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Category Archives: costs

Obtaining an expert report without court permission

 

A quirky case from the pen of Her Honour Judge Lazarus.  [We have previously seen Her Honour Judge Lazarus in the decision in the case about the foster carer who was abusive towards the mother who tape-recorded her, and in the s20 case where compensation of £40,000 was ordered, in both cases the Judge being very critical of the Local Authority.]

 

As a general principle, if you want an expert in family Court proceedings, you need to get the permission of the Court first. Showing an expert any documents before the Court has given you that permission is a contempt of Court and if you go by the back door and pay for a report without the Court’s permission, you may not be able to rely on it. So it would be  a waste of your money.

This particular case involved an expert called Dr Lowenstein, whose name rang a bell with me.

 

He was involved in the massive case where the Mail on Sunday tried to claim that they had an article 8 right to be friends with a 94 year old woman who had previously been the journalist’s source, where the Court of Protection had put a restriction in place on the Press talking to her until a determination of (a) her capacity and (b) whether that was in her best interests.

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2014/05/02/journalists-right-to-private-and-family-life-with-her-source/

 

These are the passages about Dr Lowenstein in that case, Re G (an adult) 2014

  • The evidence of Dr Lowenstein was undermined by his having no instructions; he said in his oral evidence that he deduced them from what was said to him by C. G herself was brought to see him in his place of work by C. How his report came into being is a matter of concern, it appears to have been instigated by C, who paid for it; where she got the funds to pay for it is not known. C was given Dr Lowenstein’s name by a third party active in family rights campaigns.

 

 

 

  • When Dr Lowenstein saw G she was over two hours late and had been travelling for some time, he then interviewed her in the presence of C for some 3 hours. Dr Lowenstein had no knowledge of the background to the case at all except that there were court proceedings and that C and G were saying she, G, did not lack capacity. He was introduced to C as G’s niece. When he discovered during his evidence that this was not the case and their relationship was not lengthy he was very surprised. Dr Lowenstein took no notes of what was said to him by C prior to his interviewing G and preparing his report and he could not remember what was said. He said that he fashioned his instructions from those given to Dr Barker and set out in his report.

 

 

 

  • His evidence was further undermined when it became clear that he had not, as he said, read and assimilated the documents disclosed to him by C (without leave of the court ) namely the social worker’s statement, the report of the ISW and Dr Barker’s report for, had he done so, he could not have failed to pick up that G, C and F are unrelated and have known each other for a relatively short time. He would have been better aware of the extent of the concerns about C’s influence and control over G. As it was, he accepted that it would have been better for him to interview G on her own, without anyone being present. This is a matter of good practice, a point that Dr Lowenstein accepted, conceding that it was all the more necessary when he realised that the close family relationship as it had been presented to him was false.

 

 

 

  • Dr Lowenstein brought with him some of the results of tests he carried out with G; tests which indicated some low results indicating a lack of ability to think in abstraction and decision making. He did not accept the need to think in abstraction to reach decisions but did accept that in order to make decisions one had to retain information and that there was evidence that G was not able to do so. I do not accept this evidence it is part of the essence of reaching complex decisions that one is able to think in the abstract.

 

 

 

  • Dr Lowenstein lacked the requisite experience and expertise to make the assessment of capacity in an old person as he has had minimal experience in working with the elderly, has had no training in applying the provisions of the MCA and very little experience in its forensic application, this being his second case. He is a very experienced psychologist in the field of young people, adolescents and children but has no expertise in the elderly. In the tests results he showed the court G consistently had very low scores but he frequently repeated that G was “good for a person of 94”; any tests in respect of capacity are not modified by age and must be objective. If, as appeared to be the case, he felt sympathy for her and did not wish to say that she lacked capacity that is understandable but it is not the rigorous or analytical approach required of the expert witness. When questioned about capacity he seemed to confuse the capacity to express oneself, particularly as to likes and dislikes, with the capacity to make decisions.

 

 

Well, you know, that could just be bad luck. Even Babe Ruth struck out once in a while, and if you were assessing whether he was a good baseball player when you only saw one of his off days…

 

But it isn’t inspirational stuff.  He hadn’t read the documents, didn’t understand the tests and principles to be applied, wasn’t an expert in the field of law he was ostensibly reporting in and didn’t take proper notes. And he hadn’t been instructed through the Court process, but through the back door.

 

The new case is MB (Expert’s Court Report) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2015/B178.html

 

The mother in this case made an application to discharge Care Orders relating to a child who is now 8. She came to Court, bolstered by the expert report prepared on her behalf by Dr Lowenstein.

 

I’m just going to confine myself to exactly what the Judge had to say about Dr Lowenstein.

 

 

  • Within the recent history the mother and her partner Mr P have undergone a parenting assessment conducted by Mr Ian Scrivens and dated the 20th March 2015, initiated by the Local Authority, Mr Scrivens being an experienced social worker. And he undertook that assessment over a number of sessions with Ms MB and Mr P, and indeed met with H at his foster placement, and used the Department of Health guide for social workers undertaking a comprehensive assessment.
  • That assessment does not recommend that H is returned to his mother’s care and that, while there are some positives, there are ongoing concerns and, indeed, H’s enhanced needs would suggest that the couple would find it difficult to meet those needs in the light of their own difficulties.
  • Ms MB has told me today that, following receipt of that report, she and Mr P attempted to challenge this by seeking to dispute it with the Local Authority and to bring their concerns to the attention of the independent reviewing officer, presumably at looked after children review meetings for H.
  • She also tells me that she visited her former solicitor and was told that she could perhaps seek a further report from another expert, and she also tells me that she then approached Dr Lowenstein in an attempt to understand some of the issues and discussed the parenting assessment with him. She further tells me that Dr Lowenstein himself then suggested and, as she put it, offered to do a court report for them. And she confirmed, upon my careful enquiry, that it was he who had suggested this. I note of course that this report was obtained prior to the start of any of the proceedings that I have now before me, it being dated May 2015.
  • I note that Dr Lowenstein practices from Southern England Psychological Services based at Allington Manor, Eastleigh, Hampshire, and puts himself forward as, and I am reading from the third page of his report: a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society, as a qualified clinical and educational psychologist, and that he also works in the area of forensic psychology and he is registered with the health professional council, HCPC, practising in the areas of clinical, educational and forensic psychology, and having published widely in both clinical and educational psychology as well as forensic psychology. He sets out details in an extended profile in appendix 1 to his report.
  • He sets out his background training from an Australian university and a PhD from London University, that he has clinical training and a diploma in clinical and educational psychology from the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital, which qualifications were obtained in the 1960s, and that he held a former post as the Principal of Allington Manor, a specialist unit for disturbed young people. He has formerly been Chief Educational Psychologist for Hampshire and has advised and lectured in various parts of the world on the subject of setting up such centres.
  • He has twice been elected to serve as Director of the International Council of Psychologists and was their President from July 2011 to 2013, and claims to be currently practising as an independent expert witness for the courts and to write reports in the areas of educational and forensic psychology as well as in personal injury and criminal cases. He claims to work and advise in the area of family problems such as parental alienation, and he also claims to have a private practice where he treats people for a variety of psychological problems.
  • There are a number of concerns that occurred immediately to the Local Authority, to the Children’s Guardian and indeed to the Court, evident from what he calls his ‘psychodiagnostic report’ on Ms MB.
  • The first such concern is that he claims, under the very first heading, that this report is for the court and is carried out by an independent expert witness of many years experience. However, there were no ongoing court proceedings at the time. I am very concerned that he suggested that a ‘court report’ should be obtained, and suggested it to the mother of a child in foster care, and a mother who evidently has ambitions for her child either to be returned to her care or to have contact with that child and, as such, is vulnerable to any suggestion that she might be assisted by these means, notwithstanding that there were no court proceedings on foot at the time.
  • A second concern is that he purported to carry out a ‘court report’ without being granted permission to see nor having sight of any of the previous court papers, without the required process of permission from a court within proceedings being sought, and without there being an agreed letter of instruction approved by the court setting out the factors upon which he ought to comment. This is in obvious contravention of the relevant provisions found in the Family Proceedings Rules 2010 r.25, Practice Direction 25A-F and the Children And Families Act 2014 s13, and falls foul of the very clear guidance provided in Re A (Family Proceedings: Expert Witness) [2001] 1 FLR 723. Experts should not accept instructions unless explicitly informed that the court has given them its permission and of the terms set out in the court order permitting their instruction.
  • And further that he did this when he either ought to have known or knows very well, given the claims he makes in relation to his expertise, his experience, his qualifications and his apparent provision of court reports, that there was a very grave risk that such a report, prepared in this way, would be wholly inappropriate for the purposes of court proceedings and would therefore risk not being admissible within those proceedings and/or of having very little weight that could be sensibly attached to it.
  • I further note that his report mentions, at paragraph 1.7, that the mother has been improved to a considerable degree as a result of the psychotherapeutic sessions she has had with her psychotherapist, and he goes on in his conclusions, at page 10, paragraph 3, and page 11, paragraph 9, to confirm his opinion that she has undoubtedly been helped considerably by her psychotherapy and has learned a great deal as a result of her psychotherapeutic sessions. However, he also states that unfortunately there is no report from the psychotherapist as to her view of how her client benefited or not from those psychotherapeutic sessions.
  • It is therefore evident on the face of this report that Dr Lowenstein is not only, in the same report, acknowledging the lack of information from the psychotherapist but also purporting to be able to come to conclusions in relation to its impact, notwithstanding the lack of that information, and also notwithstanding that he had no information as to how the mother presented prior to such sessions. It is, therefore, a report that within its own content betrays inconsistencies and internal contradiction, and an obvious lack of rigorous analysis.
  • Additionally, Dr Lowenstein appears to be primarily an educational and general psychologist as revealed by a close reading of his qualifications, posts and experience. As such his instruction would not have been supported by the Local Authority or the Children’s Guardian in any event for that reason, and the Court would be most unlikely to accept that he would be the appropriate expert to consider mother’s complex personality issues.
  • I find this report, and the mode by which it has been suggested to the mother and has come about, to be highly unsatisfactory, likely to be in breach of professional codes of conduct, certainly lacking in any observation of the rules that apply to obtaining court reports within family proceedings, and that it is not a ‘court report’ as Dr Lowenstein claims and would not be admissible. In the circumstances, I gain the very strong impression that the vulnerability of this mother may have been exploited by Dr Lowenstein, who charged her £550 for this report in the circumstances which I have just outlined.
  • I am also aware that Dr Lowenstein has been criticised in another Court by another judge in very similar circumstances.
  • It is for these reasons that I intend to obtain the transcript of this judgment, and I have asked the Children’s Guardian to ensure that the transcript is sent to Dr Lowenstein so that his attention is drawn to the significant concerns expressed by this Court about his failure to observe the rules and requirements of reporting for the court and the inappropriateness of the steps that he has taken in this case and, indeed, the inadequacies of his report’s content, even on a superficial reading, that are evident to all concerned.
  • I am also going to invite the Children’s Guardian to consider reporting this matter to the professional bodies that Dr Lowenstein claims to belong to, and I also intend, in an anonymised version of this judgment, to publish this judgment, albeit that the names of professionals involved, and Dr Lowenstein in particular, will not be anonymised in accordance with guidance and case law. And, as I say, I consider Dr Lowenstein’s approach to this Mother’s situation to have failed in any purported attempt to assist her but to have been inappropriate and potentially exploitative, and certainly of no help to her within her applications

 

 

To see if Dr Lowenstein has been involved in any reported family cases favourably, I did a search on Bailii.

 

This one, Re F (a child) 2014, he was involved tangentially, again, having reported outside of Court proceedings, but it isn’t a favourable mention.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCC/Fam/2014/12.html

Dr Adshead was asked about the past reports of Dr.  Lowenstein  and Dr. Holt. Dr. Adshead told me that where she disagrees with Dr  Lowenstein , is that he seems to have a rather “old-fashioned view” of personality disorder, namely that you either have it or you do not . In Dr. Adshead’s opinion, it is perfectly possible to have some degree of personality disorder and become better or worse and that there is a spectrum of symptoms.

