!!!!!HERE COMES THE NEW S25 TEST !!!!!!

Relevant criteria revisited

98.Having analysed the roles played by welfare and proportionality in the decision-making process under s.25, I conclude that, in determining whether the “relevant criteria” under s.25(3) and (4) are satisfied, a court must ask the following questions.

 

 

 

(1) Is the child being “looked after” by a local authority, or, alternatively, does he or she fall within one of the other categories specified in regulation 7?

(2) Is the accommodation where the local authority proposes to place the child “secure accommodation”, i.e. is it designed for or have as its primary purpose the restriction of liberty?

 

(3) Is the court satisfied (a) that (i) the child has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation, and (ii) if he/she absconds, he/she is likely to suffer significant harm or (b) that if kept in any other description of accommodation, he/she is likely to injure himself or other persons?

(4) If the local authority is proposing to place the child in a secure children’s home in England, has the accommodation been approved by the Secretary of State for use as secure accommodation? If the local authority is proposing to place the child in a children’s home in Scotland, is the accommodation provided by a service which has been approved by the Scottish Ministers?

(5) Does the proposed order safeguard and promote the child’s welfare?

 

(6) Is the order proportionate, i.e. do the benefits of the proposed placement outweigh the infringement of rights?

!!!! TEST ENDS!!!!

(In the rare circumstances of the child being aged under 13, Regulation 4 of the 1991 Regulations require that the placement must also be approved by the Secretary of State.)

99.If the relevant criteria are satisfied, s.25(4) obliges the court to make an order under the section authorising the child to be kept in secure accommodation and specifying the maximum period for which he or she may be so kept. In its submissions to this court, the ALC was rightly anxious to preserve the use of what it called “imaginative arrangements” – the arrangements characterised by Hayden J in Re SS as “the creative alternative packages of support” – and was concerned they would be squeezed out by too wide a definition of “secure accommodation”. The recasting of the interpretation of the relevant criteria under s.25 suggested in this judgment preserves the flexible approach advocated by the ALC. If the court determining an application under s.25 is obliged to conduct an evaluation of welfare and an assessment of proportionality, and in doing so applies the principle that a secure accommodation order should always be a last resort, the court will be under an obligation to consider alternative arrangements

 

 

What is the Relevant Date?

This doesn’t come up very often (or didn’t). The Court of Appeal say  (para 100) that the relevant date for establishing whether the s25 criteria (bundling up now proportionality and welfare evaluation including alternative arrangements) is met is the date of the application.

That inevitably means that where the child is in Secure (and has been for a period of months rather than 72 hours) as a result of a previous order, the evaluation of whether the s25 criteria is met is on the date of the application – the history will come into play, but the current position is huge.

 

Inherent jurisdiction – yes, with a pretty huge but

 

101.S.25 does not cover all circumstances in which it may be necessary to deprive a child of their liberty. As Lady Black observed in Re D, at paragraph 100:

 

 

 

“The children who require help will present with all sorts of different problems, and there will be those whose care needs cannot be met unless their liberty is restricted in some way. But by no means all of these children will fall within the criteria set out in section 25(1)(a) and (b), which are the gateway to the authorisation of secure accommodation. It seems unlikely that the legislation was intended to operate in such a way as to prevent a local authority from providing such a child with the care that he or she needs, but an unduly wide interpretation of “secure accommodation” would potentially have this effect. It is possible to imagine a child who has no history, so far, of absconding, and who is not likely actually to injure himself or anyone else, so does not satisfy section 25(1)(a) or (b), but who, for other good reasons to do with his own welfare, needs to be kept in confined circumstances.”

 

It is well established that a judge exercising the inherent jurisdiction of the court with respect to children has power to direct that the child be detained in circumstances that amounts to a deprivation of liberty. Where the local authority cannot apply under s.25 because one or more of the relevant criteria are not satisfied, it may be able to apply for leave to apply for an order depriving the child of liberty under the inherent jurisdiction if there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is likely to suffer significant harm if the order is not granted: s.100(4) Children Act. As I have already noted, the use of the inherent jurisdiction for such a purpose has recently been approved by this court in Re T (A Child) (ALC Intervening) [2018] EWCA Civ 2136. In Re A-F (Children) (Restrictions on Liberty) [2018] EWHC 138 (Fam), Sir James Munby P, in a series of test cases, set out the principles to be applied. It is unnecessary for the purposes of this appeal to revisit those principles in this judgment. Last week, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, published guidance, focusing in particular on the placement under the inherent jurisdiction of children in unregistered children’s homes in England and unregistered care home services in Wales.

