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Tag Archives: capacity to consent to homosexual sex

Let’s find you a nice young man

The law on capacity and sexuality is developing swiftly at the moment, and throwing up some really difficult decisions.

In A Local Authority v TZ (no 2) 2014, the Court of Protection went on from its first judgment that the man, TZ, had the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse. TZ was homosexual, so one of the three principles (does the person understand the mechanics, the risk of STDs and the risk of pregnancy) doesn’t apply.

The issue that then arose was whether TZ had capacity to make safe choices about people he might chose to have sex with.



  • Accordingly, the questions arising here are:




(1) whether TZ has the capacity to make a decision whether or not an individual with whom he may wish to have sexual relations is safe, and, if not, 

(2) whether he has the capacity to make a decision as to the support he requires when having contact with an individual with whom he may wish to have sexual relations.


[I personally bear in mind that almost every parent ever would have wanted at some point and even for a brief flickering moment, the right to veto their child’s choice of boyfriend or girlfriend, but we have to let them make their own mistakes in life. There are certain people who like “bad boys”, sometimes they grow out of it, sometimes they don’t. Most teenagers would prefer someone that their parents disapproved of   –  John Bender in the Breakfast Club would be no parents choice for their child, but the parents choice of Brian isn’t going to fly. But this is a tricky situation – TZ clearly had some vulnerabilities. The Judge carefully reminded himself of the tension between being protective and giving people freedom to make what others might see as poor choices]



John  Bender  (bad boy alert)


Parent's choice, lovely Brian

Parent’s choice, lovely Brian

  • In addressing the issues of capacity in this case, I bear in mind a number of other points of law.




  • Importantly, capacity is both issue-specific and time specific. A person may have capacity in respect of certain matters but not in relation to other matters. Equally, a person may have capacity at one time and not at another. The question is whether, at the date on which the court is considering capacity, the person lacks the capacity in issue.




  • Next, as Macur J (as she then was) observed in LBL v RYJ [2010] EWHC 2664 (Fam) (at paragraph 24), “it is not necessary for the person to comprehend every detail of the issue … it is not always necessary for a person to comprehend all peripheral detail .…” The question is whether the person under review can “comprehend and weigh the salient details relevant to the decision to be made” (ibid, paragraph 58).




  • Furthermore, in assessing the question of capacity, the court must consider all the relevant evidence. Clearly, the opinion of an independently-instructed expert will be likely to be of very considerable importance, but in addition the court in these cases will invariably have evidence from other professionals who have experience of treating and working with P, the subject of the proceedings, and sometimes from friends and family and indeed from P himself.. As Charles J observed (in the analogous context of care proceedings) in A County Council v KD and L [2005] EWHC 144 (Fam) [2005] 1 FLR 851 at paras 39 and 44, “it is important to remember (i) that the roles of the court and the expert are distinct and (ii) it is the court that is in the position to weigh the expert evidence against its findings on the other evidence… the judge must always remember that he or she is the person who makes the final decision”. Thus, when assessing the ability of a person to (a) understand the information relevant to the decision (b) retain that information, and (c) use or weigh that information as part of the process of making the decision, the court must consider all the evidence, not merely the views of the independent expert.




  • Finally, I reiterate the further point, to which I have alluded in earlier decisions, including PH v A Local Authority, Z Ltd and R [2011] EWHC 1704 (Fam) and CC v KK [2012] EWHC 2136 (COP). In a case involving a vulnerable adult, there is a risk that all professionals involved with treating and helping that person – including, of course, a judge in the Court of Protection – may feel drawn towards an outcome that is more protective of the adult and thus, in certain circumstances, fail to carry out an assessment of capacity that is detached and objective.

and later



  • In this context, as so often, the way forward is illuminated by observations of Munby J, as he then was, on this occasion in Re MM (An Adult) [2007] EWHC 2003 (Fam). In that case (decided under the inherent jurisdiction), the Court was concerned with the approach to be adopted in a case of a person who had capacity to consent to sexual relations but lacked the capacity to make decisions about contact with a long-term partner. In such circumstances, Munby J held that “the court … is entitled to intervene to protect a vulnerable adult from the risk of future harm – the risk of future abuse or future exploitation – so long as there is a real possibility, rather than a merely fanciful risk, of such harm. But the court must adopt a pragmatic, common sense and robust approach to the identification, evaluation and management of perceived risk” (paragraph 119).




