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Cheshire Cat, Cheshire Act

 

Following the Supreme Court decision in Cheshire West, which greatly expanded the definition of restriction of liberty to the point where the system has almost entirely broken down due to the huge increase in volume, the Law Commission have published an interim report on Deprivation of Liberty.

Unsurprisingly, they say that there’s no hot-fix available for the current mess we are in, and their recommendation is for Parliament to produce a brand new Act to put things right.

Given that Deprivation of Liberty was brought about as a solution for the Bournwood gap when the ECHR finally dealt with that case and told us that there was a truck-sized plot hole in our legislation about restricting the liberty of people who were not criminals and not mentally ill,  “for their own good”,  it probably did well to last as long as it did before crumbling like, well like, Cheshire cheese.

 

http://www.familylaw.co.uk/system/froala_assets/documents/799/law_commission_deprivation_of_liberty_dols_mental_capacity_interim_statement.pdf

 

1.4 We have concluded that legislative change is the only satisfactory solution to the problems we outline below. During the next phase, the Law Commission will
produce draft legislation and a final report. The process of developing draft legislation is likely to result in some changes of substance to the approach outlined here.
This statement should not be construed as necessarily representing our final position.
1.5 The final report and draft legislation will be published before the end of 2016. It will then be for the Government to decide how the recommendations will be taken
forward.
Why, Government, here is some convenient long grass

Why, Government, here is some convenient long grass

 

GO ON THEN!

GO ON THEN!

 

The Law Commission had a healthy response to its consultation, and this bit was, I think, telling

 

Finally, a significant number of consultees argued that any system which is based on Cheshire West
will be unsustainable. It was argued that the acid test defies common sense, the most frequently quoted examples being end-of-
life care andintensive care units. Most concerns related to the practical implications of Cheshire West .
Local authorities reported significant increases in the numbers of referrals locally (often above the tenfold national figure), widespread
non-compliance with time-scales for assessments and many “low-level” or “community” cases being left unassessed. Many queried why the
Law Commission was not seeking to legislate away the acid test.
Onto some detail
1.37 Nevertheless, it is our view that the new scheme must demonstrably reduce the administrative burden and associated costs of complying with the DoLS by
providing the maximum benefit for the minimum cost. With this in mind, we have therefore concluded that the new scheme should focus solely on
ensuring that those deprived of their liberty have appropriate and proportionate safeguards,and should not seek to go as widely as the protective care scheme.
1.38 We propose to recommend a more straightforward, streamlined and flexible scheme for authorising a deprivation of liberty. The responsibility for establishing
the case for a deprivation of liberty will be shifted onto the commissioning body (such as the NHS or local authority) that is arranging the relevant care or
treatment, and away from the care provider. This should provide greater clarity,since the body directly responsible for the proposed deprivation of liberty would
need to provide evidence to support its case. The required evidence would include a capacity assessment and objective medical evidence of
the need for a deprivation of liberty on account of the person’s mental health condition. The commissioning body would also be required to undertake certain
steps such as arranging for the provision of advocacy (or assistance from an appropriate person) and consulting with family members and others.
1.39 All those deprived of liberty would be eligible for safeguards to secure the protection of their rights under article 5 of the ECHR. For example, all those
deprived of their liberty (as well as others, such as family members and advocates) would have rights to seek reviews of their deprivation of liberty and
bring legal proceedings to challenge the deprivation of liberty. There will also be comprehensive rights to advocacy.
Sounds good, but the real test is going to be how possible it is going to be for a family member to challenge restrictive care arrangments and what help the State will provide them to do so. We know for example, that the Neary case showed up huge problems with the DoLs regime and had to be fought with tenacity by an exceptional human being to get the right outcome in the end. You could ask Mark Neary whether the protections that were in place and the mechanism for family members to be able to challenge were robust enough and simple to follow. I suspect I know what his answer would be.  It shouldn’t require that a vulnerable person needs someone as remarkable as Mark to stand up for them, not every vulnerable person has that luxury.
http://www.lag.org.uk/magazine/2014/07/the-court-of-protection-steven-neary’s-story.aspx
The Law Commission touch on the Neary case here, and suggest some additional safeguards
1.41 By way of amendments to the rest of the Mental Capacity Act, we will also seek to maintain, as much as possible, the article 8 ECHR protections that were
contained in the supportive care elements of the scheme, but in such a way as to minimise the demand upon services. These amendments will be aimed primarily
at ensuring that there is proper consideration, in advance of the decision being made, of the necessity of removing individuals from their own home and placing
them in institutional care in the name of their best interests.
The failures of public bodies in this regard have been evident in high-profile cases such as London Borough of Hillingdon v Neary and Essex County Council v RF
The amendments would also aim at giving greater priority to the person’s wishes and feelings when a best interests decision is being made, and qualifying the
immunity from legal action in respect of best interests decisions under section 5 of the Mental Capacity Act so as to provide additional procedural safeguards in
respect of certain key decisions by public authorities.
1.42 In addition we are considering whether a defined group of people should receive additional independent oversight of the deprivation of their liberty, which would be undertaken by an Approved Mental Capacity Professional. Owing to the vast number of people now considered to be deprived of their liberty
following Cheshire West, it would not be proportionate or affordable to provide such oversight to all those caught by article 5 of the ECHR. Whilst
we are still working to develop the precise criteria that would operate to identify this group, we envisage that this group would consist of those who are subject
to greater infringement of their rights, including, in particular, their rights to private and family life under article 8 of the ECHR.
And it wouldn’t be a civil service consultation without an omphaloskepsis exercise of deciding what it should be called
1.47 At consultation we provisionally proposed that the First-tier Tribunal should review cases under our new scheme, thereby replacing the role of the Court of
Protection. This proposal was supported by a significant number of consultees.
We were told that the advantages of a tribunal system included its accessibility, informality and speedy decision-making. But others pointed to the existing levels
of knowledge and expertise in the Court of Protection and the difficulties of demarcation or overlap with the remainder of the Mental Capacity Act if a tribunal
jurisdiction was introduced. We have not yet reached a final decision and will be considering our position further over the coming months.
1.48 Finally, perhaps the issue that provoked most debate at consultation was the nomenclature associated with the DoLS. Most consultees felt that the term
“deprivation of liberty safeguards” was at best unhelpful and, at worst, meant that people were being denied access to legal rights. Some consultees were similarly
critical of our proposed new terminology, including the label “protective care”. A number of consultees suggested the name “liberty safeguards”, whilst the next
favourite was “capacity safeguards”. However, there was no consensus on the terminology that should be adopted. Therefore we invite further
views (by 23 June 2016) on the name that should be given to the new scheme.
Please send your suggestions to Olivia.Bird@lawcommission.gsi.gov.uk.
There are some legitimate issues here about how naming something creates a set of preconceptions about what the scheme is for and whether it is intended to be a rights-based or a patrician cotton wool scheme, or where on the scale it falls, but this sort of thing always does remind me of Douglas Adams, writing about a bunch of middle-managers and marketing execs who fled their own planet and find themselves living on Earth in the stone age, trying to rebuild society from the ground up.
Well, you’re obviously being totally naive of course“, said the girl, “When you’ve been in marketing as long as I have, you’ll know that before any new product can be developed it has to be properly researched. We’ve got to find out what people want from fire, how they relate to it, what sort of image it has for them.”
The crowd were tense. They were expecting something wonderful from Ford.
Stick it up your nose,” he said.
“Which is precisely the sort of thing we need to know,” insisted the girl, “Do people want fire that can be fitted nasally?
“And the wheel,” said the Captain, “What about this wheel thingy? It sounds a terribly interesting project.”
“Ah,” said the marketing girl, “Well, we’re having a little difficulty there.”
“Difficulty?” exclaimed Ford. “Difficulty? What do you mean, difficulty? It’s the single simplest machine in the entire Universe!
The marketing girl soured him with a look.
“Alright, Mr. Wiseguy,” she said, “if you’re so clever, you tell us what colour it should be.