 

Again in this one, Dr Lowenstein’s report came before the Court despite him not having been instructed or given permission to see the papers

 

Re JC (Care Order) 2014

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2014/B185.html

 

  On the 11th December 2012 the social worker received an e-mail from EL and that attached the report from a Dr.  Lowenstein .  The father indicated that he was referred to Dr.  Lowenstein  by his G.P.

28.              At the hearing on the 21st September 2012 father had initially requested that Dr.  Lowenstein  undertake the family assessment but Her Honour Judges Coates (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) directed that it was Dr. Van Rooyen who was to undertake the assessment.  Dr.  Lowenstein  was instructed without the prior sanction of the Court, and/or the agreement of the other parties, and it is clear that father had disclosed some of the case documents to him.  The matter was transferred back to the County Court.

29.              In the light of the NSPCC concluding that the case is unsuitable for their reunification programme, and in the light of Dr. Van Rooyen’s addendum report, the Local Authority now take the view that JC should be placed in long term foster care; that he needs to be placed there until father has made progress on his therapy, and parenting work, and at some stage in the future it may be appropriate to consider the issue of rehabilitation.

30.              The fact that Dr.  Lowenstein  had been instructed was discussed at the case management conference on the 12th December 2012 and father made an application for further assessment of him by Dr.  Lowenstein  because he did not accept the contents of Dr. Van Rooyen’s report.  That application was dealt with by Her Honour Judge Cameron. Having heard submissions from all parties she ruled against the Court reading the report of Dr.  Lowenstein  and ruled against the father’s application for a further assessment.

There is a 2006 Court of Appeal case where he was mentioned as a possible expert but the application wasn’t pursued (so in that one, he hadn’t reported outside of Court)

Re B ( a child) O (children) 2006

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2006/1199.html

  • Coleridge J begins his judgment by reference to the decision of this court on 28 April 2005. He then identifies the main relief sought by Mr. O’Connell, and in paragraphs 6 to 8 identifies the additional relief also sought, the reaction of the other parties to it, and what happened: –

 

“Ancillary to the main applications for residence and contact, the following applications are also before the Court now. Firstly, by the Father, that the Guardian should be removed. Secondly, that a psychologist should be appointed to assess the children, in particular, a Dr  Lowenstein , the American exponent of that much questioned theory ‘parental alienation syndrome’, and if not that expert then another. He also alluded to the possibility of seeking disclosure of further documents but that application never proceeded.

And in the Court of Appeal in 2003 – again, there’s no suggestion here that Dr Lowenstein did anything wrong, but it is an unusual order for a Court to have had to make

Re G a child 2003

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2003/1055.html

  • There have been long running proceedings in the Manchester County Court between the parents of AG born on 3 July 1996. The central issue has always been contact, or rather lack of contact, between AG and her father Mr B. I will refer to him throughout this judgment as the father. His Honour Judge Hamilton has had charge of the case for some time. There was a major hearing commenced on 10 March 2003, in preparation for which Judge Hamilton had given directions in November 2002 and January 2003. At the conclusion of the March hearing Judge Hamilton reserved his decision, handing down a written judgment on 2 May 2003. Paragraph 3 of the resulting order reads as follows:

 

“The father is prohibited from disclosing in any manner any papers or documents filed in these proceedings or their content or any school reports he may obtain to either Dr Richard Gardner or Dr Ludwig  Lowenstein  or any other expert in parental alienation syndrome or any other agency or organisation such as Families Need Fathers without the specific permission of the court.”

And another Court of Appeal case in 2000 – here, Dr Lowenstein had been properly instructed as a Court appointed expert (I note here as a ‘forensic psychologist’ ) and the Court had rejected his evidence (which doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with it, just that the Court disagreed with his report in that particular case)

Re L  and Others (Children) 2000  http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2000/194.html

The solicitors for the parties agreed that they should jointly instruct a child psychiatrist to advise on contact and His Honour Judge Milligan made the order. It appears that the parties´ solicitors had great difficulty in finding a child psychiatrist and eventually instructed Dr  Lowenstein  who made a report. He saw both parents and G and came to the conclusion that this was a typical case of parental alienation syndrome. As the judge said, Dr  Lowenstein  has been closely associated with recognition of this syndrome. He recommended therapy, at least 6 sessions to be conducted by himself, followed by a further report. Since it was therapy, there would be problems in financing the therapy and subsequent report. The judge did not accept the unsubstantiated assertion of the court welfare officer as to emotional abuse of G. He was equally unhappy about the findings and conclusions of Dr  Lowenstein . In the report of Dr Sturge and Dr Glaser, they indicated that parental alienation syndrome was not recognised in either the American classification of mental disorders or the international classification of disorders. It is not generally recognised in psychiatric or allied child mental health specialities. It would be fair to say that Dr  Lowenstein  is at one end of a broad spectrum of mental health practitioners and that the existence of parental alienation syndrome is not universally accepted. There is, of course, no doubt that some parents, particularly mothers, are responsible for alienating their children from their fathers without good reason and thereby creating this sometimes insoluble problem. That unhappy state of affairs, well known in the family courts, is a long way from a recognised syndrome requiring mental health professionals to play an expert role. I am aware of the difficulties experienced in some areas in getting the appropriate medical or allied mental health expert to provide a report within a reasonable time. It was, however, unfortunate that the parents´ lawyers not only did not get the medical expert ordered by the judge, that is to say, a child psychiatrist, (although in many cases a psychologist would be appropriate), but, more serious, were unable to find an expert in the main stream of mental health expertise.
The judge, in my view, was entitled to reject the report and the oral evidence of Dr  Lowenstein , even though the psychologist was jointly instructed. Lord Goff of Chieveley said in re F (Mental Patient: Sterilisation) [1990] 2 AC1 at page 80 that experts were to be listened to with respect but their opinions must be weighed and judged by the court. The judge said
“I cannot accept the effect of what Dr  Lowenstein  has told me, namely that PAS is such a serious state that the child involved and the parent should be subjected to treatment by way of therapy with direct threats to the mother in the event of non-co-operation. It appears from the literature that some schools of PAS thought advocate the immediate removal of the child from the alienating parent and thereafter no contact with the alienating parent for a period. It also appears that ´long term psycho- analytically informed therapy in the order of years rather than months´ is the treatment of choice.”

I do not accept the submission of Mr Bates that the judge did not give reasons for rejecting the evidence of Dr  Lowenstein . The case for the father was largely based upon the suspect conclusions of the court welfare officer of emotional harm suffered by the child. The judge did give reasons and it was well within his judicial function not to accept that evidence.

And then yet another Court of Appeal case in 1999  – this time, the report having been obtained outside of Court proceedings and without the permission of the Court.

Clark v Clark and Another 1999

By a summons of 1st March the wife sought to admit fresh evidence consisting of a report from Dr  Lowenstein , a clinical psychologist, a statement from Detective Constable Shirley and her own affidavit. By a later summons she sought to introduce reports from Dr Mathews and Dr Fraser Anderson. It was agreed at the outset that all this additional evidence would be received by the court de bene esse and that any ruling on its admissibility would be deferred to final judgment. I will therefore deal straightaway with this additional evidence. The affidavit from Dr  Lowenstein  hardly meets any test for the admission of fresh evidence. He is a clinical psychologist who prepared a written report on the wife having spent several hours in her company on 8th February 1999. In a neat way this manoeuvre illustrates the extent to which the wife inhabits a world bounded by her egocentric and manipulative will unconstrained by any objective reality. Dr  Lowenstein  gave the opinion that he did because Mrs Clark restricted him to her version of events omitting to inform the psychologist that that version had been comprehensively rejected in High Court proceedings. The statement from the detective constable has greater validity in that it contradicts assertions made by the husband in letters to his solicitors in April and June 1995 to the effect that the detective constable had been obstructed by the wife in investigating a report from the husband of the theft of a picture from Wellow Park. There is perhaps just sufficient justification to permit the admission of that evidence for further investigation. As to the reports from Dr Anderson and Dr Mathews, in my opinion they fail to meet any test of admissibility. Dr Mathews’ undated report, but written in this month of April, only contains what was before the judge in her manuscript medical notes. The report from Dr Fraser Anderson simply relates to the husband’s condition in May 1997. It is dated 23rd November 1998 and it is admitted that it was requested prior to judgment. There is nothing within it which would in any way have expanded the judge’s knowledge or affected his conclusions. Consequently I would admit the statement from the detective constable and reject the three medical reports. I would add that even if admitted their contents would not have assisted her case

I will give  a caveat. There may well be many cases where Dr Lowenstein has provided a report in family Court proceedings where the Court found it useful and helpful and relied upon it, even thanking him for the valuable report. There may be hundreds of such cases. There just aren’t any reported ones. Not all cases get reported.

 

It would be difficult to find a more callous and calculating attorney

Yet another financial abuse case. Once again, one where the Deputy or Attorney would have benefited greatly from having one of my coffee mugs with “It’s not your Fucking Money” printed on it.

 

Re SF 2015

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/68.html

 

In this case, Sheila who is now 87 had appointed her son Martin to manage her financial affairs through an Enduring Power of Attorney.

 

Martin had withdrawn from her funds, £117,289.45 for “out of pocket expenses”, whilst not paying his mother’s care home fees which had been mounting up and had reached £29,000 in arrears.

In justifying this, he stated that he had been ‘billing’ at a daily rate of £400 per day, which is what he would charge in his role as a consultant.  This then included billing his own mother for visiting her. Nice.

 

“In my first witness statement dated 30 March 2015 I stated … that Martin had claimed a total of £49,143.19 since the EPA was registered on 7 August 2009. In Martin’s witness statement he has stated that Hugh James Solicitors sent him a cheque for the amount of £68,146.26. Martin has stated he paid this into his own account in part payment for the costs he had incurred. This amount added to the £49,143.19 amounts to a total of £117,289.45. The Public Guardian believes the amount of £117,289.45 is an excessive amount to claim for out of pocket expenses.

Martin states that he charged for the visits he made to Sheila when he would visit to check for signs of physical abuse due to her mistreatment at [her previous residential care home in Llandrindod Wells]. Martin is an attorney under the EPA, which covers property and financial affairs only. Therefore his visits to check for physical abuse, even if they were necessary to safeguard Sheila, were not part of his role as attorney. Therefore, the Public Guardian believes Martin was not entitled to claim expenses for these visits.”

 

 

  1. As regards the amount of remuneration he has paid himself, Martin said in his witness statement dated 1 October 2015 that:

    “In my view these are not excessive, considering I have been fighting this battle with Powys LHB since 2004. If I had not spent the large amounts of time on this case, then my mother’s estate would still be illegally paying the full costs of care, and the 2013 compensation would never have been forthcoming. Finally, I have not taken any gifts from the estate (which could have been in the region of £33,000 from 2004 to 2015).

  2. At the hearing Martin said that he had charged his mother a daily rate of £400 for visiting her and for the work he put into the claims against Powys Local Health Board. This was his usual daily charging rate when he was a self-employed independent consultant prior to his retirement.
  3. In response to the Public Guardian’s application generally, Martin said:

    “I see no need to replace myself. I am the sole heir and because of my mother’s dementia and current poor health, there is no need to protect the estate’s financial interests, which are effectively mine.The OPG have now recommended that [a deputy] is appointed from their own panel. I would expect any appointed deputy from the OPG to seek to assist the Police in bringing criminal charges against Powys LHB, and to recover the monies owed from Powys LHB. If this is not part of the remit then appointing will be a waste of time and any costs incurred will be to the detriment of my mother’s estate and my own financial interest in my mother’s estate. However, it is apparent that the OPG do not want to pursue the recovery of monies owed from the Powys LHB. The OPG appears to be acting on behalf of Powys CC and Powys LHB, and as such is effectively colluding in their fraudulent behaviour. Consequently I believe that the OPG is not a fit or proper organisation to protect the interest of my mother’s estate.

    On the face of it, the OPG’s desire for me to repay money from my mother’s estate makes little sense. I am the sole beneficiary of the estate and any restitution I made would come straight back to me on my mother’s death, which considering her present state of health, is likely to be sooner rather than later. “

 

Once again, we have a Deputy or Attorney mistakenly thinking that becoming a Deputy or Attorney is actually Cate Blanchett for early access to an inheritance that they expect to acquire.  Nor is it, as he claimed, the purpose of the role to safeguard his own inheritance.