  • The following much-quoted paragraph is particularly relevant:



“A great judge once said, ‘all life is an experiment’, adding that ‘every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge (see Holmes J in Abrams v United States (1919) 250 US 616 at 630). The fact is that all life involves risk, and the young, the elderly and the vulnerable, are exposed to additional risks and to risks they are less well equipped than others to cope with. But just as wise parents resist the temptation to keep their children metaphorically wrapped up in cotton wool, so too we must avoid the temptation always to put the physical health and safety of the elderly and the vulnerable before everything else. Often it will be appropriate to do so, but not always. Physical health and safety can sometimes be brought at too high a price in happiness and emotional welfare. The emphasis must be on sensible risk appraisal, not striving to avoid all risk, whatever the price, but instead seeking a proper balance and being willing to tolerate manageable or acceptable risks as the price appropriately to be paid in order to achieve some other good – in particular to achieve the vital good of the elderly or vulnerable person’s happiness. What good is it making someone safer if it merely makes them miserable?”



I won’t get heavily into the particular facts in the case, they are all set out in the judgment should you want to read them – there was quite a body of professional opinion that TZ lacked the skills to weigh up whether someone was a safe person to approach or have sex with.


The Court’s decision on capacity is set out below


  • I find on a balance of probabilities that TZ does not have the capacity to decide whether a person with whom he may wish to have sexual relations is safe. I base that finding on the detailed assessments of TZ carried out by JS and Dr X, both of whom have had an opportunity to assess him over a period of time. These assessments include extensive conversations with TZ in which he has himself acknowledged that he lacks this capacity. In particular, while he has the ability to understand and retain information, he lacks the ability to use or weigh up the information, including the ability to assess risk and, in the language of s. 3(4), to understand the reasonably foreseeable consequences of the decision. This is, in my judgment, a good example of the distinction identified in paragraph 4.30 of the Code of Practice between, on the one hand, unwise decisions, which a person has the right to make, and, on the other hand, decisions based on a lack of understanding of risks and the inability to weigh up the information concerning a decision.




  • I have also borne in mind s. 1(2) – that a person is not to be treated as unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help him to do so have been taken without success. Having regard to Dr X’s advice, however, I consider that there is no immediate prospect of extending TZ’s capacity via a programme of education. Such a programme must, of course, be an integral part of the best interests care plan which would be put in place as a result of a declaration of incapacity.




  • The evidence therefore establishes that he lacks the capacity to decide whether or not any individual with whom he may wish to have a sexual relationship is safe. As to the second capacity in issue, JS concluded in her report that he did have the capacity to make decisions regarding his care and support. In oral evidence, however, JS qualified this opinion, saying that TZ can understand why he needs support “if he is in the right frame of mind”, and that his capacity in this respect is variable. She said that sometimes he is more open about taking things on board than at other times. Dr X concluded that TZ lacked this capacity. He thought that TZ’s current compliance with support did not mean that he understands the need for that support and thought it quite likely that at some stage he would ask a support worker to leave.




  • Notwithstanding the view set out in JS’s written assessment, I conclude after close analysis that TZ does not have the capacity to decide what support he requires when having contact with an individual with whom he may wish to have sexual relations.




  • In reaching these conclusions as to capacity, I have reminded myself, again, of the need to avoid what could be called the vulnerable person’s protective imperative – that is to say, the dangers of being drawn towards an outcome that is more protective of the adult and thus fail to carry out an assessment of capacity that is detached and objective. I do not consider that I have fallen into that trap in this case.



But having established that TZ lacks that capacity, the Court then have to approach any declarations with a view to what is in TZ’s best interests





“First, P’s wishes and feelings will always be a significant factor to which the court must pay close regard …. Secondly, the weight to be attached to P’s wishes and feelings will always be case-specific and fact-specific …. Thirdly, in considering the weight and importance to be attached to P’s wishes and feelings, the court must … have regard to all the relevant circumstances … [which] will include … (a) the degrees of P’s incapacity … (b) the strength and consistency of the views being expressed by P; (c) the possible impact on P of knowledge that [his] wishes and feelings are not being given effect to … (d) the extent to which P’s wishes and feelings are, or are not, rational, sensible, responsible and, pragmatically capable of sensible implementation in the particular circumstances; and (e) crucially, the extent to which P’s wishes and feelings, if given effect to, can properly be accommodated within the court’s overall assessment of what is in [his] best interests.”