102.Where, however, the local authority applies under s.25 and all the relevant criteria for keeping a child in “secure accommodation” under the section are satisfied, the court is required, by s.25(4), to make an order under that section authorising the child to be kept in such accommodation. To exercise the inherent jurisdiction in such circumstances would cut across the statutory scheme

 

(To make this clear – a Court cannot on an application under s25 where there is no bed, use inherent jurisdiction to place the child in a unit which is not approved as a Secure Unit and authorise restriction of liberty. They can do this if there isn’t a s25 application OR if they find the s25 criteria are not met but somehow it is still proportionate to restrict the child’s liberty – I can’t at the moment conceive of such a scenario but it is out there as a possibility)

 

 

Is secure binary? I don’t know, but… maybe not?

 

It is really a question of whether the proportionality and welfare evaluation is limited to ‘there being restrictions’ or looking at the individual restrictions. I honestly don’t know. This is the paragraph that comes closest to it

 

120….when a local authority takes a decision about a child under section 25 there must be some proper measure of proportionality as between the purpose or objective behind the proposed deprivation and both (a) the very fact of deprivation (ie the decision to place the child in secure conditions in the first place) and (b) if such a decision is properly taken (ie is proportionate) the nature and degree/extent of the deprivation (ie the extent of the actual restrictions imposed upon the child in secure conditions).

 

The Court of Appeal also remind us that article 8 of the HRA applies to making a Secure Accommodation Order

117…both Articles 5 and 8 are capable of applying to the deprivation of liberty of a person, including of course a child. Indeed, whenever a person is deprived of liberty (thereby engaging Article 5) that executive act will almost inevitably engage that person’s private life rights under Article 8. When an authority deprives someone of their liberty private life is by its nature curtailed. Lady Hale in Re D (A Child) [2019] UKSC 42 (Re D) at paragraph [3] made a similar point about the combined effect of Articles 5 and 8 as they applied to the rights of a child and those of parents.

 

 

I said that I’d quickly run through the facts of the appeal – basically a LA made a s25 application, there was no bed so the child was placed at a non-Secure unit (named “N”) and restrictions to the child’s liberty were authorised under inherent jurisdiction. The LA when a secure unit was found, applied for a s25 order to move the child from “N” to that unit. The Judge found that the test wasn’t met, because it was limb s25(1) (b) that if he is kept in any other description of accommodation he is likely to injure himself or other persons.    And the Judge considered that the child could be kept in N, which wasn’t secure accommodation, and so didn’t meet the test. And then went on to decide that it wasn’t in the child’s interests to be moved.

 

The Court of Appeal say that the Judge was wrong in deciding that N wasn’t secure accommodation (for reasons explained many pages ago) and that thus the criteria were made out. The Judge would have been entitled to decide that moving the child from N to another unit was not in the child’s interests but the Judge had not carried out the proportionality and welfare evaluation (that the Court of Appeal only just decided was necessary, so that’s harsh) to make that decision.

County Lines and Magical Sparkle Powers

 

 

County Lines is the name that the police have given to the involvement of young adolescents in Organised Crime Gangs (OCG), usually transporting drugs from an urban centre where supply is readily available to rural areas where there is less supply and hence the price can be more lucrative for the OCG. Often there are competing OCGs in these areas, and hence there’s a degree of physical risk to the young adolescents as well as the criminal behaviour itself as the gangs compete for territory and access to those markets.

Magical sparkle powers is the pejorative nickname I have given to the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, largely arising from the frequently cited quotation that the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is theoretically limitless.

 

 

Fetch the bolt cutters Ryan

 

A City Council v LS & Ors (Secure Accommodation Inherent Jurisdiction) [2019] EWHC 1384 (Fam) (04 June 2019)

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2019/1384.html

 

6.The background can be shortly stated and is derived in the main from intelligence reports that have been communicated by the police to the local authority. KS lives with his mother in the south of the city. Since 2017 KS has been considered to be at risk of criminal exploitation. The police assessment is that KS is an active member of a named OCG. That OCG is believed to be involved in violent feuds grounded in attempts to take control of drug trafficking activity in identified areas of the city, further exaggerated by racial tensions. Police intelligence indicates that KS is presently in dispute with other members of the criminal community in the south of the city. The police consider that those ‘nominals’ he is in dispute with have the ability to use firearms and display a willingness to conduct retaliatory attacks and to seek violent acts of retribution.

 

 

7.In August 2017, KS was found in the company of an OCG drug dealer and was deemed to be a victim of criminal exploitation. Police exercised their powers of protection pursuant to s 46 of the Children Act 1989. In September 2017 KS was said to have witnessed a gang related stabbing in the south of the city that took place that month when a young male was stabbed in the neck. Also in September 2017 KS was found to be carrying a baseball bat and a brick and was arrested for a racially aggravated assault having allegedly threatened a female with a baseball bat and thrown a brick at her. In October 2017, KS was made the subject of a child protection plan by the City Council.

 

 

8.In May 2018 KS was found in possession of a quantity of heroin and offensive weapons were found in the property in which he was arrested for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. No charges were brought on that occasion. In July 2018 KS was arrested at a festival in possession of a quantity of cocaine on suspicion of selling drugs. Later in July police received intelligence that KS had been involved in a street altercation in which he wounded a person with a knife. In October 2018 KS was convicted of possessing an offensive weapon and assault occasioning actual bodily harm arising out of the incident in September 2017 and was made the subject of a Youth Rehabilitation Order for 18 months.