Appointing a professional as deputy, rather than a family member

 

Again, a Court of Protection case.  This time by Senior Judge Lush.

Re A 2016

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2016/3.html

The first thing that leaped out at me in reading this was that the applicant, who was asking that a professional be appointed as a deputy to manage the affairs of her mother, had instructed a QC. That’s pretty rare, and tells me that the case might have a bit of substance. The person opposing the application, D, was the son, and he was in person.

The mother A was 78 and the Judge says “comes from a titled family”, so one assumes there’s some pot of money.  I have to say that from the brief description of her, I liked her enormously.

 

“She told me that she still hears voices but wasn’t able to tell me what they have said recently. She told me about her hobby of sending letters and cards to famous people. She was very keen to discuss the Queen and her plans to send a Christmas present that the Queen would appreciate. When I asked what this would be, she replied, ‘Books, make-up and a lollipop.’ She then told me that she wants to send a ‘woolly animal toy’ to David Cameron’s daughter. Mr Cameron is one of the famous people that she is most interested in and she told me that he had proposed marriage to her in the past, despite having a very glamorous wife already. A told me that she had met the Prince of Wales several times and that he was ‘very easy to be with’. She went on to say. ‘He has eighteen women lovers. I wish he liked me’.”

 

It was very clear from the assessment of her that she lacked capacity to manage her own affairs. There were some previous proceedings about appointing a deputy in 2013, and I note that the Judge remarked that within those proceedings, D’s conduct had been such that a cost order of £7,500 had been made against him.

 

  • After only eighteen months as A’s deputy, C now wishes to stand down, and on 15 January 2015 she filed an application seeking an order that Suzanne Jane Marriott, a partner in Charles Russell Speechlys, Solicitors, London EC4, be appointed in her place.
  • She also made an application for Mrs Marriott, once appointed as deputy, to exercise A’s power to appoint new trustees of certain settlements and appoint herself as a trustee.