 

All of this led the Judge, Senior Judge Lush to conclude this :-

 

 

  1. One would be hard pressed to find a more callous and calculating attorney, who has so flagrantly abused his position of trust.
  2. Martin hasn’t paid his mother a personal allowance since June 2014 because toiletries were free in her previous residential care home and he resents having to pay for them now in the nursing home in which she has been living since February 2013. He even begrudges her having her hair tinted.
  3. The assertion that he hasn’t taken “any gifts from the estate” adds nothing to his credibility. If anything, it highlights his lack of it. He was referring to the £3,000 annual exemption for inheritance tax (‘IHT’) purposes, but Sheila’s estate is well below the threshold at which IHT becomes chargeable and no one is entitled, as of right, to receive a gift of £3,000 each year.
  4. As regards the non-payment of Sheila’s care fees, I agree with the Public Guardian’s stance that “whilst Martin attempts to resolve the dispute (with Powys Local Health Board), it would be in Sheila’s best interests that he continues to pay her care fees.”
  5. There is no evidence to support Martin’s suggestion that “if my mother’s care fees are paid from now onwards, Powys LHB will seek to avoid refunding monies owed.” The letter from Powys Local Health Board to the OPG, dated 12 March 2015, to which I referred in paragraph 21 above, shows that the Health Board has acted in good faith and reimbursed any fees that were overpaid in the past. Martin, on the other hand, has persistently acted in bad faith.
  6. As for his claim for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses for acting as his mother’s attorney, paragraph 6 of Part A of the prescribed form of Enduring Power of Attorney, which he and his mother signed on 23 October 2004, stated that:

    “Your attorney(s) can recover the out-of-pocket expenses of acting as your attorney(s). If your attorney(s) are professional people, for example solicitors or accountants, they may be able to charge for their professional services as well. You may wish to provide expressly for remuneration of your attorney(s).”

  7. Sheila did not expressly provide for Martin to be remunerated and if he intended to charge a daily rate of £400 for acting as her attorney, he should have applied to the court for authorisation pursuant to paragraph 16(2)(b)(iii) of Schedule 4 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005. By not doing so, he behaved in a way that contravened his authority and was not in the donor’s best interests.
  8. The Public Guardian believes the amount of £117,289.45 is an excessive amount to claim for out of pocket expenses. I would put it more strongly than that. I believe that charging one’s elderly mother a daily rate of £400 for visiting and acting as her attorney is repugnant.
  9. Martin suggested that the appointment of a panel deputy would be a waste of time and money because his mother’s estate is effectively already his. I disagree. The panel deputy will, for the first time in eleven years, place Sheila at the centre of the decision-making process, rather than view the preservation and enhancement of Martin’s inheritance as the paramount consideration.
  10. Having regard to all the circumstances, therefore, I am satisfied that Martin is unsuitable to be Sheila’s attorney, and I shall revoke the EPA and direct the Public Guardian to cancel its registration. I shall also direct an officer of the court to invite a panel deputy to apply to be appointed as Sheila’s deputy for property and affairs.

 

 

Is he the most callous attorney ever?

 

Well, in trying to think of a worse one, I can only come up with Harvey Dent from the Batman universe,  the District Attorney who later became a gangster named Two-Face.   [And to be honest, that may be slightly unfair on Harvey  – though possibly not as unfair as Tommy Lee Jones portrayal of him in Batman Forever, in which he was so hammy he needed a bodyguard to protect him from David Cameron between takes ]

 

Heads I bill my mother £400 for visiting her, tails I deny her hair-tinting treatment

Heads I bill my mother £400 for visiting her, tails I deny her hair-tinting treatment

Fast and the Furious – Tunbridge Wells Drift

 

 

Okay, this piece isn’t really about Vin Diesel and The Rock racing cars around the backstreets of Kent. But it is about a case about  Medway (which is sort of near Kent) weren’t fast, and as a result the Judge got furious. And where the central issue was drift.  Section 20 drift, y’all.

(*Tunbridge Wells have done nothing wrong in this story – I just needed a “T” town for the Tokyo Drift reference. )

 

I’ve been writing about section 20 drift for a while, but perhaps given that this is a really strong judgment, it is worth a quick recap.  The Human Rights Act compensation to be paid to the mother by Medway was £20,000 and to the child also £20,000.   (And possibly costs to follow – see bottom of this post for an explanation of that)

 

 

  • Without a court forum it was solely the local authority that empowered itself to make decisions about a child unlawfully held by them, with simply a check in the form of the IRO system on the progress and welfare of a child in local authority care (and which system I consider further below).
  • T drifted in foster care without any clear focus on her contact, her need for therapy or her and her Mother’s rights to family life. I find shocking the inattention to contact, such that Medway Council is not even able to specify clearly what has and has not taken place, but is obliged to admit to serious gaps in contact and flaws in its support for this essential aspect of their family life. There would not only have arisen a duty under s34 Children Act 1989 to promote contact if an ICO were in place, but both T and Mother would have had a voice, legal advice and representation within proceedings to pursue their concerns about her accommodation, care plan, therapeutic needs and contact and Medway Council ‘s care of T would have been subject to the necessary judicial scrutiny applying the relevant careful tests relating to the threshold and welfare criteria set out in the Children Act to ensure interference with their family life was in T’s best interests, necessary and proportionate.

 

 

Section 20 is the power under the Children Act 1989 for children to be in foster care without a Court order – it is categorised as a voluntary foster placement. Typically, the parents are asked to consent, or even they come forward and say that they can’t manage, aren’t coping or the child needs a break.  Section 20 can be a really useful tool – if there’s genuine cooperation between the parents and the social worker, nobody wants to force the case into Court and up the stakes.

Where it starts to get problematic, as we’ve seen from a number of cases over the last three years, is where the consent and cooperation isn’t that genuine but that parents either don’t understand or have explained to them what section 20 really is and that they can say no, or are pressured/cajoled/threatened into agreeing, or in the latest spate of cases where a Local Authority is relying on a parent simply not objecting to the foster placement.  There are reasons why a parent might not come forward and object – most obviously that without access to a lawyer or it being explained they don’t even know that they can, or they are afraid of rocking the boat, or they are having faith that the system will work and do the right thing, or that they are intimidated that if they object then the case will be rushed off to Court and that this will be bad for them.

So ultimately, section 20 drift cases are about an imbalance of power – the State is taking advantage of the fact that parents without access to a lawyer won’t object or will agree to section 20.  And so it becomes an alternative to going into Court proceedings. Court proceedings are expensive, and involve a lot of work (going to Court, writing statements and chronologies etc) and of course in Court social workers don’t necessarily get things their own way and the Court can disagree with them.  So there can be a temptation, if the parents aren’t demanding the child back, to just keep going with the section 20 foster placement. And this of course is the drift element – these children can wait months or even longer, sat in limbo – nobody has decided whether the child can ever go home or whether the child’s future lays elsewhere, the case just drifts.  By the time the case finally gets to Court, that relationship between child and parent can be hard to put back together, and the problems the parent has may take time to address and it can be harder for them to get the child back.

Section 20 drift, in short, is bad.

It may be happening more as a result of a series of pressures – firstly a general demand within Local Authorities to save money and cut costs (due to significant cuts to their budgets) and secondly the reforms to Care proceedings that mean that more and more is expected to be done before going to Court – there can be a temptation to keep the case out of Court until all of the assessments are done and everything is just perfect. It is a bit of an unintended consequence – which we’re seeing a lot of since the PLO (Public Law Outline) reforms came into being.  This isn’t a problem limited to Medway here, or Brent as in the last reported case, or Gloucester/Bristol where their Judge has really seized the issue.  I’ve worked in a lot of Local Authorities, I’ve worked against a lot of Local Authorities and I’ve seen it all around the country.

 

That’s the background.

On with this case

Medway Council v M &T 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2015/B164.html

 

This case was decided by Her Honour Judge Lazarus  (readers may recall her from the case where a mother tape recorded a foster carer being dreadfully abusive to her https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/06/03/tape-recording-paying-off/   )

 

When the child T, was five, she came to the attention of Medway Council, and her mother M, was having mental health problems and was detained under the Mental Health Act. Medway placed the child in foster care, but didn’t actually have mum’s consent (she probably would not have had capacity to give it in any event)

 

 

 

  • T was born on 9.1.08, making her 7 years 9 months old now, and just 5 when she first came to the notice of Medway Council. This was due to a referral made on 8.2.13 by T’s school that T was being collected by a number of adults and concerns that Mother may be a victim of trafficking. Coincidentally, within a few days T was placed in emergency foster care, as her Mother was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act on 11.2.13.
  • It is clear that Mother was too unwell to discuss T’s accommodation and there are no records whatsoever of any discussion with Mother of T’s whereabouts and care until her discharge in August 2013. It is likely, and there is no evidence to the contrary, that there was no proper explanation to her within this six month period, and Medway Council do not suggest there was, albeit I accept that for some of this time she would have been suffering from severe and disabling mental ill-health. There is certainly no document suggesting that there was any agreement by Mother to this accommodation. What Medway Council claims is that this was a different kind of lawful accommodation under s20, until she was well enough to consider T’s accommodation by Medway Council. It was not, and I shall deal with this further below.

 

 

That argument you may recall from the case I wrote about last week, decided by Her Honour Judge Rowe QC  – in which she decided that the power under section 20 needed to be exercised with capacitious consent, and not merely relying on the absence of objection.

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/10/12/unlawful-removal-of-a-child-compensation-paid/

 

[That’s the one where I used the comparison of a 10 year old assuming that it was okay to eat all of the Penguin biscuits whilst his mum is upstairs because “mum didn’t tell me that I COULDN’T]

 

In this case, T remained in foster care ostensibly under section 20 until care proceedings were issued – the period involved was 2 years and 3 months. She was in ‘voluntary’ foster care rom February 2013 until proceedings were finally issued in May 2015.  The mother had not even known that this had happened until August 2013, some SIX MONTHS after the child was taken into foster care.  Mother and baby are currently together in a specialist foster placement, and I wish them both well.  As the Judge points out, this is the longest reported case of section 20 drift.

 

The Judge went through everything very carefully (it is an extremely well-drawn judgment and would be recommended reading for anyone dealing with such a case – particularly the analysis of damages)

 

The conclusions were :-

CONCLUSION

 

  • For all of the above reasons I find that Medway Council ‘s accommodation of T and her removal from her Mother was unlawful, and as a result I have no need to go on to consider whether it was ‘necessary’ within the meaning of Article 8(2) ECHR.
  • I also find that Medway Council failed to issue proceedings in a proper and timely manner. This was despite warnings from June 2013 onwards. I have not found it possible to understand why there arose the original misunderstanding of the correct legal approach, why the advice given was not followed, why further legal planning meetings were not held until 2015, nor even why proceedings were not issued immediately in 2015 once the matter was looked at again by Ms Cross in January. The period involved is 2 years and 3 months, the longest currently reported in any case reported on this issue to date.

 

REMEDIES – JUST SATISFACTION

A. DECLARATIONS

 

  • T and Mother are entitled to the following declarations:

 

a. The local authority breached their rights under Article 8 ECHR in that they

i. Unlawfully removed T from Mother’s care on 11.2.13;

ii. Failed to obtain properly informed capacitous consent for T to be accommodated, or to consider/assess adequately the question of the Mother’s capacity to consent, at that date or subsequently;

iii. Accommodated T without Mother’s consent between 11.2.13 and 7.5.15;

iv. Failed to inform Mother adequately or involve her sufficiently in the decision-making process in relation to T;

v. Failed to address the issues relating to their relationship and contact between them adequately;

vi. Permitted unacceptable delay in addressing all of the above.

b. The local authority breached the rights of T and Mother under Article 6 ECHR in that they failed to issue proceedings in a timely manner.

 

What were Medway going to do to avoid this in the future?