 

 

9.In late 2018 KS was attacked in the street by males wielding a machete and a knife. He was stabbed five times. He stated he did not know his attackers and would not make a complaint. A month later a male from a rival OCG suffered severe knife injuries following a window being broken at KS’s home address whilst his younger siblings were present. No complaints were made by any of the parties involved.

 

 

10.In February 2019 police intelligence suggested that KS had been involved in the discharge of a firearm. In March 2019 KS was arrested following a knife attack that Police intelligence indicated was a targeted attack by members of the named OCG. A search of the family home revealed two large knives, one under KS’s bed and one under the sofa. Following a strategy meeting, it was agreed that KS could return home on condition that the mother work openly with the local authority. In April 2019 KS was served with a ‘Gun Crime Nominal Notice’. This is a ‘disruption notice’ designed to alert a person that their activities have generated Police attention and that advice and support is available should they choose. The Police identified KS as a “Gold” gun crime nominal and as being one of “top six gun crime nominals in the police force area”.

 

 

11.Thereafter, KS was identified by Police as a suspect in the shooting of an adult male who had been shot in the leg in broad daylight in the presence of members of the public. KS was arrested on that date on suspicion of attempted murder and bailed. A search of his property recovered an axe. Within this context, the police considered that KS’s life was under threat from reprisals following the shooting. However, KS rejected advice that he leave the area and reside in alternate accommodation, and refused to accept that he was at risk. As the result of a Strategy Meeting, the mother was advised to leave the family home with KS’s two younger siblings and to stay outside the area. She has done so. A secure panel meeting concluded that the risks to KS and to other’s from KS were so high as to warrant an application for an order authorising his secure accommodation.

 

 

12.Within the foregoing context, in her statement dated 15 May 2019, the social worker summarises the risks to KS arising out of the circumstances outlined above as follows:

 

 

 

“The Local Authority feel that it is necessary for a continuation of deprivation of liberty in respect of KS. KS remains at risk of significant harm or harming someone else if he is to remain in the care of [the mother] and remain in [the south of the city] and immediate surrounding areas. It is known from police information that KS is in possession of a firearm and there is information to suggest that he has used this on more than one occasion. The risks to KS’s personal safety have been escalating since the beginning of the year and the police have indicated that there is a significant risk to his own safety and life due to potential reprisals as a consequence of the shooting incident…”

 

(KS disputed that any of those things were true)

 

In this case, the young person KS was 17.  (Too old for a Care Order to be made). His mother objected to him being accommodated in secure accommodation, so he could not be accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act, therefore there was no mechanism under the Children Act 1989 for him to be accommodated at all. And therefore, there was no legal basis for the LA to seek a section 25 Secure Accommodation Order

The Local Authority therefore asked the Court to authorise under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court for authority to deprive KS of his liberty.

 

(There is talk in the judgment of it being a DOLS application – deprivation of liberty application, but it clearly can’t be, because there’s no medical evidence that KS met the test in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for not having capacity to make decisions for himself. Many would say that he was making very BAD decisions, but people are allowed to make BAD decisions, as long as they have capacity)

 

 

Cutting to the chase of the decision

 

 

1.Does the High Court have power under its inherent jurisdiction, upon the application of a local authority, to authorise the placement in secure accommodation of a 17 year old child who is not looked after by that local authority within the meaning of s 22(1) of the Children Act 1989, whose parent objects to that course of action, but who is demonstrably at grave risk of serious, and possibly fatal harm. I am satisfied that the answer is ‘no’.

 

The judgment sets it out in more detail, of course, but that’s the nub of it.  So this is a case which adds a limit to those theoretically limitless powers, and the cases that do that are always significant.

 

DISCUSSION

45.Having considered carefully the evidence and submissions in this case, and accepting that the evidence presently before the court justifies the concerns of the professionals in this case who are endeavouring to keep KS safe, I am satisfied that this court is not permitted to use its inherent jurisdiction to authorise KS’s the placement in secure accommodation in the manner requested by the local authority. My reasons for so deciding are as follows.

 

 

46.There is no care order in force in respect of KS and an application for such an order cannot be made by virtue of his age (Children Act 1989 s 31(7)). KS has not been accommodated by the local authority for the purposes of the Children Act 1989 (whilst the order of HHJ Sharpe did result, briefly, in KS’s placement at the non-secure unit, in light of the conclusions set out in this judgment, that order was not capable of causing KS to be “accommodated” by the local authority for the purposes of the Children Act 1989). KS’s mother retains exclusive parental responsibility for him. She did not and does not consent to his accommodation and, accordingly, KS cannot be accommodated by the local authority for the purposes of the 1989 Act (Children Act 1989 s 20(7)). In the circumstances, KS is a child who is neither “in the care of” the local authority or “provided with accommodation” by the local authority. I am satisfied that this position has two key consequences.