 

 

Reading between the lines, and explicitly, D’s frequent and lengthy correspondence had been a factor in C no longer wishing to act as deputy and wanting a professional person to do so.

D generates an enormous volume of correspondence and, even though most of the points he makes are irrelevant, tiresome and repetitious, his correspondence needs to be read by the recipient, if only to confirm that that is simply hot air. Naturally, Mrs Marriott is concerned about the costs implications for A’s estate if she is required to respond to every item of correspondence or e-mail sent to her by D. Accordingly, the applicant has asked the court to direct that Mrs Marriott need only reply to communications from D that appear to be pertinent to her role as deputy, and that she needn’t reply in relation to any relevant point that he raises more than once.

 

D had two chief reasons for objecting to the appointment of Mrs Marriott as a deputy – the first (sensible) was that a professional deputy will generally charge from the estate, whereas a family member would not. The second was less sensible

(a) she is an expert in ‘tax avoidance’, which, I assume, he regards as morally wrong [Mrs Marriott’s response is that her experience of tax avoidance, as distinct from tax evasion, is no greater than that of any other private client lawyer based in the City of London]

 

To be honest, if you have to have someone else managing your financial affairs, that person having a solid working knowledge of the best lawful ways to minimise tax payments from it seems to me to be rather a good thing.

 

Decision

 

  • Since 1959 a family member has acted as A’s committee and subsequently as her receiver and deputy. Sadly, because of D’s conduct, no suitable family member is now willing to act as A’s deputy for property and affairs and there is no alternative to the appointment of a professional.
  • In my judgment, it would be in A’s best interests to appoint Suzanne Marriott as her deputy and as a trustee of the 1978 Settlements for the following reasons.
  • The checklist in section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act is not tremendously helpful on this occasion. I have no idea of A’s own wishes and feelings about the application, and shall assume that she has no particular views on the matter. According to Professor Howard, “she is not able to understand how the Court of Protection and her niece could operate on her behalf and in her best interests.”
  • As regards the views of others who are engaged in caring for her or interested in A’s welfare, the respondent, D, has made his views known and they are outnumbered by those of the applicant and her mother and siblings and the professionals at Macfarlanes who have been looking after the affairs of A and other members of her family for decades, all of whom support C’s application.
  • Few people, if any, are better qualified than Mrs Marriott to act as A’s deputy and trustee. Charles Russell Speechly’s website says that:

 

“Suzanne specialises in cross border and UK tax planning, wills, trusts, contentious trusts and probates, Inheritance Act claims, estate and succession planning, international wills and trusts, non-domiciliaries, mental incapacity and Court of Protection work, heritage property, art, landed estates and charitable trusts. She acts as trustee, executor, deputy, attorney and charitable trustee for many well-known clients and is often appointed by the court in these roles where there are disputes. Suzanne is a notary public practising in the City of London and is a member of STEP, ACTAPS, and the CLA.”

[These are the acronyms of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the Association of Contentious Trust and Probate Specialists, and the Country Land and Business Association respectively].

 

  • She and her firm have substantial experience of acting as professional deputies and the role of other partners and members of staff should not be underestimated. In July 2015 the OPG published a set of ‘Deputy Standards’ for professional deputies, Standard 3 of which requires professional deputies to “maintain effective internal office processes and organisation”. Amongst other things, this involves establishing clear and effective governance between the named deputy and staff delegated to carry out the day-to-day functions of the role.
  • Both Suzanne Marriott and Charles Russell Speechlys also have considerable know-how in dealing with landed families and private wealth management. I imagine that, in selecting Suzanne Marriott as a potential replacement for C, Macfarlanes consciously looked for someone with a similar practice to their own but with more experience of contentious Court of Protection matters.
  • I concur with the observation made by Mr Justice Newey that, although Charles Russell Speechlys’ fees are likely to be large, it is improbable that they will be excessive because the Senior Courts Costs Office will carry out a detailed assessment of their general management costs on the standard basis each year.
  • With a view to keeping the costs as proportionate as possible, and because I believe that it would be in A’s best interests to do so, I shall allow the applicant’s request, to which I referred in paragraph 33 above, and direct Mrs Marriott to reply only to communications from D that appear to be relevant to her role as deputy and not to reply to any irrelevant communications or to any relevant point that he has raised more than once.

 

[That last paragraph might seem very appealing to lawyers and deputies around the country who are faced with people like D. ]

 

A life that sparkles

 

This is a discussion about the decision in King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v C  2015

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/80.html

 

It is a Court of Protection decision about whether a woman C, who medical professionals all agreed needed to undertake kidney dialysis treatment in order to survive, should be able to refuse such treatment or about whether the Court should make the decision on her behalf.  It is very sad, because what we are discussing here is (a) whether C will live or die and (b) why she might feel that life was no longer worth living for her.  She has a family who would greatly miss her if she were to die, and it is a case that has a lot of human tragedy. It also though, stirred up a lot of other feelings for me when I read it – there’s sadness absolutely, but it also has some more uplifting things to say about human spirit and how people can choose to live their lives outside of the norm.