  • Mr. McKendrick further submits, rightly, that in applying the principle in s.1(6) and generally, the Court must have regard to TZ’s human rights, in particular his rights under article 8 of ECHR to respect for private and family life. As the European Court of Human Rights observed in Niemitz v Germany (1993) 16 EHRR 97 at para 29, “private life” includes, inter alia, the right to establish relationships with other human beings. This has been reiterated on a number of occasions, see for example Pretty v UK (2002) EHRR 1 at paragraph 61 and in Evans v UK (2008) 46 EHRR 34 at paragraph 71. There is a positive obligation on the state to take measures to ensure that his private life is respected, and the European Court has stated that “these obligations may involve the adoption of measures designed to secure respect for private life even in the sphere of the relations of individuals between themselves”: Botta v Italy (1998) 26 EHRR 241 paragraph 33.




  • These principles plainly apply when considering what steps should be taken to protect someone, such as TZ, who has the capacity to consent to sexual relations but lacks both the capacity to make a decision whether or not an individual with whom he may wish to have sexual relations is safe and the capacity to make a decision as to the support he requires when having contact with such an individual. In such circumstances, the state through the local authority is under a positive obligation to take steps to ensure that TZ is supported in having a sexual relationship should he wish to do so.




  • In passing, it should be noted that this is consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, (ratified by the UK in 2009 although not yet incorporated into English law) and in particular article 23 which requires states to “take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others”.




  • In addition, the state is under an obligation to take steps to protect TZ from harm.


How to apply those principles to TZ’s case


  • In the light of these principles and dicta, what steps should this court now take in TZ’s best interests?




  • On behalf of the Official Solicitor, Mr. McKendrick asserts that the challenge for the parties and the court is to develop a best interests framework which permits TZ sufficient autonomy of decision-making and respects his right to a private life whilst balancing the need to protect him from harm. He identifies three options: (1) take no best interests decision at this stage but react should TZ find himself in a situation when he is the subject of harm or at risk of harm; (2) require the applicant local authority to draft a care plan and submit it to the court for approval; (3) appoint a welfare deputy to make decisions on TZ’s behalf. Neither party is advocating for the first option. Both parties agree that the court should direct the local authority to file a care plan. The issues are, first, as to the contents of that plan and, secondly, whether a welfare deputy should be appointed.




  • The local authority has filed a draft care support plan. The Official Solicitor has made a number of observations about that plan. There is considerable common ground between the two parties, but some differences remain.




  • What follows are some proposals by the court for the sort of measures that should be included in the plan. Decision-making for incapacitated adults should, as far as possible, be a collaborative exercise. The observations as to the contents of the plan should be seen as part of that process.




  • I propose that the plan should contain the following elements: (a) basic principles; (b) education and empowerment; (c) support; (d) intervention; (e) decision-making. Under this last heading, I shall consider the local authority’s application for the appointment of a deputy.



(a) Basic principles


  • The basis for the plan is uncontroversial and can be summarised as follows.




(1) TZ lives at H Home. In due course, he may move to a step-down facility and, in the long run, into supported living. 

(2) He will have available to him a number of hours of 1 : 1 support every week. Currently that is fixed at 32 hours.

(3) He has capacity to consent to and enter into sexual relations. He has the right to establish relationships with other human beings and wishes to meet other men with whom he may have sexual relations.

(4) He lacks the capacity to make a decision whether or not an individual with whom he may wish to have sexual relations is safe and the capacity to make a decision as to the support he requires when having contact with such an individual.

(5) The local authority and the Court are under a positive obligation to ensure that he is supported in having a sexual relationship should he wish to do so, but also to ensure, as far as possible, that he is kept safe from harm.

(6) The purpose of the plan is therefore to identify the support to be provided to assist him in developing a sexual relationship without exposing him to a risk of harm.


You can see, hopefully, that the overall goal of the plan is to keep TZ safe whilst teaching him the skills he will need to keep himself safe – he is not prevented from forming relationships with other men, nor indeed from having sex with them; it is more that he is to be assisted in making those decisions.


Getting down to brass tacks though, what are professionals supposed to do if TZ meets someone he is attracted to?



  • Mr McKendrick submits, and I agree, that TZ must have some “space” to make decisions for himself, even if this involves making mistakes, to assist him to learn (as far as he can) from the consequences of those decisions. Mr Dooley indicated that the local authority agreed that learning through experience is critical for TZ.