 

 

47.First, KS is not a “looked after” child for the purposes of s 25 of the Children Act 1989 and does not therefore fall within the terms of that section. In the circumstances, this is not a case where a declaration under the inherent jurisdiction is sought by the local authority in order to render lawful a non-secure placement for a looked after child that amounts to a deprivation of liberty due to a lack of suitable secure beds preventing an application under s 25 of the Children Act 1989. Rather, in this case, the local authority seeks an order under the inherent jurisdiction because s 25 of the Children Act 1989 cannot apply to KS.

 

 

48.Second, and within this context, in circumstances where KS is not and (in circumstances where his mother objects to his accommodation and where KS cannot be made the subject of a care order by reason of his age) cannot be a looked after child, the order the local authority seeks under the inherent jurisdiction is one which would not only authorise the accommodation of KS in a secure placement, but would, a priori, have the effect of authorising his removal from his mother’s care without her consent for this purpose in circumstances where his mother, who retains exclusive parental responsibility for him, objects to this course of action. In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the effect of the order sought by the local authority under the inherent jurisdiction would be to require KS to be removed from his mother’s care and be accommodated by the local authority. This course of action is prohibited by s 100(2)(b) of the Children Act 1989.

 

 

49.The intention and effect of Section 100(2)(b) is to prevent the court in wardship or under the residual inherent jurisdiction making any order which has the effect of requiring a child to be accommodated by a local authority. That end can only be achieved by satisfying the requirements of the statutory regime for accommodating children provided by (amongst other provisions) s 20 of the Children Act 1989. For the reasons I have given that outcome cannot be achieved in this case under the statutory regime. In such circumstances, it is clearly established that the High Court cannot exercise its inherent jurisdiction to grant authority to the local authority to accommodate a child where the local authority would not otherwise be able to do so under the statutory scheme (Re E (A Child) [2012] EWCA Civ 1773 at [16] and Re M (Jurisdiction: Wardship) [2016] EWCA Civ 937 at [39]).

 

 

50.I am, of course, acutely conscious of the nature and extent of the risks to KS identified in the evidence before the court and of the duty of this court to act in a manner that is compatible with KS’s rights under Art 2, which duty includes a positive obligation on the court to protect the right to life. However, the authorities that articulate this positive obligation make clear that it is to be discharged by the relevant public authority through taking “measures within the scope of its power” (see Osman v United Kingdom). For the reasons I have given, the orders sought by the local authority lie outside the scope of the court’s power under the inherent jurisdiction.

 

 

51.Given my conclusions with respect to the determinative effect in this case of s 100(2)(b) of the 1989 Act, I do not consider it necessary to address the arguments advanced by Mr Bagchi regarding the existence of a statutory lacuna in respect of children in KS’s position and Mr Spencer’s competing submission that the use of the inherent jurisdiction to place KS in secure accommodation would be to cut across a statutory regime that excludes children in KS’s situation from the statutory scheme.

 

 

 

CONCLUSION

52.As Mr Spencer points out in his careful and comprehensive Skeleton Argument, any reader of the local authority documentation in this case would be struck by the immense seriousness of this case, involving as it does references to attempted murder, criminal gangs, firearms and ‘County lines’ drug dealing. Whilst this court has made no findings in respect of these matters, on its face it is a situation that embodies the seemingly increasing tragedy of vulnerable young people for whom involvement in Organised Criminal Groups is perceived as a means of protection, of belonging, of mattering to an apparently indifferent world and who, in consequence, grasp for these things on a path that ultimately offers nothing but futility, pain and sometimes even death. As I noted at the conclusion of the hearing, in these circumstances the local authority cannot be criticised for seeking to explore the outer boundaries of the court’s jurisdiction in an effort to protect KS from the risks it has identified.

 

 

53.Within this context, it may also be considered by some to be surprising that the High Court cannot simply invoke its inherent jurisdiction in the manner requested by the local authority to address KS’s situation. However, as Hayden J observed in London Borough of Redbridge v SA [2015] 3 WLR 1617 at [36]:

 

“The High Court’s inherent powers are limited both by the constitutional role of the court and by its institutional capacity. The principle of separation of powers confers the remit of economic and social policy on the legislature and on the executive, not on the judiciary. It follows that the inherent jurisdiction cannot be regarded as a lawless void permitting judges to do whatever we consider to be right for children or the vulnerable, be that in a particular case or more generally (as contended for here) towards unspecified categories of children or vulnerable adults.”

 

 

Therefore, if the adolescent is over 17, not subject to a Care Order, and the parent objects to section 20, there isn’t a family law solution to the problem. It would have to be a criminal remand to a secure unit. That’s quite an unusual set of circumstances, because with an adolescent under 17, the LA could have sought an Interim Care Order and then secured.