 

 

  • Ms Cross has set out in her statement a number of vitally necessary improvements to Medway Council’s procedures and performance which I heartily welcome, particularly as this is not the only case where the use of s20 by Medway Council has been of concern (I am aware of at least three such others, including a reported judgment of mine earlier this year). The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding and depends on consistent and rigorous application of these reforms. They are as follows:

 

a. “During the period of January to July 2015 we have reviewed a number of cases where the child/ren are accommodated under S20 and where the child/ren are aged 12 and under. Where required we have issued or are issuing proceedings;. We have begun this process for children aged 12 and over and this will complete by 1st October 2015.

b. These reviews will continue and with immediate effect we have agreed that our Legal Gateway Panel, chaired by the Head of Service for Advice and Duty, Child Protection and Children in Need, will continue to monitor and track children already accommodated under S20 and will in future review all new cases involving s20;

c. The reduction in the use of S20 accommodation is built into all our service and improvement plans

d. We have reviewed how court work is undertaken within the LAC & Proceedings service and going forward will be targeting this work at the social workers who have the most suitable skills for court work;

e. Training has been provided in recent weeks for social workers on legal processes and proceedings, including the issue of s20, and this will continue on a rolling basis throughout the year.

f. We will be holding workshops on the use of S20 in September and October to provide clear guidance and support for Social Workers to ensure they are equipped to deal with any s20 issues arising and that they fully understand how S20 should be utilised and monitored. We will be providing new policies and procedures for staff across CSC in the use of s20. We plan to have these finalised by September 18th and we would be happy to share these with the Court and partner agencies including Cafcass at our quarterly meetings with the Judiciary and other agencies.

g. At monthly meetings between the 2 Heads of service from CSC and the Head of Legal S20 will be a standing agenda item and we will discuss each child who has been accommodated under s20 in the intervening month to satisfy ourselves that the appropriate management oversight and case related activity is in place.

h. I am in discussion with the Head of Adult Mental Health services to organise workshops for staff on capacity issues and deprivation of liberty (DOL’s) awareness. I hope that these workshops can be completed by 01.11.2015.

i. We have an adult mental health duty social worker located within our advice and duty services to advise and assist on those cases referred to us where the parent/s have a mental health or learning disability.

j. We are organising PAMs training for a number of staff so that we have more staff located within CSC who are able to assess parents with a learning disability in order that we can improve the service provided to them. We hope that this will have taken place by 01.12.2015.

k. We have increased management capacity and have formalised an Operational Manager post in each of the service areas. They will have direct responsibility for ensuring that court work proceeds in a timely manner and that work is of a high standard

l. S20 cases will also be reviewed at a monthly Permanence Panel wherein the permanence planning for LAC children is reviewed. This panel, chaired by my HoS colleague has attendees from Legal services, the Principle IRO and the adoption service.

m. As a result of this review I am also working with my colleagues to review the S20 form that parents sign and we are introducing a checklist for staff when seeking S20 accommodation to ensure that they address all the salient issues with parents. These issues will include considering the parent/s needs arising from a mental health/learning disability. These reviews will have completed by 31.08.2015 and the updated forms will be in use thereafter.

n. Finally the reviewing service have implemented a new review whereby the allocated IRO will review all cases between the LAC review (ie every 6 weeks) to ensure that all planning is on track. Where required concerns will be escalated to the appropriate Operational Manager and if there is still no resolution to the relevant Head of Service.”

 

 

Now, an important check and balance on social worker’s actions or inactions is supposed to be the Independent Reviewing Officer system. The IROs are supposed to hold social workers to account and make sure that things like this don’t happen.  There are regular reviews of children’s cases when they are in foster care. What ought to have happened at those reviews was that the IRO should have got the social workers to commit to either a plan of short assessment and then review the outcome, or make a decision to return the child to mother’s care, or make a decision that the child couldn’t go home and make the Court application to have the child’s long term future resolved. That didn’t happen.

 

LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN REVIEWS & INDEPENDENT REVIEWING OFFICERS

 

  • Ms Dunkin’s statement is helpful in its analysis of the history and the role of the Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs). They are supposed to perform a crucial role monitoring the care of Looked After children by reviewing and improving care planning and challenging drift and delay.
  • It is highly concerning that there have been five IROs in the last two years before proceedings were issued.
  • There was no IRO allocated until 18.3.13, five weeks after T was accommodated, so she was therefore not afforded a review of her care within 20 days of her accommodation as is required under the IRO Handbook and Placement Regulations. By the end of May that IRO is recorded as being on long term sick leave, and this is considered to be the reason why there is no minute of the first LAC review available.
  • Every LAC review minute inaccurately records/repeats the date of T’s accommodation as having taken place a month later than it occurred.
  • I commend the second IRO LC for correctly requiring a legal review of Medway Council’s position not to take proceedings (11.6.13), however despite it not having taken place by the next LAC review that LC conducted there then began the series of failures by LC and each subsequent IRO to challenge the Social Worker and team manager and director of services about failing to follow the clear recommendation initially made in June 2013.
  • No subsequent LAC reviews (18.9.13, 17.4.14, 8.7.14, 25.11.14) made any further clear recommendations as to parental responsibility, legal status or the use of s20 although the issues are mentioned, save to repeat (presumably by cut and paste as opposed to direct engagement with the issue) the same paragraph that set out the original recommendation of 11.6.13. By 8.7.14 what is added is a recommendation to seek legal advice with a view to securing T’s permanency. I am concerned that this betrays that the review process and LC failed to recognise both the full range of T’s needs and her and her Mother’s rights to family life, and had moved on simply to consider how to regularise what had by then become the status quo, T having been in foster care for almost 18 months at that date. This is particularly worrying as that LAC review meeting also demonstrated Mother’s vulnerability: she was accompanied by an extremely domineering ‘friend’ who described herself as an ‘auntie’ (and whom the Poppy Project is concerned may have had some involvement in Mother’s exploitation), and which led to a decision that all future meetings must be conducted with Mother alone.
  • Contact is touched on in the LAC reviews, but no clear picture or recommendation emerges. For example, the review of 17.4.14 mentions the reintroduction of contact I have already referred to, but little further is pursued. At the same meeting the problem with T’s passport and therefore the implementation of respite care during her foster carer’s holiday was raised and not addressed adequately, let alone robustly.
  • Overall, it is clear that although the fundamental fault lay with Medway Council by its social work and legal teams, the IRO process failed T, and by extension her M, by frequent changes of IRO and each one failing to rigorously apply themselves to the outstanding issues with attention or subsequently following up Medway Council’s failings, and if necessary escalating the issue. Ms Dunkin rightly concedes that previous IROs were not robust enough in this respect.
  • The statutory provisions, regulations and the guidance in the IRO Handbook covering the function and performance of IROs has been carefully reviewed elsewhere (see for example A & S (Children) v Lancashire County Council [2012] EWHC 1689 (Fam) at paragraphs 168-217 in particular). I do not propose to make specific declarations in relation to this aspect of the case. No such declarations are sought, and the appointment and management of IROs falls to the relevant local authority in any event. Additionally, I take into account that the correct recommendation was made in June 2013 and subsequently repeated, albeit it was not followed up adequately or at all, and was ignored by the local authority from the outset.
  • Ms Dunkin confirms that since October 2014 there has been a ‘root and branch review’ of the IRO service: immediate allocation of an IRO, with 90% of reviews now on time; improved IRO requirements and monitoring; performance and training audits with areas of improvement requiring action within a set timescale; direct input by IROs onto the electronic system at Medway Council so alerting team managers to implement their own quality and performance processes; shortened timescales for escalating challenges with a 20 day period before it is referred to the Director of Children’s Services; and mid-way reviews between LAC reviews enabling the IRO to check on progression of care plans and recommendations. Ms Dunkin as Principal Reviewing Officer now sits on the Legal Gateway Panel, resource panel and permanency panel.
  • Again these are welcome and necessary improvements, but their effectiveness will depend upon rigorous application of those improved practices.

 

 

 

On the issue of costs, we have a peculiar situation at present, where if a parent follows the law which is to make the Human Rights Act compensation claim within care proceedings, the Legal Aid Agency (the Government department who pay for the ‘free’ legal representation of a parent within care proceedings) will take all of the compensation to cover the legal costs, and the parent or child would only get anything left over.  That pretty much sucks.  Is there anyone who thinks that it is the Legal Aid Agency who should be compensated for what was done to mother and this child? Of course not.

 

So, apparently there are moves afoot to reverse this fairly recent and frankly moronic policy, and the Judge reserved the issues of costs until then.  If the policy doesn’t change, I’d expect an order that Medway also pay mother and T’s court costs, so that the compensation award goes to the mother and T rather than to a Government agency.

 

While I have assessed this award, I am asked for the time being not to order its payment nor to consider costs. This is at the request of the Official Solicitor who is currently investigating the most appropriate way to manage such an award for a protected party within care proceedings given that this is an award properly made within care proceedings (cf. Re L (Care Proceedings: Human Rights Claims) [2003] EWHC 665 (Fam)) and Mother is rightly in receipt of non-means and non-merits tested Legal Aid, but where concerns exist that the Legal Aid Agency may intend to take steps purporting to claim the whole costs of Mother’s representation in these care proceedings from that award. I shall therefore deal with the issue of ordering payment and costs at a later date.

 

 

The Judge here also considered the issue that I raised in the Her Honour Judge Rowe case, as to whether a very short piece of section 20 accommodation if the parent is unable to care for the child and one is establishing whether that’s a really short period  (i.e mum goes into hospital overnight, but the next day is released with medication and is fine) might be warranted – because the alternative is for the mother to be sectioned and on the same day social workers go to Court to get an Emergency Protection Order which would be awful if she happened to be released the next day.

 

It could be argued that where there is such an emergency as this, and indeed as in the Brent case, that it may be reasonable to wait for a short period without taking proceedings in order to review the parent’s progress in hospital in the event that their ability to care for their child might return. This would then avoid the stress and expense of time and resources in bringing unnecessary proceedings that would then have to be withdrawn. I concur with HHJ Rowe’s analysis that a month in the Brent case was too long. It may be reasonable, in rare and very clear cases where such enquiries could be reasonably considered as likely to bear fruit, to wait for at most a day or two while the local authority explored the possibility of an imminent return to a parent’s care. I bear in mind here that both in logic and principle such a period should be less than the time limit of 72 hours which is stipulated in the Children Act as applicable to PPOs. However, otherwise, save perhaps for the first few hours while the child’s status is considered, and advice sought and steps taken to issue proceedings, it must be right that proceedings are brought as immediately as possible for all the reasons discussed above.

 

I think that’s really sensible and pragmatic.  Like the Brent case, this is not legally binding precedent on anyone other than the parties who were in the case, but it would certainly be persuasive in such cases and equally a Local Authority who go beyond that 72 hour period are badly exposed to a Human Rights claim of this type.

Winding your way down on Baker Street

The Court of Protection, in Aidiniantz v Riley 2015 were dealing with a high level of conflict between family members relating to the affairs of an 88 year old woman who lacked capacity to manage her own finances and other matters as to where she should live.

 

The family had been the creators of the Sherlock Holmes museum in Baker Street, which one imagines does quite well and probably has been doing even better in recent years as both Hollywood, US television and the BBC have each had their very own popular version of the character.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/65.html

 

At the hearing, the Judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, found that the press were in attendance. It emerged that the press had been sent a press release about the case – that press release was not a neutral one approved by the Court but a partial, tendentious and sensationalised one.

 

  1. A preliminary point arises about the extent to which the proceedings can be reported. They were heard in private, in accordance with the Rules, at a hearing at which members of the press were in attendance. Two questions now arise: should the press be allowed to report the hearing, and should there be a public judgment naming the parties? Submissions have been made by the parties and by David Barrett and Mario Ledwith, journalists representing the Telegraph Media Group and Associated Newspapers respectively.
  2. It is relevant that on 25 September a media alert was issued by a PR company, notifying members of the media that this hearing would be taking place. The alert is in highly partisan terms, and includes lengthy quotations attributed to Stephen. It was this that brought the journalists to court.
  3. The respondents, having initially denied that they were responsible for the arrival of the press, were then faced with the press alert. They say that it was issued on the instructions of Mr Siddiqi and that the quotes from Stephen are not genuine but were invented by Mr Siddiqi to convey Stephen’s views. They say that they did not know what Mr Siddiqi had done until the hearing was under way.
  4. I have not heard evidence about this aspect of the matter and it is unnecessary to reach a conclusion about it. Mr Siddiqi is described by the respondents as “a long-time friend/associate of the family who has closely followed and advised the family on their affairs.” I am, to say the least, sceptical that he was acting without the knowledge and approval of the respondents, but it makes no difference. Even if Mr Siddiqi did not tell them what he was doing, he knows them well enough to know that he was doing what they wanted. Indeed, Linda made all the points that appear in the media alert when giving evidence.
  5. The relevance of this is that it alerts the court to the risk that the proceedings will be used as a platform to publicise unproven allegations.