  • Mr McKendrick further submits, and I accept, that, should TZ meet a stranger, he is entitled to have private time with that person and support staff should intervene only if there is an identified risk of that person being abusive towards TZ. I agree with the Official Solicitor that the local authority and its support staff cannot interview or ‘vet’ anyone with whom TZ wishes to communicate and cannot assume that everyone he speaks to is likely to present a risk of abuse. Mr Dooley stated that the local authority’s position is that, if there is a problem in these circumstances, there will need to be a risk assessment to determine whether intervention is required. Having identified that intervention is required, the next step would be to consider the least restrictive intervention necessary to ensure that TZ is safe.




  • In the event that TZ decides he wishes to spend the night with someone, the care plan must provide that a private space can be made available. H Home has now indicated that he will be permitted to have a visitor to stay subject to the proviso that any visitor would have to be subject to safeguarding checks to protect other residents. A similar provision would be made in the event that TZ moved to a step-down facility.




  • If TZ meets someone and develops a relationship, or if he says he wishes to leave H Home and cohabit with another person, a specific capacity assessment will be required to determine whether he has the capacity to make a decision about contact with that person. If the outcome is that he has capacity, the sexual relationship should be facilitated, unless it is concluded that there is a significant risk of harm. If the assessment concludes that he lacks that capacity, or that there is a likelihood that he will suffer significant harm as a result of a relationship, a further application will have to be made to the court. If the court accepts that he lacks capacity, a best interests decision will then be made. If the court concludes that he has capacity, but that he is at risk of harm, it may be that the court would resort to protective powers under its inherent jurisdiction as to vulnerable adults. At all stages, of course, TZ must be assisted to participate in the decision-making process.



It is not the role of the Local Authority to ‘vet’ TZ’s partners or potential partners, nor do they have a role of veto



  • the plan must clearly delineate the circumstances in which care workers may intervene to protect TZ and the steps they are entitled to take when intervening.




  • On behalf of the Official Solicitor, Mr McKendrick submits, and I accept, that it is not the role of the local authority staff to vet TZ’s sexual partners. They must not deny him private time with a proposed sexual partner simply because they consider that partner is unsuitable, unless there is a clearly identified risk that the proposed partner poses a real risk of abuse to TZ during their contact. As the Official Solicitor submits, the assessment of abuse must be rigorous and evidence-based, or, adopting the phrase used by Munby J in Re MM, (supra) “pragmatic, common sense and robust”. As the Official Solicitor points out, capacitous adults also run the risk of abuse and harm. The adults protecting TZ must be given the tools to assist him, because of his vulnerabilities, but they cannot act in his best interests by attempting to eliminate all risks of harm. (“What good is making someone safe if it merely makes them miserable?”)




  • As JS has set out in her draft support plan, if TZ says he wants to go off with someone he has just met, the care workers would try to dissuade him, reminding him of the staged approach to new relationships previously discussed and agreed. In the event that he refused to listen to support workers in those circumstances, and where there were concerns regarding the risk of harm, the care worker involved should immediately alert management, who would in turn ensure that legal representatives were informed. A decision would then be taken as to whether the police should be informed, and/or whether an application should be made to the Court of Protection.


There was a mental health case in the last year, where a Judge set down a seventeen point plan of things that ought to be considered by a hospital before deciding that a patient was so dangerous that he needed to be transferred to a safer hospital, and the Court of Appeal ended up observing that if you get a Judge to draw up a model, he or she invariably draws up a very judicial/lawyery one which attempts to dot every i, and cross every t, but reality doesn’t always allow for that.  I think that this is a damn good attempt to put a framework in place that tries to give TZ freedom and keep him safe and they are laudable aims – I am certain that I could not have done any better.  But it does bring up the mental picture of a man smiling at TZ in Starbucks and staff members thumbing through the judgment to initiate “Phase Four of the plan”


Do you suspect that the staff will be likely to be on low alert for a Brian, but be contemplating intervention for the bad-boy type?


Capacity to consent to sexual intercourse

Another useful case on this issue from Baker J sitting in the Court of Protection.

A Local Authority v TZ  2013

There are a few unusual features of this case – firstly that the Local Authority and the Official Solicitor representing TZ were in agreement that TZ DID have capacity to consent to sexual intercourse and it was the expert who was not, thus leading to the need for a Judge to make the determination.