Magical sparkle powers (repeat to fade)

 

The quirky case of Mostyn J and the using magical sparkle powers to place a child in quasi secure accommodation under inherent jurisidiction (child met test for secure but no secure beds) but wait, the child is consenting to their detention, has come up for appeal

 

Original blog here (and yes, I super simplified the issues in that quick summary)

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2018/04/19/magical-sparkle-powers-secure-accommodation-and-consent/

 

The appeal is here

 

Re T (A Child) 2018

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2018/2136.html

 

In the Mostyn J case, the Judge decided that whilst a valid and enduring consent could block the Court’s use of the inherent jurisdiction (and perhaps s25 Secure Accommodation), what he was presented with was not in fact a genuine and enduring consent. The young person had capacity to agree to their detention, but the Judge thought that is was not a consent given with the intent of honouring it (which may be supported by the evidence of said young person escaping from the secure unit shortly afterwards)

 

The Court of Appeal decided that Mostyn J was wrong, though not for the reason the appeal was brought. The appeal was saying ‘don’t add that ‘enduring’ component to consent’  and the Court of Appeal said that in a secure accommodation or quasi-secure accommodation setting, lack of consent of young person wasn’t required and thus their giving consent did not prevent a Judge making the order or using the inherent jurisdiction.

In effect, Mostyn J had been persuaded that consent was more significant than it in fact was, and it wasn’t necessary to add the gloss that he applied to reach the right outcome.

 

The technical bits follow in bold, skip if you like – there’s better stuff after that of a wider interest

 

Discussion: Is a lack of valid consent a pre-requisite to the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction authorising restriction of the liberty of a young person?

  • Although the point is now conceded for the purposes of this appeal, it is helpful to record brief reasons why the Appellant’s concession on the question of whether a lack of valid consent is a pre-requisite to the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction to restrict liberty was correctly made.
  • On the basis of the ECtHR and domestic case law, and on the basis of the statutory scheme for secure accommodation in CA 1989, s 25 and SSW(W)A 2014, s 119, it is clear that, whilst a lack of valid consent may be an element in determining whether a person is deprived of their liberty in any given circumstances for the purposes of Art 5, lack of consent is not a jurisdictional requirement either for making a statutory secure accommodation order or for the High Court to exercise its inherent jurisdiction to authorise a local authority to restrict a young person’s liberty. That conclusion is established on the following four bases:

 

a) The consent, or otherwise, of the young person is not a relevant factor in the statutory scheme;

b) There is no domestic authority to the effect that it is necessary to find an absence of valid consent before the court may authorise a local authority to restrict the liberty of a young person;

c) To hold otherwise would be to confuse the distinct temporal perspectives of Art 5 and an application for authorisation;

d) It would also mistake the purpose of an order under the inherent jurisdiction authorising the placement of a child in the equivalent of secure accommodation.

(a) The statutory scheme does not require lack of consent

  • The consent, or lack of it, of the young person who is the subject of a secure accommodation application is not a factor to which reference is made in any part of the statutory scheme under CA 1989, s 25 or SWW(W)A 2014, s 119. The statutory scheme has been held to be compatible with, and not in breach of, ECHR Art 5.
  • The fact that ‘consent’ is not a factor in the statutory scheme, in contrast to the requirements of Art 5 when determining whether there has been a deprivation of liberty as established by the second element of Storck, points up the essential difference between the two processes. Section 25 and s 119 are concerned with the authorisation of the placement of a child in secure accommodation: “… a child … may not be placed … in accommodation … for the purpose of restricting liberty (“secure accommodation”) unless …”. By s 25(2) and s 119(2) regulations may ’empower the court from time to time to authorise a child to be kept in secure accommodation’ for such period as the regulations may specify. Where the statutory criteria in s 25(1) or s 119(1) are satisfied the court ‘shall’ or ‘must’ ‘make an order authorising the child to be kept in secure accommodation’ (s 25(3) and s 119(3)) – see Re M (Secure Accommodation).
  • The effect of a court order under s 25 or s 119 is, therefore, to ‘authorise’ the applicant local authority to keep the subject child in secure accommodation. The effect of authorisation under s 25 is most clearly demonstrated by s 25(5A) which spells out the effect of a secure accommodation order for a placement in Scotland:

 

(5A) Where a local authority in England or Wales are authorised under this section to keep a child in secure accommodation in Scotland, the person in charge of the accommodation may restrict the child’s liberty to the extent that the person considers appropriate, having regard to the terms of any order made by a court under this section. [emphasis added]

  • In contrast to a sentence of imprisonment passed by a criminal court, a local authority is not required to restrict the liberty of a young person who is the subject to a secure accommodation order; s 25 and s 119 do no more than establish a system for the authorisation of such placements. The statutory scheme is therefore focused upon whether or not the factual circumstances are such as to be sufficiently serious to justify restricting liberty.
  • The welfare of the child, whilst relevant, is not the paramount consideration for a court when determining an application for a s 25 or s 119 order (Re M (Secure Accommodation Order) [1995] 1 FLR 418). The judgment of Butler-Sloss LJ (as she then was) in Re M justifies reading in full, but the reasons supporting her conclusion, with which Hoffmann LJ and Sir Tasker Watkins agreed, included the following:

 

a) Section 25 sits within Part 3 of CA 1989 which is structured to cast upon the local authority duties and responsibilities for children in its area, including those who are being looked after.

b) The general duty of a local authority under Part 3, which is to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, is not the same as the duty of a court under CA 1989, s 1 to afford paramount consideration to the child’s welfare.