 

The Judge was MacDonald J.  The case was obviously decided under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 principles – the key ones being that

 

(a) A person who has capacity is allowed to make decisions that would be bad for them and that someone else would not make if they were in their shoes

(b) The law’s starting point is that everyone is assumed to have capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary to prove that they do not

(c) There are specified factors to consider in assessing capacity – a person’s ability to understand the issue, to weigh up the various factors, to retain that information and to reach a decision. And a person can and should be helped with all of those issues

(d) If a person lacks capacity, the Court would then make a decision as to what they considered was in C’s best interests

(e) A Court cannot compel doctors to deliver treatment, but simply authorise them to deliver the treatment in the absence of consent if it is in C’s best interests.

 

Background then

 

 

  • C is a person to whom the epithet ‘conventional’ will never be applied. By her own account, the account of her eldest daughters and the account of her father, C has led a life characterised by impulsive and self-centred decision making without guilt or regret. C has had four marriages and a number of affairs and has, it is said, spent the money of her husbands and lovers recklessly before moving on when things got difficult or the money ran out. She has, by their account, been an entirely reluctant and at times completely indifferent mother to her three caring daughters. Her consumption of alcohol has been excessive and, at times, out of control. C is, as all who know her and C herself appears to agree, a person who seeks to live life entirely, and unapologetically on her own terms; that life revolving largely around her looks, men, material possessions and ‘living the high life’. In particular, it is clear that during her life C has placed a significant premium on youth and beauty and on living a life that, in C’s words, ‘sparkles’.
  • With respect to youth and beauty, her daughter V states that just as C has never seen herself as a mother, she has never seen herself getting old. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014 when aged forty-nine V relates that C expressed the view that she was “actually kind of glad because the timing was right”. It is recorded in C’s medical notes that she did not want to discuss the benefits and risks associated with chemotherapy but was “keen not to have any change in size or deficit that will affect her wearing a bikini”. She refused to take medication prescribed for the disease because “it made her fat”. There appear to have been no concerns expressed regarding C’s capacity in this context.
  • C’s preoccupation with not getting old also manifested itself in other ways. Upon learning that her daughter G was pregnant C’s reaction was, says G, one of anger in circumstances where this meant she would be a grandmother and made her feel “past her sell-by date”. Within the foregoing context, in her statement V relates that C has often said over the years that she wanted to “go out with a bang” and has been firm in her conviction that, with regard to growing old, she “just would not let it happen”.
  • C’s emphasis on money, material possessions and ‘living the high life’ is also well established by the evidence in this case. From the history of her four marriages provided by V it would appear that C has, over the course of those four marriages, considered a downturn in the financial fortunes of her husbands an entirely reasonable ground for moving on and has taken requests that her spending be curtailed or limited to be unreasonable. The value that C places on wealth and possessions is further demonstrated by her statement to V that, her fortunes having suffered a downturn in recent times, she does not want to “live in a council flat” or to “be poor”.
  • Despite her patent faults C is dear to her daughters. V relates that she and G have learnt to accept their mother for who she is: complexities, seeming contradictions, blind spots, self-centred and manipulative behaviour, excruciating honesty and all. V tells me that she has accepted that there is no point in trying to make C a ‘typical mother’ in the same way she could not have been a ‘traditional wife’ to her four husbands. She is who she is says V and summarises the position as follows:

 

“My mother’s values, and the choices that she made have always been based on looks (hers and other people’s), money, and living (at all costs) what she called her “sparkly” lifestyle…her life was, from her point of view, a life well lived. I have never known her express regret, or really to take responsibility for anything, including the choices she has made”.

Sadly, as C got older, she had health problems, and this substantially affected her emotional state and her outlook on life, leading her to take an overdose. The overdose did not kill her, but it caused substantial damage to her organs, which led to the need for dialysis treatment, which would be life-saving.