 

 

The Press were very candid that their interest in the story was not in the arrangements to be made about Grace Aidiniantz, but in the quarrel that was going on between the family – it was the fight that they were interested in.

 

The Judge had to balance those competing interests – privacy and freedom of the press, our old friends article 8 and article 10 who have been arm-wrestling one another ever since the Human Rights Act was passed.

 

 

In the film "Over the Top", the role of Article 10 is played by Mr Stallone

In the film “Over the Top”, the role of Article 10 is played by Mr Stallone

 

[Hey, if I HAD a google image of Johnny Lee Miller arm-wrestling Benedict Cumberbatch whilst both dressed as Sherlock Holmes, I would have gone with that. I have to work with what I have. Oh, wait…]

 

 

This is them just BEFORE the match. Referee out of picture saying "We want a good clean fight"

This is them just BEFORE the match. Referee out of picture saying “We want a good clean fight”

 

  1. As to the issue of publication of this judgment and the naming of the parties, Mr Tyler QC submits that:

    (1) Real weight should be given to the general rule that the hearing should be in private: Independent News Media Ltd. v A [2009] EWHC 2858.

    (2) There is scant genuine public interest in publication of the current proceedings. The press is avowedly not interested in the issues about Mrs Aidiniantz’s care, but in the family dispute.

    (3) Mrs Aidiniantz’s privacy and dignity should be protected, even though she is incapacitated.

    (4) John has brought these proceedings in good faith, and should not thereby be exposed to vilification by the respondents. His wife and children would also be affected by publicity, as might employees of the family business.

    (5) Litigants generally should not be deterred from approaching the Court of Protection by the fear of consequent publicity.

    (6) Public identification of the parties to this “private family dispute” is unlikely to bring reconciliation closer and is likely to fuel conflict.

  2. The position taken by the journalists is that: (1) This is the latest in a long line of public disagreements between the parties that have been extensively reported in the press, evidenced by news reports from 2013 onwards.

    (2) The disagreement about Mrs Aidiniantz’s health is not in itself of public interest but is the current forum for the ongoing family dispute, which is of public interest, particularly given the family’s business interests.

    (3) Anonymisation of the judgment would make it impossible for the press to report this latest chapter in the very public disagreements between the parties.

    (4) Blanket reporting restrictions are not required to protect Mrs Aidiniantz’s privacy and dignity. There is no intention to report details of her care arrangements or medical condition, beyond saying that she is aged and infirm.

  3. There is in my view good reason for the court to publish its judgment in this case in a form that names the individuals involved:(1) Happily, very few families descend to the level of mutual acrimony that exists in this family. It is in the public interest for the public, if it is interested, to see the consequences. It is in the public interest to know how the court process operates in a recognizable case. It is in the public interest to know what it all costs: in the past year this family has spent £270,000 on this branch of its litigation alone. It is not in the public interest to suppress all that information: on the contrary, knowledge of how one family has behaved may deter another family from behaving likewise.

    (2) In this case, publication of an anonymised judgment would be futile. So much information is already in the public domain that any anonymised judgment would inevitably be linked to the family. The press would be placed in an impossible situation in knowing what it could and could not report.

    (3) It is undesirable that there should be any greater difference of approach than is necessary between two courts dealing with different but related aspects of the same dispute. As recently as 4 June 2015, an extensive public judgment in relation to financial issues was given in the Chancery Division.

    (4) This is not just “a private family dispute”. These parties have repeatedly chosen to air their differences in the courts. There is little likelihood of reconciliation. A public judgment will not make matters any worse for Mrs Aidiniantz than they already are. The parties might even reflect on their future conduct if they know that it may come to public attention.

    (5) Mrs Aidiniantz’s right to privacy and dignity is undoubtedly an important consideration. Even though she herself will not be aware of publicity, her reputation is affected by it being known that she is at the heart of the family discord. However, in the overall circumstances, I do not consider that the publication of this judgment amounts to a significant further intrusion into her privacy. It contains little personal information and makes no criticism of Mrs Aidiniantz: on the contrary, any fair-minded reader would be bound to feel sympathy for an elderly parent in her situation.

  4. The contents of this judgment can therefore be published, but there will be no other reporting of the hearing.

 

 

The Judge sets out all of the background, for those who are interested. He then gives his decision, saying that unusually this is a case where in determining what is in Grace’s interests he can give no weight to the views of the family

 

  1. Discussion
  2. It is not disputed that Mrs Aidiniantz lacks capacity to make decisions about the matters in issue within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and I so find. I also consider that as a result of her circumstances she is a vulnerable person in need of the protection of the court.
    1. It therefore falls to the court to make decisions in Mrs Aidiniantz’s best interests, applying the provisions of s.4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In doing so, it must consider all the relevant circumstances and, in particular, take the following steps:
    • Consider whether it is likely that Mrs Aidiniantz will at some time have capacity in relation to the matter in question.
    • So far as reasonably practicable, permit and encourage her to participate as fully as possible in the decisions affecting her.
    • Consider Mrs Aidiniantz’s past and present wishes and feelings, the beliefs and values that would be likely to influence her if she had capacity, and the other factors that she would be likely to consider if she were able to do so.
  • Take into account the views of anyone engaged in caring for Mrs Aidiniantz or interested in her welfare as to what would be in her best interests.
    1. As to the first three of these matters:
    • While it is possible that if Mrs Aidiniantz’s physical health improves she may recover some degree of decision-making capacity, this is not foreseeable at the present time.
    • Mrs Aidiniantz has participated as fully as possible in the decision-making process by means of the involvement of Mr Gillman-Smith, Ms G and Ms Gieve.
  • Mrs Aidiniantz is someone with strong family values, whose already much-reduced ability to assert herself has long been overborne by the ferocity of the family conflict. She would want to be at home if it were possible. She would want to have normal, easy relations with all her children if it were possible.
  1. The obligation to take into account the views of those caring for Mrs Aidiniantz or interested in her welfare takes me to the heart of the difficulty in this case. I am aware of the views of her four adult children and have set them out above.
  2. Having done that, I have concluded, uniquely, that I should attach no weight at all to their views about their mother’s welfare. These children have, in my view, forfeited the right to have their views taken seriously on the question of what is in their mother’s best interests. They have no insight into her obvious longing for peace. The evidence of John and Linda showed only bitterness and contempt for each other. Neither side sees how important the other is to their mother. None of them reflects on their own behaviour. Instead, every action is dictated by the wish to get the better of the other. I have referred to John’s aggressive efforts to get Stephen and Ruth out of 1 Parkgate Road and his willingness to put his mother in a home he knows nothing about. I have referred to the respondents’ blatant attempts to obstruct John’s contact. As soon as Mrs Aidiniantz’s voice was heard by outsiders, however faintly, they physically removed her; in 2014 it was to Linda’s home, and a year later to the day it was to Florida. That trip was a blatant defiance of the court’s intentions and it is a measure of their lack of insight that the respondents imagine that it would be seen in any other way.
  3. Nor can I attach weight to the views of Ms AH. Normally the views of a professional carer in the midst of a family dispute will be of value, but she has become too emotionally involved and partisan to see where Mrs Aidiniantz’s best interests lie.
  4. I have some sympathy for Mrs Aidiniantz’s sister Ruth, but she is in the same camp as Linda, Stephen and Jennifer and has not been able to moderate their behaviour.Decision
  5. Turning to the issues and taking account of all the circumstances, I conclude that it would not be in Mrs Aidiniantz’s interests to return to 1 Parkgate Road. In the first place, I accept the evidence of Ms G that she needs the care package that is on offer at the nursing home. Two medically qualified staff are needed at all times. Ms AH and those she enlists to help her are unqualified and unsuited to demonstrating the necessary professional standards. Secondly, and more decisively, it is impossible to approve an arrangement that returns Mrs Aidiniantz to her home when her children have turned it into a warzone. If John took over 1 Parkgate Road, things would be no better. Mrs Aidiniantz needs a safe haven from her children’s activities, and that is what she has found in the nursing home. She would not have this respite in a setting that was controlled by either camp.
  6. The family collectively has the means to pay for Mrs Aidiniantz’s care in the nursing home. When promoting their preferred options, both John and Linda said that they would pay for them if necessary but would expect a contribution from the other. Now that the identity of the placement has been resolved, the family should act in accordance with that principle.
  7. As to contact, I will adopt the plan supported by the nursing home and the Official Solicitor for separate daily visiting by both sides of the family. Outings that are acceptable to the home on medical grounds can take place, but I suggest that visits to 1 Parkgate Road are approached with caution.
  8. Each side of the family can bring whoever they want with them during their contact times, provided the home is content with this. There is no more reason to prevent John from bringing his family than to prevent Jennifer from bringing hers. If she is invited by the respondents, Ms AH can visit from time to time, but she will not be resuming her role as a carer. If anyone thinks it is a good idea for Mr Siddiqi to visit, they can share their time with him.
  9. I note that the Official Solicitor proposes that visiting should be restricted to family members and that contact with others can take place on trips outside the home. He expresses concern about the role played by Ms AH and Mr Siddiqi. There is in fact no sign of any harm having come from their few visits to date and, given the way in which the family members themselves behave, I cannot share the view that the exclusion of other partisans would allow Mrs Aidiniantz to feel “free of influence”. The management of the home should be left to manage these issues.
  10. While Mrs Aidiniantz resides at the care home, there is no need for a welfare deputy. The management of the home will protect her day-to-day interests.
  11. Finally, I shall not appoint a property or affairs deputy, nor require the Official Solicitor to carry out further financial inquiries into Mrs Aidiniantz’s affairs. I agree with the Official Solicitor that any financial abuse of the elderly is a serious matter, but that here a third party investigation would be complicated, expensive and unlikely to be of benefit to Mrs Aidiniantz, whose needs are currently being met. I will make the appropriate orders for the reception of her modest pensions. Other disputes about money, property and shares can be pursued by her children elsewhere if that is their choice.Costs
  12. The parties can make submissions on costs, and I will consider them on their merits. I will nonetheless indicate my current thinking in an attempt to foreshorten matters and save further expense.
  13. The parties’ costs are, broadly: John £104,000

    Respondents £110,000

    Official Solicitor £57,000

    The Official Solicitor has been given security from the parties equally for the full amount of his costs. There is no reason why the public should bear any of those and I expect to order that the Official Solicitor’s costs will be met equally by the parties.

  14. As to costs as between the parties, the normal rule is that there should be no order. Each side rightly cautions the court against assuming that because there are so many allegations and counter-allegations it is a case of “six of one and half a dozen of the other”. I make no such assumption but nevertheless reach the conclusion that there is little to choose between these parties in regard to their litigation conduct and their conduct towards their mother. While the respondents’ conduct during these proceedings has been even worse than the applicant’s, it would be unrealistic to separate these matters from the overall history. Any departure from the ‘no order’ principle would probably be in the form of an order that each side should pay the other side’s costs as a mark of the court’s indignation.

 

 

 

 

"Benedict! HEY Benedict, you bum! What happened to the good clean fight I asked for? That ain't ARM wrestling"

“Benedict! HEY Benedict, you bum! What happened to the good clean fight I asked for? That ain’t ARM wrestling”

Funding of intermediaries

[See last blog]

 

An email came to me suggesting that it could be argued that rather than the Legal Aid Agency paying for the intermediary, it could come from HMCTS. I.e the Court pays.

Thinking of it in that way, it occurred to me that the President had floated in Q v Q the idea that HMCTS paying for a lawyer for an unrepresented person was analogous to HMCTS paying for interpreters or intermediaries. But I knew that the final conclusion in Q v Q was appealed when HH J Bellamy made such an order in Re K and H. So, does perhaps the Court of Appeal decision in Re K and H 2015 give us an answer on this?

I think that it does.

 

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed145039

 

  1. As we have seen, in reaching his conclusion, the judge was influenced by the fact that HMCTS meets the cost of interpreters, intermediaries and the preparation of court bundles under the Financial Resources Regulations. He said that these are “aspects” of “representation” within the meaning of section 42 of LASPO. Section 42 defines “representation” as meaning “representation for the purposes of proceedings” and includes “the advice and assistance which is usually given by a representative in the steps preliminary or incidental to proceedings”. He considered that by analogy, HMCTS has the power to meet the cost of legal representation.