(b) No domestic authority requires there to be a lack of valid consent

  • Save possibly for the decision of Keehan J in Local Authority v D to which I will now turn, and, of course, Mostyn J’s decision in the present case, this court has not been taken to any authority for the proposition that a lack of valid consent is a necessary jurisdictional pre-requisite before the High Court may exercise its inherent jurisdiction to authorise restriction of liberty. The role of the High Court, in holding as closely as possible to the scheme of s 25 and s 119 in these cases, is that of determining whether a local authority is to be authorised to restrict liberty.
  • This court was told that, in the present case, since the making of the order in March, the regime at the second placement has been relaxed so that the appellant now spends over three hours each day of ‘free time’ with the expectation that the amount of free time will increase by 30 minutes each week. The relaxation of the regime was a matter within the discretion of the local authority under the structure of the order made by Mostyn J who, rather than requiring restraint, had simply sanctioned its use.
  • In like manner to the effect of a secure accommodation order, an order under the inherent jurisdiction in these cases does not itself deprive a young person of his or her liberty, it merely authorises the local authority (or those acting on their behalf) to do so. This distinction was, unfortunately, not made sufficiently clear by Keehan J in Local Authority v D when he summarised the issue before the court (at paragraph 9) in terms of determining whether or not C was deprived of his liberty. With respect, the issue in such cases is, rather, whether the court should give a local authority the authority to deprive a young person of their liberty should they consider that that is necessary. In the event, Keehan J’s determination turned on the different basis that, because of the agreement of the young person it was not necessary for the court to give such authority to the local authority at that time.

 

(c) The different perspectives of Article 5 and an application for authorisation

  • This further consideration also points to the same overall conclusion. A determination that a person has or has not been deprived of their liberty in breach of Art 5 will often be a retrospective evaluation of the individual’s current and past circumstances. In that regard the question of whether or not they have or had consented to the restrictive regime is likely to be an important element; one cannot normally be said to be deprived of liberty when one has freely agreed to the relevant regime. This is in contrast to the court’s role under s 25 and s 119 or under the inherent jurisdiction, where the court’s perspective is normally prospective, determining whether circumstances exist that justify a local authority placing a child or young person in accommodation for the purpose of restricting their liberty.

 

(d) The purpose of an order under the inherent jurisdiction authorising the placement of a child in the equivalent of secure accommodation.

  • The need for an order authorising a local authority to place a child in the equivalent of secure accommodation derives from two factors. The first, and fundamental aspect, is to ensure that the absence of available secure accommodation does not lead to the structure imposed by s 25 being avoided. The terms of s 25 should be treated as applying to the same effect when a local authority is placing a child or proposing to place a child in the equivalent of secure accommodation. When viewed from this perspective, it is clear that a local authority cannot invest itself with the requisite authority and that a child’s agreement or consent cannot authorise such a placement. Neither the local authority nor a child/young person can authorise what Parliament has decided only the court can authorise.
  • The second factor derives from Article 5. The court’s authorisation means that if the authorisation is used for the purposes of depriving a child of their liberty the legal requirements of Article 5 will also have been fulfilled: see Re K (Secure Accommodation Order: Right to Liberty) [2001] 1 FLR 526. The court will necessarily have determined that the child’s welfare justifies, or even requires, him/her being deprived of their liberty for the purposes of maintaining the placement in the secure accommodation.
  • Drawing these matters together, once it is seen that the court’s power under s 25 / s 119 is not dependent upon any question of consent, the difficulties that arose in this case, as it was presented to the judge and, initially, to this court, disappear. The fact that any consent may or may not be ‘valid’ or ‘enduring’ on the day the order is sought, or at any subsequent point, or that a ‘valid’ consent is later withdrawn, is irrelevant to the scope of the court’s powers, whether they are exercised under statute or under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court. The existence or absence of consent may be relevant to whether the circumstances will or will not amount to a deprivation of liberty under Art 5. But that assessment is independent of the decision that the court must make when faced with an application for an order authorising placement in secure accommodation, registered or otherwise.
  • This approach, where the question of whether or not an Art 5 deprivation of liberty occurs depends upon the facts on the ground at a particular time and is not necessarily required by, or created by, the court order but by the act of those caring for the child under the court’s authorisation, accords with the ECtHR jurisprudence summarised at paragraph 23 and onwards above.