  • Over the past year the progress of C’s life has, sadly, followed a trajectory that has moved away from what she terms her “sparkly” lifestyle. As I have already noted, C was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2014. She underwent a lumpectomy in January 2015 and radiotherapy in March 2015, with treatment concluding in May 2015. C has said that, understandably, this placed her under some stress. In August 2015 C experienced the acrimonious breakdown of a long term relationship. This also resulted in the loss of her business and the financial security attendant thereon, the loss of her home and the generation of significant debt. C was also the subject of arrest and criminal charges arising from an incident that occurred during the breakdown of her relationship. This situation is described in the report of Dr R as exposing C to ‘back to back psycho-social stressors’.
  • On 7 September 2015 C attended V’s house and asked where her Veuve Clicquot was. Later that day C attempted to commit suicide. The attempt was premeditated and planned. C went to a beach and took sixty paracetamol tablets with champagne. The attempt was not successful (C later told her daughters that she “royally cocked it up”). When C awoke she became worried about the pain that she might suffer and called her general practitioner who advised her to call an ambulance. She was admitted to a local hospital for urgent care and subsequently transferred to King’s College Hospital on 29 September 2015. Whilst at the local hospital V relates that C stated that she would try to kill herself again and that she was adamant that she wanted to die.
  • The consequences of C’s attempted suicide have been grave and are described in detail in C’s medical records and in the statements of Dr L, liver consultant and Dr S, consultant nephrologist. In summary, as a result of her paracetamol overdose C suffered an injury to her liver and an acute injury to her kidneys. Since admission to hospital C has, consequently, required renal replacement therapy. That therapy was provided initially by a ‘filtration’ machine and thereafter by intermittent haemodialysis for four hours three times per week.
  • Following a period of intensive treatment after the overdose, C made slow but progressive improvement in her liver function. However, an improvement in her kidney function has yet to occur with her kidneys showing no signs of significant recovery. Dr L is clear that the ongoing care of C is now predominantly supportive in nature save for the essential requirement of kidney dialysis. The anticipated duration of that treatment is from a minimum of six weeks up to a maximum of several months. As at 6 November Dr L was of the view that the outlook for C’s kidney function was unclear but that, generally, her doctors anticipated a recovery in due course. Dr L described the view regarding C’s kidney function on that date as ‘cautiously optimistic’.
  • In a statement dated 9 November 2015 Dr S observes that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of people who suffer an acute kidney injury as a result of a paracetamol overdose recover independent kidney function, usually within four to six weeks. However, he further notes that in circumstances where C is now nearly nine weeks from her overdose, arriving at a confident prognosis is made more difficult. In C’s medical records Dr S is recorded as informing C on 5 November 2015 that her prognosis remained unpredictable and that, even were the damage to her kidneys to be potentially reversible, the prognosis would remain uncertain.
  • In his statement Dr S explains that the most likely explanation for the current state of C’s kidney function is a combination of paracetamol related kidney injury, severe liver injury and several episodes of infection requiring antibiotic treatment, and that the most likely outcome remains that C will recover independent kidney function over the course of several months. Dr S however makes clear that it is possible that C has sustained irreversible damage to her kidneys in the form of cortical necrosis. The way to establish definitively whether this is the case for C would be to perform a kidney biopsy. At present however this is a high risk procedure due to C having abnormal blood clotting levels as a result of her liver injury. A kidney biopsy will become less risky as C’s liver recovers.
  • Dr S states that C may well be left with an element of chronic kidney damage. Within this context, if C recovers kidney function to the point where she does not need renal replacement therapy then Dr S would expect C’s kidney function to have minimal effect on C’s ability to continue as she had prior to the overdose. However, if C does not recover kidney function Dr S is clear that she would require regular renal replacement therapy in order to stay alive. The options for such replacement therapy would be a continuation of the haemodialysis that C currently has, peritoneal dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • In an updating statement dated 11 November 2015 Dr L opines that C’s prognosis “remains excellent with survival fully anticipated”. Dr L records that restoration of C’s liver function to normal is anticipated within a four to six week period. Dr L further records that C’s kidney function has still yet to recover but anticipates an 85 to 95% chance of this occurring having regard to the progression seen in a large majority of similar cases. However, like Dr S, Dr L acknowledges that, with the passage of time, the likelihood of full recovery diminishes. Dr L estimates that if C is not fully recovered within a period of three months, later recovery is unlikely, with the chances of delayed restoration after three months estimated at less than 20%. In such circumstances C would require long term renal replacement therapy.
  • Dr S makes clear that if C does not have further dialysis and continues to have minimal kidney function, she will become progressively unwell as levels of potassium and acid in her blood increase to dangerous levels. These levels will typically become life threatening between three and seven days following the last haemodialysis session. If C drinks during this period then she will also endure fluid build up on her lungs and insufficient oxygen in her bloodstream as a result. The risks of a sudden cardiac event or deterioration will increase after more than three days without dialysis. If C’s kidney function remains poor and she passes very little urine, it is likely that C will die within five to ten days of having no dialysis. C would become progressively drowsy and possibly confused after several days although a sudden cardiac arrest and death is possible at any point.
  • Were doctors to have to force C to receive dialysis against her consent Dr S makes clear that this would be a significant undertaking. He states that were doctors to attempt to administer dialysis to C in circumstances where C took measures to try and stop such treatment the treatment would immediately become unsafe for C (and potentially for medical staff). In such circumstances, Dr S makes plain that in order to dialyse C against her will she would need to be sedated with that sedation being heavy enough to render her, essentially, unconscious for the duration of the dialysis. In order to achieve this safely the procedure would need to be undertaken in a high dependency setting. There are, of course, risks associated with heavy sedation, including respiratory depression and low blood pressure which may in turn necessitate further intervention including intubation and ventilation. Finally, Dr S states that a person seeking to avoid dialysis may remove the dialysis tubes when able to do so, resulting in the need to insert a dialysis tube into a large vein each time and under sedation. There is a risk of bleeding and infection each time this is done, which risk is significantly increased in C given her abnormal clotting. There is also a risk of damage to veins, thereby increasingly restricting venous access. Dr S opines that the minimum frequency of dialysis in this context would be once every five days, although the risks of a sudden cardiac event or deterioration increase over time after more than three days without dialysis.
  • It is within the context of this background C now refuses to undertake further haemodialysis. The parties are agreed that I should deal with the issue of capacity only at this stage. Accordingly, as set out above, the issue for the court is whether, at this time, C has the mental capacity to decide whether or not to consent to the life saving treatment that her doctors wish to continue to give her.