Secondly, as illustrated very neatly by Baker J, there is the potential line of conflict between authorities decided in the Court of Protection and authorities decided in the Supreme Court, as to whether capacity to consent to sexual intercourse was merely ‘act specific’  (as the Court of Protection have said) or whether it is ‘act and person specific’  (as Baroness Hale said in R v Cooper 2009 which was a criminal prosecution)

  1. How is a court to determine capacity to consent to sexual relations? It is well established that capacity to marry is to be assessed in general and as a matter of principle and not by reference to any particular proposed marriage: see the decision of Munby J (as he then was) in Sheffield City Council v E [2005] Fam 326, approved by the Court of Appeal in the PC case (supra) at paragraph 23 of McFarlane LJ’s judgment. It is act specific and status specific rather than person specific or spouse specific. In a further case, Local Authority X v MM [2007] EWHC 2003 (Fam), hereafter referred to as ‘MM‘, Munby J adopted the same approach to capacity to consent to sexual relations, holding that it, too, is act specific rather than person specific. At paragraph 86 Munby J said:

“The question [capacity to consent to sexual relations] is issue specific, both in the general sense and…in a sense that capacity has to be assessed in relation to the particular kind of sexual activity in question. But capacity to consent to sexual relations is, in my judgment, a question directed to the nature of the activity rather than to the identity of the sexual partner.”


  1. This approach was, however, disapproved by Baroness Hale of Richmond in R v Cooper [2009] UKHL 42 [2009] 1 WLR 1786 in the context of a criminal prosecution for an offence of sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice, contrary to the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In paragraph 27 of her speech in that case, Baroness Hale observed:

“My Lords, it is difficult to think of an activity which is more person-and situation-specific than sexual relations. One does not consent to sex in general. One consents to this act of sex with this person at this time and in this place. Autonomy entails the freedom and the capacity to make a choice of whether or not to do so. This is entirely consistent with the respect for autonomy in matters of private life which is guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The object of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was to get away from the previous ‘status’ – based approach which assumed that all ‘defectives’ lacked capacity, and thus denied them the possibility of making autonomous choices, while failing to protect those whose mental disorder deprived them of autonomy in other ways.”

Mostyn J grappled with this tension in D Borough Council v AB 2011

  1. In D Borough Council v AB [2011] EWHC 101 (Fam), [2011] COPLR Con Vol 313, [2011] 2 FLR 72, a case involving a man with a moderate learning disability, whom the judge referred to as ‘Alan’, Mostyn J grasped the nettle of addressing the conflict between Munby J’s decision in MM, a case that pre-dated the Mental Capacity Act, and Baroness Hale’s observations in R v Cooper, a Supreme Court case that post-dated the Mental Capacity Act but were made in the context of a case involving a different statutory provision. Mostyn J came down firmly on the side of Munby J’s approach. Having acknowledged the correctness of Baroness Hale’s observation quoted above that ‘it is difficult to think of an activity that is more person-and situation-specific than sexual relations’, he added (paragraph 35):

“but the same is true (if not truer) of marriage. But it does not follow that capacity to marry is spouse-as opposed to status- specific. Far from it. I do think, with the greatest possible respect, that there has been a conflation of capacity to consent to sex and the exercise of that capacity. There is also a very considerable practical problem in allowing a partner-specific dimension into the test. Consider this case. Is the local authority supposed to vet every proposed sexual partner of Alan to gauge if Alan has the capacity to consent to sex with him or her?”

And Baker J notes that there is the possibility of the Court of Protection line coming into difficulties if a case ever goes to the Supreme Court, but concludes that in this case   (particularly since what TZ intended was to embark on sexual relationships with persons he considered suitable in the future who he had not yet met, rather than with a single known partner) it was more proportionate to look at whether TZ had capacity on an ‘act specific’ way, rather than whether he had capacity to consent to sex with particular individuals.

I can see merit on both sides – if for example, a person with difficulties was in a relationship with a partner who was very alive to his issues and very skilled in explaining things to the person and had no intention of taking advantage of them, that might require slightly less capacity than a partner with very different approach and morals. I think that on the issue of intrusion, however, Baker J was right.

The next interesting aspect is the three-tier test of capacity to consent to sexual intercourse as devised by Munby J and endorsed by Mostyn J in D Borough Council v AB 2011

  1. 27.   “I therefore conclude that the capacity consent to sex remains act-specific and requires an understanding and awareness of: the mechanics of the act; that there are health risks involved, particularly the acquisition of sexually transmitted and sexually transmissable infections; that sex between a man and a woman may result in the woman becoming pregnant.”


There has been speculation, including within judgments as to whether all three elements are applicable where there is no risk of pregnancy (particularly with regard to a homosexual relationship)

The issue arose specifically in this case, as TZ’s sexual orientation was homosexual, and he wished to have sex with men, rather than women.