 

  1. I do not accept that interpreters or intermediaries are “representatives” within the meaning of section 42, still less that they provide the services of a legal representative. In In the Matter of D (a child) (No 2) [2015] EWFC 2, Sir James Munby said at para 17:

 

“The cost of funding an intermediary in court properly falls on Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service because, as the LAA has correctly pointed out, an intermediary is not a form of ‘representation’ but a mechanism to enable the litigant to communicate effectively with the court, and thus analogous to translation, so should therefore be funded by the court: see Re X, para 37 and C v Sevenoaks Youth Court [2009] EWHC 3088 (Admin), [2010] 1 All ER 735, paras 26-27.”

 

  1. I agree with this. Nor do I see how the fact that HMCTS funds the preparation of court bundles from time to time sheds any light on whether the court has power to require HMCTS to fund the cost of legal representation.

 

 

For me, that seems to settle it. The LAA should not be asked to fund an intermediary, but instead it should fall on HMCTS. Re D is binding on most Courts as a High Court authority, and given that the Court of Appeal looked at it in Re K and H and agreed, it binds just about everyone.    The Court of Appeal specifically AGREED that the cost of funding an intermediary in Court properly falls on HMCTS.

 

So having identified a problem, I’ve accidentally solved it.

What I don’t yet know is whether the Court has a duty to provide the intermediary once a recommendation is made or whether the Court could press on without one. (remembering that whilst an expert recommends something, it is ultimately a matter for the Judge whether to accept that recommendation).

I don’t think that a Judge could say “I agree with Dr Nolan that an intermediary is required, but I am not going to order one because of X”  but that a Judge COULD say “Dr Nolan says that an intermediary is required – I have decided that it is not required because of X”.     It always makes me a bit uncomfortable the notion that a Judge (who is ultimately employed by HMCTS and to some extent accountable to them) has to decide whether HMCTS should incur expenditure.

 

 

Intermediary, fair trial and Legal Aid Agency

 

The High Court case of West Sussex CC v H and Others 2015 throws up an interesting issue.

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2439.html

 

This was a fact finding hearing, where the central allegation was that either mother or her boyfriend W, had caused a brain injury to a child who was two years old. The injury had at the time been life-threatening.

 

This is one of the most serious sorts of cases that come before the family Court. A finding that mother had caused that injury or failed to protect the child would have serious consequences for this mother’s prospects of keeping the children and possibly of any future children she might have. Also, the process itself would involve a lot of documents, some complicated issues and really forensic dissection of the events that happened that night, in a lot of detail.

The mother had undergone a cognitive assessment by Dr Nigel North, and he had concluded that she would need the assistance of an intermediary when giving evidence.

Intermediaries are used in criminal proceedings, and they play a very important part in making sure that a vulnerable witness can give the best evidence that they are able to.

 

The Registered Intermediary, having taken the intermediary oath, assists during the giving of evidence. They sit alongside the witness in the live link room (or stand next to them if they are giving evidence in court) in order to monitor communication. They intervene during questioning when appropriate and as often as appropriate in accordance with the ground rules and the recommendations in their report.   [taken from http://www.theadvocatesgateway.org/intermediaries ]

 

However, though that was a clear recommendation and not challenged by anyone, she had to give evidence without an intermediary as the Legal Aid Agency had refused to fund one.

 

  1. The case was before me for case management on the 24th April 2015 and following the orders made on that day it was listed to be heard in July 2015. In addition to the complexity of the medical evidence there were concerns about the ability of M to fully participate in, and understand the proceedings because of a report by Dr Nigel North (a psychologist) dated the 6th March 2015 which recommended the use of an intermediary. The solicitors for M had applied for public funding for an intermediary assessment which was refused by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). There followed attempts by the solicitors to appeal against this decision which were unsuccessful. By the time the solicitors approached the court for approval for funding an intermediary without a further assessment to support M during the trial in July there were none available to come to court.
  2. Given her history, which was never in dispute, it is not clear to me why it was considered necessary to have a further assessment by qualified intermediary except that Dr North is not an intermediary himself; the stance of the LAA did not assist when coupled with the insistence by Communicourt that they carry out an assessment separately from supporting Y at court. This led to the refusal of funding for that initial assessment. There is undoubtedly a pressing need for clear guidance and rules similar to those in criminal proceedings when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable witnesses. It is to be hoped that the proposed addition to the Family Procedure rules will come in to force sooner rather than later.

 

There would not have been a problem obtaining an intermediary in a criminal court*, but in a family court if the Legal Aid Agency say no, that’s the end of it.  [*I’m not a criminal lawyer, so I might be utterly wrong here and if someone more knowledgeable tells me otherwise, I’ll amend.  Of course in a criminal case, the Judge could throw the trial out for abuse of process if the LAA refused to provide an intermediary where one was necessary, and that’s a bit more difficult in family proceedings. You don’t want to decide family cases and the safety and future of children on a ‘technicality’]

 

Those involved in the case worked with the Judge, Russell J,  to come up with the fairest solution that they could.

 

  1. On the first day of the fact finding trial I heard a ground rules hearing to decide how the case could progress without the assistance of an intermediary taking into account the recommendations which had been made by Dr North. It was agreed that the trial could go ahead with frequent breaks to allow M to have time to consider the evidence broken up into shorter more manageable sections. There were to be breaks every 30 minutes or more often if needed. M’s evidence was to be similarly divided; she was to be asked short questions and cross-examined by one counsel only, who would agree the area of questioning with other counsel. Counsel for the local authority undertook this task with the assistance of the guidance provide by the ATC in their toolkit for family proceedings. As there were seven files of evidence the documents that M was to be referred to during her evidence were placed in one file; in addition it was agreed that she would be supported by someone she knew from her solicitor’s firm to find pages or if she needed any other assistance.
  2. M’s own mother L is a respondent to these proceedings as she had originally been named as a possible perpetrator and is closely concerned with the local authority’s future plans for the care of Y and X. She was able to offer M additional support throughout the hearing.

 

 

[The outcome of the case was that the Judge found that mother’s boyfriend W, had caused the injury but more out of carelessness or recklessness than by any intention to hurt the child  :-   I do not consider that there is evidence to support any suggestion that the impact was deliberately inflicted and consider it more likely that it was a reckless and foolish action taken by a young man who has no experience as a parent, primary or main carer of a child who is still very young.   There was no finding that the mother had done anything wrong  M’s conduct since that night has been congruent with a parent seeking an answer to what has happened to her child and has not been self-serving or defensive. ]

 

 

Lasting power of attorney, financial abuse (contains ranting and references to tattoos)

 

These financial abuse cases come along with depressing regularity.  On the last one I wrote about, I made the suggestion that the pamphlet of guidance provided to those people who were appointed as attorneys/ deputies to manage the financial affairs of their vulnerable relative should have on the front cover  “It’s not your fucking money”

 

I have changed my position. That succinct advice should instead be tattooed across the back of the Attorney/deputy’s right hand.

 

Re ARL 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/55.html

 

This was decided by long-standing favourite of Suesspicious Minds, Senior Judge Lush.

 

Here are some of the things that the Attorney (the son of the vulnerable person) did with his mother’s money

 

The application was accompanied by a witness statement made by Sophie Farley, who had investigated the case at the OPG. To summarise, she said that:

(a) On 18 July 2014 concerns were raised with the OPG regarding ICL’s management of his mother’s property and financial affairs.(b) There was a debt of £39,000 in respect of unpaid care fees, which ICL was unwilling to pay because he believed that his mother should be receiving NHS Continuing Health Care.

(c) ICL was also in dispute with Hertfordshire County Council and claimed that ARL had been placed in the nursing home in Radlett without his consent. He had instructed Newlaw Solicitors in Cardiff to apply for compensation on his behalf.

(d) He was not providing ARL with an adequate personal allowance.

(e) It was not known known when he had last visited her, but it was thought to have been some time in 2013.

(f) In May 2013 ICL sold ARL’s house in Wheathampstead for £265,000 and used £174,950 from the net proceeds of sale to purchase a flat in his own name in Wheathampstead High Street. The OPG had carried out a search at the Land Registry, which confirmed that ICL is the registered proprietor.

(g) The difference of approximately £90,000 between the net proceeds of sale and the purchase price of the flat had been credited to ICL’s business account, rather than to an account in ARL’s name.

(h) The OPG wrote to ICL on 4 August 2014 asking him to account fully for his dealings with his mother’s finances.

(i) He replied a fortnight, on 18 August, later saying that he had far too many other things to deal with at that time.

(j) He said he was going to meet someone from Labrums Solicitors for advice on his responsibilities under the LPA, “which are now becoming too onerous.”

(k) He has only produced bank statements from October 2012 to October 2013, and an inspection of the bank statements he did produce revealed that he had spent at least £6,641 in a way that was not in ARL’s best interests.

(l) He had failed to account fully for his dealings.

(m) A Court of Protection General Visitor (Christine Moody) saw ARL on 15 August 2014 and confirmed that she has dementia and lacks the capacity to revoke the LPA

 

Now, under my methodology of hand tattooing, he would have been in no doubt that spending £175,000 of his mother’s money on a house for himself was not on, because when he signed the paperwork it would have been staring him in the face. Mandatory tattooing.

 

If this man does happen to have in his possession a mug that reads “Best Son Ever” or similar, it should be confiscated from him, and smashed to pieces in front of him. In fact, if the legend is not “Statistically within the bottom 1 %  of sons ever”  or “not quite as bad a son as Nick Cotton out of EastEnders”, smash it up.

 

Anyway, let’s see what his explanation for all of this was    (the “too long; didn’t read” version is “I needed money, and she had money, so I spent her money”  – to which, I would refer him to the tattoo that reads “It’s not your fucking money”. Sigh.  )

 

“I admit that some of the remaining funds have been used for personal outgoings for me and my family. This was because of difficult personal circumstances. As previously stated, I am fully prepared to pay back the entire amount that I have borrowed from my mother as soon as the sale of my former matrimonial home has completed. In the interests of complying with my duties as an attorney, I set out as far as possible an honest account of the remaining funds:

(a) I was caught drink driving in February 2013 and accordingly I borrowed £3,380 from my mother’s funds to cover my legal costs of defending my position (£2,640) and other related costs such as court fees (£500) and a penalty fine (£240). I attach letters confirming these costs sent to me by Freeman & Co. Solicitors and Sweetmans Solicitors.

(b) I ran out of money in April 2013 and had to borrow £7,500 from a friend, Mrs Pollard, in order to keep afloat financially. I repaid my friend this sum from my mother’s funds.

(c) I was required to pay a deposit of $1,500 (approx. £995) to secure my son’s place at university in the USA and I borrowed my mother’s funds to cover this.

(d) I was also required to cover my son’s college fees whilst he was studying in the USA totalling £7,500. I paid these fees in instalments from my mother’s funds.

(e) I sent £300 to my son on a monthly basis whilst he was living in the USA. These payments totalled £2,400.

(f) I also paid for my son’s flights to and from the USA during his year abroad and also for flights for myself to visit him in the USA totalling £2,774.

(g) During a visit to the USA to see my son in August 2013, I spent a total of $630 (approx. £418) on accommodation and £500 on sundry expenses.

(h) I also paid for my son’s car insurance from my mother’s funds totalling £4,757.17.

(i) During the summer of 2013 I borrowed £6,300 of my mother’s funds for works to my former matrimonial home.

(j) As previously mentioned, JJT borrowed £2,500 of my mother’s funds.

(k) I cannot specifically account for the remainder of the £90,050. However. I am sure that, save for the £2,500 borrowed by my sister, it would have been used by me in order to cover the living costs of my family.

 

 

Now, of course, it is utterly reasonable to raid your mother’s finances, which you’ve been entrusted to manage on her behalf in order to defend yourself when you get caught drunk-driving, and then to pay the fine. I mean, why would you use her money to pay her actual living expenses and nursing fees, when you can be paying your drink-driving fines with it?

 

It is also of course utterly reasonable to not provide your mother with a living allowance out of HER money, but instead use HER money to pay for your SON to have a living allowance whilst he is at College in America.