 

For most people, if doctors told them that they needed to have treatment which would work and would largely return them to health within about 6 weeks but that they would die if they didn’t have it, they would have the treatment. But C is not most people. And the tests are not whether ‘most people’ would do something, but whether C lacked capacity to make such a decision.

 

There were three capacity assessments. The first two concluded that C lacked capacity to make the decision and that her decision not to undertake the treatment because she did not want to live a life that she would consider ‘intolerable’ was an irrational one, possibly as a result of a Personality Disorder.  The third concluded that she did have capacity to make the decision, which was one that others might not have made but that she had weighed up as being the right one for HER.  The complication with the third was that shortly before it, C had been given some strong medication

 

 

  • Although at a point where she had been administered a synthetic opiate pain killer some two hours previously, C told Dr Stevens on 10 November 2015 that “I know that I could get better; I know that I could live without a health problem, but I don’t want it; I’ve lost my home; I’ve lost everything I’d worked for; I’ve had a good innings; it’s what I have achieved.” Further, Dr Stevens records in his report (although it is not reflected in his contemporaneous notes) that C:

 

“made very clear to me that she understands and has retained the information that her liver is making a good recovery and that her kidneys are recovering, albeit more slowly, such that her doctors wish her to undergo thrice weekly haemodialysis for some months to come. C also understands and has retained the information that her doctors expect her kidney function to recover such that haemodialysis can be discontinued at some point in 2016 and that her medical quality of life can be expected to improve thereafter. In response to my further exploration, C told me that she had thought a great deal about her medical condition and that, despite appreciating that she has been given a good prognosis, she remains steadfastly determined to die as soon as possible.”

 

 

I had better make it plain that looking at it objectively, the life that C could live after treatment would not be considered by 99.9% of the population to be ‘intolerable’  – this was not a case where the person’s freedom of movement would be restricted or that her mental faculties were ebbing or flowing away, or that she would be in physical pain or distress.  This was a very person specific view.

C’s daughter puts it very very well

 

“As I have said above, my mother would never have wanted to live at all costs. Her reasons for trying to kill herself in September and for refusing dialysis now are strongly in keeping with both her personality and her long held values. Although they are not reasons that are easy to understand, I believe that they are not only fully thought through, but also entirely in keeping with both her (unusual) value system and her (unusual) personality. Her unwillingness to consider ‘a life she would find tolerable’ is not a sign that she lacks capacity; it is a sign that what she would consider tolerable is different from what others might. She does not want any life that is on offer to her at this stage. Put bluntly, her life has always revolved around her looks, men, and material possessions: she understands that (as put to her by Professor [P]) other people have failed relationships, feel sad and continue living, but for her, as she has said, she doesn’t want to ‘live in a council flat’, ‘be poor’ or ‘be ugly’ (which she equates with being old). As is set out in the notes, she truly means it when she says ‘I have lost everything this year’, and that being the case, she doesn’t want to accept any of the options on offer to her as – as she sees it – an ‘old grandma’, even were her kidneys to fully recover. ‘Recovery’ to her does not just relate to her kidney function, but to regaining her ‘sparkle’ (her expensive, material and looks-orientated social life) which she believes she is too old to regain. Again, the references in the notes to her talking about being ‘sociable, hosting parties and going out with the girls’ are fitting: to those who know her well, her entire identity has been built around being a self-described ‘vivacious and sociable person who lives life to the full and enjoys having fun'”.

 

With that in mind, was her decision a result of the Personality Disorder that all three experts agreed that she had (or had traits of), or was it a logical extension (for her) of her actual Personality – the choice entirely in keeping with the choices that she had made about the way she wanted to live her life?

 

It was very finely balanced – how can you really unpick how much this decision is part of a Personality Disorder and how much it is C being unusual but consistent in that unusualness ?