 

Further, the need for there to be an absence of valid consent before the Storck criteria are established, does not mean that the presence of an apparently valid consent prevents the circumstances from amounting to a deprivation of liberty (see De Wilde, Ooms and Versyp, Storck para 75 and Buzadji). In terms of domestic authority, paragraphs 23 to 31 of MM and PJ could not be more clear – “where conditions amounting to a deprivation of liberty are compulsorily imposed by law, the agreement of an individual cannot prevent that compulsory confinement from constituting a deprivation of liberty”. In like manner, it is to be recalled that the court in De Wilde stated:

“Finally and above all, the right to liberty is too important in a “democratic society” within the meaning of the Convention for a person to lose the benefit of the protection of the Convention for the single reason that he gives himself up to be taken into detention. Detention might violate Article 5 even although the person concerned might have agreed to it” [emphasis added].

Conclusion

  • It inevitably follows from the above analysis, and from the Appellant’s concession, that Mostyn J’s initial misgivings were well-placed but that he was unfortunately drawn into a legally erroneous position by accepting that it was necessary for the court to find a lack of valid consent before it could grant the local authority’s application. In the circumstances any question of the judge being correct in adding the gloss of ‘enduring’ to this non-existent jurisdictional requirement falls away.
  • I should make clear that this case does not concern the placement of children in other than the equivalent of secure accommodation. Different considerations will apply when an application is directed towards, and only directed towards, a deprivation of liberty. In that situation, subject to De Wilde, the question of whether or not the subject of an application to authorise the deprivation of liberty of a young person under the inherent jurisdiction is in agreement with the proposed regime may form part of an evaluation of whether such authorisation is necessary. Local Authority v D is an example of a case where the judge concluded that the young person’s stance rendered a court order unnecessary.
  • Conversely, as referred to above, once the court has authorised placement in secure accommodation or its equivalent, it may properly be considered that the matter can be left to those who are authorised to operate the care regime on a day to day basis and, as in the present case, they may work with the young person in a flexible manner using their powers of restriction or deprivation when necessary, but relaxing them when it is safe and appropriate to do so. Such issues are fact-specific to each case and are not matters of jurisdiction.
  • The Appellant’s appeal, as it had become by the close of argument, is now no more than a challenge to the judge’s discretion and could only succeed if this court were to be satisfied that the judge was wrong to grant authorisation to the local authority notwithstanding the apparent consent of the young person. There is no basis for holding that Mostyn J was ‘wrong’ to authorise restriction of liberty in this case. Indeed, as the judge himself observed, the breakdown of the placement so soon after the January order had been made vindicated his determination on that occasion; it also justified the making of a further order in respect of the new placement.

 

 

The Court of Appeal also made broader comments about the chronic and acute lack of beds for children who present with these difficulties, and the inherent unsuitability of using the inherent jurisdiction as a sticking plaster for the lack of bed space.

 

  1. This appeal relates to the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction by the High Court, Family Division when called upon to make orders which, but for a lack of capacity in the statutory system, would be made as secure accommodation orders under Children Act, 1989, s 25 (CA 1989).
  2. Official figures published by the Department for Education[1] show that, as at 31 March 2018, there were some 255 places in secure children’s homes in England and Wales. These places are taken up either by young people sent there through the criminal justice system or under CA 1989, s 25 secure accommodation orders. As will be explained more fully below, a child who is being looked after by a local authority in England or Wales may only be placed in secure accommodation in a children’s home if that home has been approved for such use either by the Secretary of State in England or the Welsh Government in Wales. This court understands that, in recent years, there has been a growing disparity between the number of approved secure children’s homes and the greater number of young people who require secure accommodation. As the statutory scheme permits of no exceptions in this regard, where an appropriate secure placement is on offer in a unit which is either not a children’s home, or is a children’s home that has not been approved for secure accommodation, the relevant local authority has sought approval by an application under the inherent jurisdiction asking for the court’s permission to restrict the liberty of the young person concerned under the terms of the regime of the particular unit on offer.
  3. Despite the best efforts of CAFCASS Cymru (this being a case concerning a Welsh young person), it has not been possible to obtain firm data as to the apparent disparity between the demand for secure accommodation places and the limited number available, nor of the number of applications under the inherent jurisdiction in England and Wales to restrict the liberty of a young person outside the statutory scheme. The data published by the Department for Education referred to in paragraph 2 simply measures the occupancy rate within the limited number of approved secure places without attempting to record the level of demand.
  4. This court has been told by counsel, on a broad anecdotal basis, that each local authority may, on average, make an application for a restricted liberty declaration under the inherent jurisdiction in one case each year. If that is so then, across England and Wales, the total number of such applications would be in the region of 150 per year. The understanding, again anecdotal, of judges hearing these cases is that that figure is probably a very substantial under-estimate; for example, in one week recently a medium-size court outside London heard five such applications. Again, by way of example, Mr Justice Holman described the situation in one week in the High Court in 2017 with a tone of wholly appropriate concern in A Local Authority v AT and FE [2017] EWHC 2458 (Fam):
    1. “5. It appears that currently such authorisation can only be given by the High Court in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.  This week I have been sitting here at the Royal Courts of Justice as the applications judge.  This case is about the sixth case this week in which I have been asked to exercise the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court to authorise the deprivation of liberty of a child in similar circumstances.  There are two yet further similar cases listed before me today.