He also claimed that he didn’t know that the house he purchased with his mother’s money was registered in his name. Of course he didn’t.

 

(e) Until completion of the purchase of the flat in the High Street had taken place, he hadn’t realised that the property was held in his name. He said, “I have subsequently made enquiries of the conveyancer who dealt with the purchase of the property, who confirmed that, as I completed a summary of instructions in my own name, this is the name in which the property was purchased.”

(f) He said it was always the intention that this property was purchased for the benefit of his mother and that he would be happy for the property to be transferred into her name.

 

As ever with financial abuse cases, I find myself looking at the regulations for the provision that says that a deputy who does this shall be placed in stocks in the town centre for a period of forty days and be pelted with rancid fruit, but it seems to have been wrongly omitted from the regulations.

 

Let’s be really clear. Someone who loves and trusts you isn’t able to manage their money for themselves, so they ask you to look after their money for them. And you take that love and trust and repay it by using THEIR money to pay your drink driving fines and buy yourself a house, whilst at the same time running up £39,000 of debts on her behalf in unpaid care fees.  I hope that there really is a special circle of hell for people like this.

 

The Judge was also unimpressed with the Deputy’s behaviour, although somewhat less medieval in the sanctions than I myself would wish to be.

 

 

  1. In this case, ARL’s placement in the nursing home at Radlett was in jeopardy and there was a serious risk that she would be evicted because of ICL’s wilful refusal to pay her care fees. She is settled and content at the nursing home and any action or inaction that might prejudice her placement is not in her best interests.
  2. As is frequently observed in cases of this kind, a failure to pay care home fees, a failure to provide an adequate personal allowance, a failure to visit, and a failure to produce financial information to the statutory authorities, go hand in hand with the actual misappropriation of funds.
  3. In this case, ICL’s misappropriation of funds includes, but is not limited to:

    (a) The purchase of a property in his own name, using £174,950 of his mother’s funds. One of my particular concerns is that ICL is currently going through an acrimonious divorce, and there is a possibility that ARL’s funds could somehow, inadvertently, become part of the settlement in the matrimonial proceedings.(b) Pocketing the rental income from the property for the last two years.

    (c) The funds referred to in paragraph 16 (a) to (i) above, which by my reckoning amount to £36,524.17.

    (d) ICL’s admission at paragraph 16(k) that he cannot specifically account for the remainder of the £90,500, “However, I am sure that, save for the £2,500 borrowed by my sister, it would have been used by me in order to cover the living costs of my family.”

  4. I have no confidence in ICL when he says, “I am fully prepared to pay back the entire amount I have borrowed from my mother as soon as the sale of my former matrimonial home has completed.” He made a similar promise on 15 January 2015, when he offered to transfer title to the flat in the High Street from his name into his mother’s name, but has done nothing about it during the last seven months.
  5. I find it incredible that ICL is ready, willing and able to pursue a claim against Hertfordshire County Council for unlawfully depriving ARL of her liberty, yet is pumped up with tranquillizers and was in no fit state to attend the hearing in this matter.
  6. I also find it curious that he has instructed so many different firms of solicitors or other providers of legal services at his mother’s expense, often to defend the indefensible:

    (a) Rowlington Tilley & Associates drew up the LPA.(b) He was going to meet someone from Labrums Solicitors, St Albans, to advise him on his responsibilities under the LPA.

    (c) NewLaw Solicitors, Cardiff, were advising him on his dispute with Hertfordshire County Council regarding ARL’s placement in the nursing home in Radlett and were also pursuing a claim against the NHS for Continuing Health Care.

    (d) Freeman & Co., Solicitors, Manchester – The Home of Mr Loophole – had been instructed to defending him when he was prosecuted for drink driving.

    (e) He also instructed Sweetmans, another firm of specialist drink driving solicitors.

    (f) Taylor Walton acted for him in the sale of his mother’s house and the purchase of the flat in the High street, and in the proceedings brought against him by the Public Guardian.

  7. I wonder whether this is a smokescreen to ensure that no one firm or company is fully aware of the extent of his ineptitude and deceit.
  8. I am satisfied that ICL has behaved in a way that both contravenes his authority and is not in ARL’s best interests.

 

[I might comment in passing that if you ARE arrested for drink driving, and you consult “Mr Loophole” and he can’t get you off, it is throwing good money after bad to go to a second lawyer to see if they can. It seems to me that you are probably ‘bang to rights’ on the charge.  Of course, when it is NOT YOUR Fucking money, I suppose it bothers you slightly less]

 

 

 

Re-e-wind, when the crowd say Bo Selecta!

 

 

(I had to go back and google to make sure I hadn’t used this before as a title – I had not, but I had hankered after it here

 

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2013/11/25/rearrange-these-three-letters-f-w-t/           )

 

This case is Re M, not Re E, but is a case where the Court made a decision to re-e-wind the care proceedings.

 

Re M (a child) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/HCJ/2015/71.html

 

The case was decided by the President of the Family Division, because it related to a failure of the Legal Aid Agency to provide public funding for the mother to be represented.

Here is the nub of it

 

  1. M was born in December 2011. A skeletal survey in July 2012 revealed a fracture of her arm. The local authority commenced care proceedings the same month (DO12C00164). A finding of fact hearing took place in the County Court before His Honour Judge Bond in December 2012. His judgment is dated 3 January 2013. He found that the fracture was inflicted “by either the mother or the father, the other parent failing to protect M” but that “it is not possible to determine which of the two parents was responsible.” The care proceedings concluded on 15 November 2013 when Judge Bond made a 12 month supervision order and a special guardianship order in favour of one of the mother’s relatives.
  2. On 11 July 2014 the mother made an application to the Family Court (BH14C00470) seeking “discharge of Supervision Order and Special Guardianship Order.” That concealed the true nature of the application. As set out in a skeleton argument dated 23 February 2015 prepared by her counsel, Ms Alison Grief QC, what the mother was seeking was a re-hearing of the finding of fact hearing because of what was said to be a breach of Article 6. Her case was that: i) New evidence demonstrated the full extent of the mother’s disability, rendering her a vulnerable adult.

    ii) The fact finding hearing was conducted without this vital information.

    iii) The integrity of the fact finding hearing was so significantly compromised as to amount to a breach of Article 6, thus necessitating a re-consideration.

  3. The application came before Judge Bond on 24 February 2015. It was opposed by the local authority. His judgment is dated 26 February 2015. He explained that he was concerned only with Stage 1 of the three-stage process explained in Re ZZ and others [2014] EWFC 9. He expressed his conclusion in this way:

    “Article 6 provides an absolute right to a fair trial. That right cannot be diluted. The findings that the court made as to the mother’s reliability as a witness were central to the finding as to her possible role as a perpetrator of M’s injuries. In the light of the information which is now available it cannot now be said that the mother did receive a fair trial in December 2012.

    I am therefore satisfied that she has provided solid grounds which satisfy Stage 1 of the Test.

    I therefore give the mother leave to re-open the fact find.”

    Judge Bond added that his decision “does not include any indication of the ultimate result of a re-hearing.”

  4. Given the way in which Judge Bond expressed himself and, importantly, the basis upon which he decided to re-open matters – the fact that, as he found, the mother had not had a fair trial – it is quite clear that the effect of his judgment is, as it were, to rewind the care proceedings, by which I mean the original care proceedings, DO12C00164, back to the point at which the finding of fact hearing was taking place in December 2012. In other words, this is not a case in which the application to set aside the supervision order and the special guardianship order is founded on some subsequent change of circumstance. It is founded on the fact – now established to the satisfaction of the original trial judge – that the mother was denied a fair trial of the original proceedings. In other words, the matter now before Judge Bond is not application BH14C00470; it is the substantive proceedings in DO12C00164.

 

The Legal Aid Agency had treated mother’s application for public funding as being an application to discharge the SGO, which would not get legal aid, rather than an application to be represented in care proceedings, which would.

 

It rather irks me that nobody took the simple solution here, which is – the final orders made in November 2013 are discharged  (on the basis that the hearing was not a fair trial),  and declare that the original application for care proceedings issued in 2012  is now a live application.   The Court could then go on to make either no order (if there is agreement that the child stay with grandparents whilst the matter is being determined) or an ICO (if there is no such agreement).

 

Of course, that is going to absolutely BATTER the Court statistics for that particular Court, since the care proceedings when they finally finish will have taken not 26 weeks, but something more like 150 weeks.

 

So the alternative is:-

 

  1. Discharge the existing orders
  2. Direct that the LA prepare a section 37 report  (which in effect will be their initial statement in fresh care proceedings)
  3. Make an ICO under the section 37 powers
  4. LA apply for fresh care proceedings, on the basis that if they do not, the child will return to mother’s care

 

Either of those solutions mean that the substantive litigation will be done under care proceedings, and thus the legal aid is mandatory non-means, non-merits for the mother.

 

But anyway, given that the case was before the President, what could be done instead is the muscle-flexing don’t mess with the President approach

  1. It may be that the Legal Aid Agency was given inadequate information as to the nature of the proceedings now before Judge Bond, but in my judgment, what is now before Judge Bond – which, to repeat, is the original care proceedings DO12C00164 – is plainly a “special Children Act 1989 case” in relation to which the mother is entitled to legal aid in accordance with paragraph 2 of the Regulations.
  2. There is, therefore, no need for me to consider whether the mother is entitled to look to any other source of funding. It was common ground before me that the effect of the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Re K and H (Children) [2015] EWCA Civ 543, is to preclude the making of any order against Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service. Had the need arisen, Mr Tughan would have pressed for an order again the local authority, relying for this purpose on what I said in Re D (A Child) [2014] EWFC 39, para 35. That, unsurprisingly, is an order that Mr Nother made clear his clients would resist.
  3. I trust that the Legal Aid Agency will now be able to move with appropriate speed to ensure that the mother has legal aid for the next and subsequent hearings before Judge Bond.
  4. I make the following order:

    “Upon reading the judgment of His Honour Judge Bond dated 26 February 2015 and the orders subsequently made by Judge Bond

    It is declared that (a) the effect of that judgment is to re-open the proceedings DO12C00164 under section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (b) future hearings before Judge Bond will be of the proceedings DO12C00164 and (c) the ongoing proceedings before Judge Bond are accordingly a “special Children Act 1989 case” within the meaning of paragraph 2 of The Civil Legal Aid (Merits Criteria) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/104.”

 

It is not at all clear to me how everyone in the original set of proceedings missed mother’s learning difficulties, thus leading to an unfair trial, but it happened.  Perhaps the State shouldn’t now compound that injustice by failing to give her the free legal advice and representation that she’s entitled to.

 

 

IS v Director of Legal Services 2015

Many other people will be writing about this case, but I’ll just give the bit for the family lawyers and Court of Protection lawyers (since it touches on capacity cases). Really important for the battles that have been fought since LASPO to say that it is being interpreted by the Legal Aid Agency in a way that, as Mostyn J put it

 

“sacrifices individual justice on the altar of public debt”

 

[which is approvingly cited in the case. Hell yeah]

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2015/1965.html

 

This is of course, the case about whether the Legal Aid Agency were properly using their discretion on granting public funding for cases where to represent yourself would put you in a position where your human rights would be breached, i.e section 10 LASPO. The LAA lost. They intend to appeal.

 

The really important bit for family law cases is paragraph 40

 

 

It is difficult to imagine a family case, particularly when there are contested issues about children, in which there would not be an interference with the Article 8 rights of either parent or the children themselves. Thus unless the party seeking legal aid could albeit unrepresented present his or her case effectively and without obvious unfairness, a grant of legal aid would be required. That does not mean that every case will require it: some may be sufficiently simple for the unrepresented party to deal with. Obviously if there is a lack of capacity even such cases may require legal aid. That issue I will have to consider in further detail later. But I am bound to say that I believe that only in rare cases, subject to means and merits if properly applied, should legal aid be denied in such cases. As it is now applied, the scheme is clearly wholly deficient in that it does not enable the family courts to be satisfied that they can do justice and give a fair hearing to an unrepresented party. While the problem may perhaps be less acute in other civil cases, I have no doubt that the difficulties I have referred to in family cases apply.

 

You can’t really have a much clearer message than that to say that the low rate of s10 LASPO public funding applications being granted, and the tests and guidance being applied by the LAA are wrong. Scandalously wrong.