 

SUBMISSIONS

 

  • On behalf of the Trust Mr Horne concedes, very properly, that this is a finely balanced case that sits close to the border that runs between an individual with capacity making an unwise decision and an individual lacking capacity to make the decision in question.
  • On balance the Trust submits C lacks the capacity to decide whether or not to receive dialysis on the basis that she is unable to use and weigh information relevant to the decision as part of the process of making that decision. Specifically, the Trust submits that the examples given by Dr R show that (a) C lacks belief in, and is unable to use and weigh her positive prognosis and (b) that C is unable to contemplate a future that includes her recovery, having closed her mind to this. The Trust submits that this constitutes an inability to use and weigh information for the purposes of s 3(1)(c) and that this inability is because of the impairment of, or a disturbance in the functioning of, the mind or brain for the purposes of s 2(1) comprised of the personality disorder diagnosed by Professor P and Dr Stevens. In the words of Dr R, the Trust submits that C’s decision to refuse treatment is not reached with significant using and weighing of information demonstratively ending with a balanced, nuanced, used and weighed position constituting a capacitous but objectively assessed unwise decision. Again, the Trust submits that this situation is arrived at because of the personality disorder under which C labours.
  • By contrast, having heard the oral evidence received by the court at this hearing the Official Solicitor submits that C does have capacity to decide whether or not to refuse treatment.
  • The Official Solicitor submits that the evidence in this case points not to C being unable to use and weigh information concerning her prognosis and future but, rather, to C taking into account that information and choosing to give it no weight as against other relevant information more important to her in the context of her outlook and values when coming to her decision. Within this context, citing Re SB (A Patient: Capacity to Consent to Termination) [2013] EWHC 1417 (COP) the Official Solicitor submits that, even were the court to consider C’s approach to her prognosis as overly rigid or ‘black and white’ C has given many other valid reasons for refusing treatment more important to her than her prognosis, which reasons evidence capacitous decision making within the context of her particular outlook and belief system. In any event, the Official Solicitor cautions the court against characterising C’s attitude towards her prognosis as rigid, or ‘black and white’ or irrational in circumstances where that prognosis remains uncertain and is worsening the longer C goes without her kidneys showing any sign of recovery. Were the court to conclude that C is unable to ‘use or weigh’ information relevant to the decision, the Official Solicitor further submits that the Trust cannot establish a causal link between this inability and C’s personality disorder in circumstances where the inability in question could equally be attributed to C’s belief system or stubborn character.
  • The submissions made on behalf of V are akin to those made on behalf of C by the Official Solicitor. V contends that her mother has the capacity to decide whether to accept treatment.
  • V submits that the Trust places the test for capacity too high by demanding from C a closely reasoned “balanced, nuanced, used and weighed position” in respect of her medical prognosis. V submits that on a proper application of the criteria set out in the 2005 Act the evidence before the court shows C has made a clear and capacitous decision, which decision she has maintained, after using and weighing the information relevant to that decision in accordance with her particular outlook and values. Thus, V submits, C has reached a clear and reasoned decision by giving weight to the factors that are important to her (a risk of a life lived on dialysis that is unacceptable to her, a risk of long term disability that is unacceptable to her, exhaustion with treatment and her wish not to endure further weeks or months of the same, her wish not to continue to endure the symptoms and pain associated with treatment, the risk she will not be able to attain her former “sparkly” lifestyle, her desire not to get old and lose her appearance and her wish to attain her original goal of ending her life) and no weight to the factors that are not (namely, the possibility that she might recover to a point where she can live without dialysis, the possibility of a future life that is ‘tolerable’ and the impact of her death on those who care for her) within the context of her (very unusual) set of values and outlook. V submits that this is the very essence of a capacitous decision. Again, were the court to conclude that C is unable to use and weigh information relevant to her decision, V submits that the Trust cannot establish a causal link between this inability and C’s personality disorder in circumstances where the inability in question could equally be attributed to C’s belief system and stubborn character.

 

 

 

At this point when I was reading the case, I didn’t know how it would be decided, but on a personal level I was hoping that C would succeed.  Not that I think it is objectively right for her not to have the treatment, but that this is a decision that everything I had read of her life told me that she would have made for herself, and personal freedom and autonomy is such a vital thing.  You may think otherwise – I think it is potentially quite a divisive issue.

 

DISCUSSION

 