6. Quite frankly, the High Court sitting here at the Royal Courts of Justice is not an appropriate resource for orders of this kind, and I personally have been almost drowned out by these applications this week.  Further, although I have no time properly to consider this today, I am increasingly concerned that the device of resort to the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is operating to by-pass the important safeguard under the regulations of approval by the Secretary of State of establishments used as secure accommodation. There is a grave risk that the safeguard of approval by the Secretary of State is being denied to some of the most damaged and vulnerable children.  This is a situation which cannot go on, and I intend to draw it to the attention of the President of the Family Division.”

  1. It is plainly a matter for concern that so many applications are being made to place children in secure accommodation outside the statutory scheme laid down by Parliament. The concern is not so much because of the pressure that this places on the court system, or the fact that local authorities have to engage in a more costly court process; the concern is that young people are being placed in units which, by definition, have not been approved as secure placements by the Secretary of State when that approval has been stipulated as a pre-condition by Parliament

 

The need for precision about the sort of restrictions that a children’s home can place on children and the need for training, inspection and monitoring of homes that are authorised to do so sprang out of the Pindown scandal, and the ingredients are in place for us to slide back into those sorts of dreadful abuses that began with good intentions but got so far removed from how the State ought to be dealing with its most vulnerable children. I hugely applaud the Court of Appeal here – the lack of secure beds is an accident waiting to happen.

 

The wider issues and the need for scrutiny

  • Before concluding this judgment, I return to the concern (referred to in paragraph 5) that so many young people are now being placed in secure accommodation outside the statutory scheme laid down by Parliament in units which, by definition, have not been approved by the Secretary of State as secure children’s homes. Whilst the High Court has a duty to consider such cases and must come to a decision taking account of the welfare needs of the individual young person, in the wider context the situation is fundamentally unsatisfactory. In contrast to the Secretary of State, the court is not able to conduct an inspection of the accommodation and must simply rely upon what is said about any particular unit in the evidence presented to it. In like manner, where a local authority, as is typically the case, is looking to place a young person in a bespoke unit a great distance away from their home area, the local social workers must make decisions at arm’s length and, it must be assumed, often without first-hand detailed knowledge of the particular unit.
  • The wide-ranging and powerful submissions of the ALC raise issues which are beyond the compass of this appeal but nevertheless deserve consideration in other places. The ALC identifies the following four key questions arising from the fact that a parallel system now exists under the inherent jurisdiction with respect to the secure accommodation of young people who would otherwise fall within the statutory code:

 

i) What is the impact, if any, on children of there being in use two parallel processes?

ii) Is there a disparity in the adherence to due process obligations or in the safeguarding a child’s access and participation in court decisions between these two processes?

iii) Is there a disparity in the practical protection afforded to children through the two processes which may result in arbitrary unfairness?

iv) What are the effects on the Convention Rights of children and the protection of their Article 5 and 6 rights of having two processes and in particular when does the ECHR case of Storck apply?

  • In the circumstances, a direction will be made that a copy of the judgments in this case is sent to each of the following: the Secretary of State for Education, the Secretary of State for Justice, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, the Chair of the Justice Select Committee, the Welsh Government and the Commissioner for Children.

 

 

Having ended the blog proper, two bits of shameless self-promotion (I say shameless, but I’m scarlet and writhing with shame as I type, honestly)

 

  1.  I am on the shortlist for Legal Commenter of the year at the Family Law Awards.  I’ve won this before, so I didn’t want to campaign for it, feeling that the goodness should be shared. But it was amazing to be nominated, and the words said were very kind.  My readers should vote, if they can spare a minute, and if you want to vote for me that’s very sweet (but don’t feel obligated to do so)  . Voting ends on Friday 19th October, so there’s time if you want to.   https://www.familylawawards.com/ehome/familylawawards2018/vote
  2.  As this blog is about Secure Accommodation, a plug for my book In Secure, which is fiction and set in a secure accommodation unit with ten children – there’s magic, adventure, romance, shocks and scares. It’s Tracy Beaker with Tentacles basically. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d love you to read it. You can get a e-book for 99p and the gorgeous paperback for eleven quid.  If you have read it, please put a review on Amazon, it makes a huge difference. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Secure-Andrew-Pack/dp/1911586947/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1539007741&sr=8-2