I believe that this is the first time that the Court of Protection have decided the issue, rather than simply speculated about it. So, this is the key passage

  1. I therefore conclude that in the case of a person in respect of whom it is clearly established that he or she is homosexual – gay or lesbian – it is ordinarily unnecessary to establish that the person has an understanding or awareness that sexual activity between a man and a woman may result in pregnancy.
  1. Having said that, it goes without saying that human sexuality is profound and complex and there are many people, such as Alan in D Borough Council v AB and indeed TZ in the current case, who have, at times, been attracted to both men and women. In those circumstances, it will be necessary to establish an understanding and awareness of the fact that sex between a man and a woman may result in pregnancy as part of the assessment of capacity to consent to sexual relations.

Having established the appropriate test (did TZ understand the mechanical action and the health risks?) the Judge then considered whether TZ met that test

  1. TZ spoke frankly about his own sexuality. He said that he had come out as gay about a year ago. Before that, he had been a bit confused but now was not. There are some reports in the local authority records suggesting that he may have been attracted to women at one stage since he moved into H Home. TZ was clear that this was no longer the case. “I’m not attracted to women at all, just men.” He said that it was important to be friends first with someone before moving onto a sexual relationship. Asked what he would get out of such a relationship, he identified sexual pleasure, but also thought it was important “to be happy and healthy, not be abused, and not be let down”. It seemed to me that he was referring back to unhappy experiences in previous relationships. “It’s not just the sex, it’s about being happy and safe and secure in the relationship.”
  1. TZ described in simple terms the physical acts of sex both between a man and a woman and between two men. He indicated that he understood that, “if men and women have sex, the woman can get pregnant”. He knew that a man cannot become pregnant. He was aware of the health risks from sexual activity, and listed the names of several sexually transmitted diseases. He said that the way of avoiding catching any of these diseases was to use a condom. He said that he knew there was a risk of the condom splitting, and in those circumstances he would get himself tested. He has been tested twice before for HIV. On each occasion, the test was negative.
  1. He said that he would like to have the opportunity to meet a man, by going to places such as gay bars. He said that he had learned to take his time because “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. He said he would rather not rush things, but would rather wait to see if he could trust the man. He would not have sex on a first encounter but would wait until he knew the man a little better. “Sometimes it’s easy to make the right choice, sometimes it isn’t, but I would try to make the right choice.”

The expert’s view seemed to be that TZ did not meet the test because he was not able to use and weigh information before making a decision in relation to sexual intercourse and did not have an understanding of the emotional consequences involved.

The Judge rejected that argument.

  1. It seems to me, with respect, that Dr. X is making a similar error as that made by the expert in D Borough Council v AB when he stipulates that the ability to use and weigh relevant information before consenting to sexual relations involves “a complex analysis of risks and benefits often in the abstract and hypothetical”. In D Borough Council v AB, the expert suggested that one essential ingredient of capacity to consent to sexual relations was “an awareness that sex is part of having relations with people and may have emotional consequences”. Mostyn J observed in response (at paragraph 37):

“This criterion is much too sophisticated to be included in the low level of understanding and intelligence needed to be able to consent to sex. Apart from anything else, I would have thought that a great deal of sex takes place where one party or the other is wholly oblivious to this supposed necessity.”

  1. Most people faced with the decision whether or not to have sex do not embark on a process of weighing up complex, abstract or hypothetical information. I accept the submission on behalf of the Official Solicitor that the weighing up of the relevant information should be seen as a relatively straightforward decision balancing the risks of ill health (and possible pregnancy if the relations are heterosexual) with pleasure, sexual and emotional brought about by intimacy. There is a danger that the imposition of a higher standard for capacity may discriminate against people with a mental impairment.
  1. In any event, I am satisfied in this case, having spoken to TZ myself, that he does have an understanding of the need to weigh up the emotional consequences of having sexual relations. This was evident to me from his comment that he would rather not rush things, but would rather wait to see if he could trust the man and by his observation that “sometimes it’s easy to make the right choice, sometimes it isn’t, but I would try to make the right choice.” This insight seemed to me to be well above the level of “rudimentary” ability required.
  1. Overall, I find that TZ does have the capacity to use and weigh the information to the degree required for capacity to consent to sexual relations. I think he has been significantly helped in that regard by the sensitive programme of sex education he has received. Like most people, he may behave impulsively at some point in the future, and in his case that tendency may be accentuated by his ADHD, but I do not consider that this tendency means that he lacks the ability to use and weigh the relevant information.
  1. I therefore declare that TZ has the capacity to consent to and engage in sexual relations