 

Paragraph 80 also good  – that the process of making an application is made unnecessarily difficult, and this, combined with the poor success rate has had the obvious effect of discouraging such applications from being made.

 

The main problem lies in the forms which are prescribed. They are far too complicated and are not at all helpful to lay persons. Providers have difficulties with them and the small level of grant has unquestionably, on the evidence which has not shown to be erroneous, led to the unwillingness of providers to take on clients who need to apply for ECF. The scheme is not properly providing the safety net which s.10 is supposed to provide. It is to be noted that it was anticipated that some 5,000 to 7,000 applications would be made in a year. The actual rate was a fraction of that. The defendants say that the figures they relied on were only estimates for planning purposes. In a letter of 20 August 2013 the MoJ stated that the figures were based on the number of grants estimated in the LASPO consultation exercise, namely 3,700. It is significant that the scheme has not produced anything like that number of grants, let alone applications. Furthermore, as the OS has indicated and a number of applications dealt with in the statements confirm, the hurdle erected for those who lack capacity is far too high. Those who are unable to pay for legal assistance are suffering in a way that Parliament cannot have intended.

 

 

And final flurry of killer blows

  1. As will become apparent, I think that there must be changes to the scheme. The ECF application forms are far too complex for applicants in person. Separate forms should be provided. Indeed, overall the test set out in R(G) can be set out in the form and applicants or providers can then be required to give full details of the need for legal assistance by producing all existing material relevant to the application. As I indicated, what is put on the website can surely be put on a form. Consideration must be given to provision of Legal Help to enable providers to do work to see whether a client has a case which should be granted legal assistance because it qualifies within s.10 of the Act. No doubt the LAA will be entitled to decide whether any such application is reasonable since a provider must satisfy himself that there is a possible need for legal assistance on the basis of preliminary information given by the client and any relevant documents provided. Legal Help does not require a prospect of success test.
  2. The rigidity of the merits test and the manner in which it is applied are in my judgment wholly unsatisfactory. They are not reasonable.
  3. As will be clear, I am satisfied that the scheme as operated is not providing the safety net promised by Ministers and is not in accordance with s.10 in that it does not ensure that applicants’ human rights are not breached or are not likely to be breached. There is a further defect in the failure to have any right of appeal to a judicial body where an individual who lacks capacity will otherwise be unable to access a court or tribunal.

 

 

I don’t know about you, but I find  something shameful about a Ministry of Justice being condemned by a Court for their part in devising a scheme that deprived individuals of justice in order to assauge public debt. And similarly something shameful that a body whose job it is to ensure that people have access to legal representation and advice going out of their way to prevent them getting it.

But then, these are bodies who in their response to the criticisms laid against them by the Justice Select Committee of Parliament with comments like  “The Court did not rule that our policy was wholly unlawful” as though that was something that a Ministry of Justice should actually boast about.

 

Which reminds me rather of Steve Coogan’s pool attendant from the Day Today

 

 

A witness talking over the lunch adjournment

I don’t often write about ancillary relief cases, but this one

 

JE (Husband) v ZK (wife) 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWFC/OJ/2015/B87.html

threw up an issue that we all trot out to witnesses on a daily basis and when I asked on Twitter about six months ago where you can find that actual rule written down, nobody was entirely sure.

When a witness is part way through their evidence, and the case comes to a break (either at the end of the day, or lunch), the witness is generally warned by the Judge “You should not discuss the case with any one, and you are still under Oath”

The still under Oath part must be right, since when the witness resumes, they do not have to take the Oath again.  Therefore, during that break in the evidence, the witness is still bound to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – technically, if the witness goes for a haircut and the hairdresser does that thing with a mirror where they show you the back of your own head, rather than the stock response of   :- nod “mmm, that’s great thanks” the witness ought to answer “I have no idea why you show me that, what is the point? Whatever you’ve done, it is too late to fix, and I don’t care what the back of my head looks like”

 

[Even worse, if you are still under Oath, and your new partner asks you “does my bum look big in this?”, you could be in for a world of trouble. Best to not talk to anyone at all]

The not discussing the case with anyone makes perfect common sense (which is unusual in law).  If you could talk about your evidence with someone whilst you were in the middle of giving it, they could be influencing what you say, or giving you tips as to how to do it better.  And if someone else in the case saw the witness talking to their lawyer or another party, they might well SUSPECT that this is what was happening, even if it wasn’t. So best not to do it.

The hard bit is finding where that rule is actually written down, and what the Judge is supposed to do about it.

 

Here, what happened was that the original Judge heard evidence that the husband, having given part of his evidence and then needing to come back over lunch, had been seen in the Court waiting room talking to his colleague NC (his colleague was also someone whom the husband had been renting accommodation from AND someone who was said to owe the husband £15,000, so it COULD be said that the conversation might have a bearing on financial matters)

The husband’s evidence was that he had asked NC about “Ironman” competitions and personal trainers, and nobody disputed that.

 

The District Judge had found that the father was in contempt, and said in his judgment

Is it relevant? I can hear being said! Well, yes, for this is the same man who remortgaged 141 Kings Road after having said through his solicitors that there were no grounds for saying that he was going to. Like that, his behaviour at the lunchtime was unacceptable’.

Now, importantly, this was a hearing where a financial order was made, concluding the financial arrangements. The District Judge was now in a pickle, because whilst saying that it was ‘relevant’  it clearly wasn’t conduct that could legitimately be taken into account for the purposes of the Matrimonial Causes Act.

The District Judge then made a clarifying note

In his clarifying note at B26 the District Judge said that he did not take the husband’s conduct in speaking to NC into account in his conclusion and that he ‘would have thought that was clear. It just had to be mentioned, it as so blatant’.

 

Part of the husband’s appeal was that the judgment was thus blurred about whether or not this issue had weighed on the judicial determination of finances.

 

Dealing with the appeal, His Honour Judge Wildblood QC said this:-

  1. Quite plainly, that conversation between the husband and NC had absolutely nothing to do with the correct outcome of the financial remedy applications. It was a complete irrelevance, as far as the solution to the case was concerned. It certainly was not conduct that the court could possibly take into account when deciding upon the correct outcome. It had no relevance under any of the other factors under section 25 of The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and cannot be salvaged by reference to ‘all the circumstances of the case’ in s 25(1) of The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.
  2. I accept that the District Judge does not then tie in the finding that this issue was ‘relevant’ when later explaining his conclusions. At B15 he says that he is departing from quality bearing in mind the wife’s need for her to provide a home for the children. Further, at B6 he says: ‘there are two aspects of the husband’s affairs which I take into account within all the circumstances of the case and which make me satisfied that my decision is appropriate. First the dissipation of assets referred to in paragraph 4 above and, secondly, the opaque business relationship with Mr Clarke’. Although there are obvious difficulties with that past passage to which I must return, he does not say that the ‘contempt’ finding is relevant in that later passage.
  3. The difficulty is this. If a judge says that something is relevant in the sort of strong terms used by the District Judge he must mean what he says. A judgment has to be capable of being understood on its face and a party to the proceedings must be able to understand the methodology of the court. It seems highly likely that, at the time that he wrote the judgment, the District Judge did regard this issue as relevant to how the capital should be divided (because he said so himself at B15). I do not accept Ms Allen’s clever submission that he meant ‘Is it relevant for me to mention it?’ at B15; that interpretation does not fit in with the context of what he was saying. He associated it with the husband’s conduct in re-mortgaging the property at Kings Rd [B15] and, later took that remortgage into account at B16. The reality is that the District Judge was making findings of conduct and saying that he treated them as relevant. He was incorrect to do so and a clear statement in a judgment that something is treated as relevant cannot be cured by a clarifying note.

 

 

[This Judge was more sanguine about the incident itself than the DJ had been

 

iii) The finding of contempt was inappropriate and unnecessary to the exercise that the District Judge had to perform. The husband was wrong to speak to NC over lunch having been warned not to do so but the conduct complained of (speaking about personal trainers and an Ironman competition) had nothing whatsoever to do with the outcome of the case but was described by the District Judge as ‘relevant’ to it. I know the Gloucester waiting area well having appeared there as an advocate myself in my 27 years at the bar, and can well imagine what occurred (and what did occur happened in the full view of the lawyers and was not remotely surreptitious).   ]

 

His Honour Judge Wildblood QC, with some reluctance, had to allow the appeal and discharge the financial order that had been made. I say with reluctance, because the Judge had earlier expressed substantial dismay that two people who had once been in love had spent a “Scandalous” amount of money in ligitation

 

  1. The District Judge said that the costs were scandalous. I agree. The total that has been spent in legal costs now is as follows:
    Wife’s costs before the District Judge 62,171
    Husband’s costs before the District Judge 28,799
    Husband’s appellate costs 12,849.26
    Wife’s appellate costs (at least) 20,000
    Total 123,819.26
  2. This is not a complex case. It involves a home, a working husband who is effectively a sole trader, a few modest assets, considerable liabilities, two children and a depressed wife. For money to have been wasted on such disproportionate costs is truly scandalous. Further, these parties have two children – what sort of example do they set their children when they spend so much of the money that should be directed to their children’s welfare on blinkered and self validating litigation?
  3. I am particularly critical of the level of this wife’s costs. They are double those of the husband and nothing that I have seen gets anywhere near justifying that. I have myself witnessed two wholly unnecessary applications being brought by the wife: a) for transcripts of all of the evidence before the District Judge to be ordered at the husband’s expense for the purposes of the appeal, an application which I did not allow and b) a full legal services application, when the correct application should have been for a partial release on a stay which, when I suggested it, was agreed on the evening before a hearing of the legal services application brought by the wife and only after considerable cost expenditure (W’s claimed costs £3875.70). Further, I consider that money has been wasted on obtaining expert evidence about the suggested value of the husband’s business when that capital value was abandoned (rightly) at trial and was never going to have the sort of relevance originally suggested. That expenditure on costs took place against the backcloth of strong complaint made by the husband before the District Judge about the wife’s costs expenditure (see A1 – no trial bundle, no open offer, no updating disclosure and a late production of her s 25 statement that had been prepared three months before the hearing started but was filed seven days before the hearing started).
  4. The above remarks must be before any judge assessing costs in this case and I ask that there is very careful scrutiny of the costs that are being claimed by the wife’s legal team. It cannot be right that this level of cost expenditure occurs in a case of such modest assets. The costs claimed are about 36% of the total assets held, according to the District Judge by the parties. The burden that this now creates upon the parties, especially the wife must be immense.
  5. The District Judge found that the total pot of capital in the case was £345,686

 

Towards the end of the judgment, HH J Wildblood QC set down a marker for future litigation conduct

86….I wish to make it plain that, if I find any more money is being wasted by this wife on costs, I will impose costs sanctions – if she, or the husband, pursues any more pointless or unmeritorious issues I will reflect that in a costs order (and I say that without prejudice to any arguments and applications that may be advanced about existing cost expenditure). It seems to me at least highly possible that past dissipation of assets (which in a big money case can be of obvious importance) may be regarded as totally overshadowed now with the exigencies of the current very limited financial circumstances of these parties with the true focus of this case now being on the limited issues that I have set out above – especially relevant will be these questions: i) Where are these people to live and ii) what incomes are these people to have?.

  1. Although I am not in any way deciding the point now, I foresee that the husband will have a difficult task in contending that this wife should face a time limit to any order for periodical payments particularly if it involves a s28(1A) bar but even without such a bar.
  2. I intend that the above issues must be adhered to. There will be no more profligate expenditure on legal costs. To that end I wish to record that any District Judge assessing the costs of either party from this point on until conclusion of the rehearing should disallow that parties’ costs insofar as the costs of any party (from this point onwards) exceed £7,500 unless a) any party has made submissions to me that I should revise that figure or b) the judge carrying out the assessment considers that an extension beyond that figure was genuinely necessary.
  3. I strongly recommend now that the parties make every effort to resolve their differences without the need for the rehearing to take place.
  4. I reserve the costs of the appeal until conclusion of the rehearing. Both of these parties know what their own financial circumstances are and, with the level of costs that she has incurred, the wife should know about her tax credit position (and, if she doesn’t she needs to find it out hurriedly). Although I do not know what the husband’s income is, he does. If it were to be shown on fresh evidence that the District Judge was correct about his income, that would be bound to have an impact on the orders for costs that I would make.