  • In this difficult case I have come to the conclusion that, on balance, C does have capacity to decide whether or not to receive dialysis. My reasons for so deciding are as follows.
  • The first question for the court is whether the Trust has established on the balance of probabilities C is unable to make a decision about the matter in hand having regard to the matters set out in s 3(1) (the so called ‘functional test’). The Trust accepts that C is able to understand the information relevant to the decision, to retain that information and to communicate her decision. In relation to the remaining element of the functional test I am not satisfied that the Trust has proved to the requisite standard that C is unable to use and weigh the information relevant to the decision in question.
  • Notwithstanding the submission of the Trust, I am not satisfied that C lacks belief in her prognosis or a future that includes her recovery to the extent she cannot use that information to make a decision, or that C is unable to weigh her positive prognosis and the possibility of a future recovery in the decision making process. In my judgment, the evidence in this case, when viewed as a whole, is indicative of C acknowledging that her prognosis is positive, that there is a possible future in which she survives and of her weighing that information in her decision making process.
  • The entries in the medical records which I have referred to above show that C has, on a number of occasions over the span of her treatment, tacitly acknowledged that her prognosis is positive if she maintains treatment and has weighed that against other factors.
  • For example, on 29 September 2015 the rationale expressed by C for refusing treatment was that she believed she may need dialysis for the rest of her life, saw a bleak future if she could not have a life of socialising, drinking and partying with friends, that getting old scared her both in terms of illness and appearance. C was recorded by Dr O (Liver SHO) as being clear in her understanding that without dialysis, adequate nutrition and treatment of her liver she would die and, within that context, as being able to take in the medical advice and fully understood the risk of refusing treatment. Following interventions from her father and a friend on 29 September, C changed her mind and consented to treatment. It is clear from the medical records that C appears, with the assistance of her father and her friend, to have undertaken an exercise of using or weighing information as it is recorded that an hour was spent talking to C about her grave medical condition, her chances of recovery, and her prognosis for the future.
  • On 1 November 2015 C stated that she did understand that she would die if she stopped dialysis and this would not necessarily be pleasant. She is recorded as listening to the positive prognosis and quality of life on long term dialysis following which C said she understood it but that her ‘heart is not in it’.
  • On 2 November C stated that she felt fed up and exhausted, was hoping her kidney function would improve in 6 weeks but it hadn’t, could not imagine herself dependent on dialysis, felt it would be pointless to continue if she could not recover to a functional level where she could continue with her previous lifestyle, felt she did not have the mental health to continue with the treatment and therefore she was determined not to continue with the treatment. C is recorded as having understood that this would shorten her life expectancy.
  • On 5 November 2015 Dr R recorded C reasoning her position as follows, “C states she remains adamant that she does not wish to continue with dialysis treatment. The reasons, as she tells me, are that she has never wanted to have it (despite many weeks of engaging), she has acquiesced rather than engaged enthusiastically. Now she finds it painful, exhausting and she has had enough. She states she knows she will die as a result of not having it”.
  • On 9 November 2015 C told Dr R that she knew what the doctors were doing and were not angry with them, as they were just trying to save her life but she did not wish to be saved. When speaking to the representative of the Official Solicitor on 10 November 2015 C acknowledged the possibility that her kidneys will recover, saying “I am not prepared to wait for the possibility that my kidneys will get better”. On 9 November 2015 C told Dr R that she knew what the doctors were doing and were not angry with them, as they were just trying to save her life but she did not wish to be saved. When Dr R spoke to C about being able to envisage a future when she was back on her feet again with no line in her neck and no pain C is recorded as saying “they have told me before that I would do that and I am still here”… “I can’t go on like this for months and months or forever.”
  • There is also evidence before the court of C expressly acknowledging her positive prognosis and weighing the same. On 3 November 2015 V recalled that in deciding not to continue with treatment following the MDT meeting on that day C “had clearly used the time to consider the prospect of having what Professor P described as a ‘tolerable life’, and decided that, although with the more optimistic prognosis, it required some thought, she still did not want to live.” More generally V was clear in her evidence that C “repeatedly told us that she didn’t care whether her kidneys improved or not, and that she had thought about it, and that she wanted to die regardless. She – in the full knowledge that it was entirely possible that she might make a full recovery – said that if her kidney function improved, and she were discharged, that she would ‘throw [herself] under a train'”. No party sought to suggest that V was mistaken in her recollection of these conversations. On 10 November 2015 C told Dr Stevens that “I know that I could get better; I know that I could live without a health problem, but I don’t want it”. Dr Stevens states in his report that she “made very clear to me that she understands and has retained the information that her liver is making a good recovery and that her kidneys are recovering, albeit more slowly, such that her doctors wish her to undergo thrice weekly haemodialysis for some months to come. C also understands and has retained the information that her doctors expect her kidney function to recover such that haemodialysis can be discontinued at some point in 2016 and that her medical quality of life can be expected to improve thereafter.” Whilst there are difficulties with Dr Stevens’ report overall, I am prepared to accept that his recording of what C said to him is accurate, and indeed no party suggested otherwise.
  • I of course accept that there have been a number of occasions where C has appeared to reject out of hand her positive prognosis, in particular in conversations with Dr R on 29 September, 20 October, 3 November, 5 November, 9 November and 10 November 2015.
  • However, in my judgment it is important to place these statements by C in their proper context. In particular, they must be placed in the context of the other occasions, as summarised in the preceding paragraphs, when C has acknowledged her positive prognosis and weighed the same either tacitly or expressly. Thus, for example, whilst Dr R considered that on 29 September 2015 C was compromised by “very rigid thinking style and her distorted cognition such as black and white thinking and catastrophic thinking e.g. that she will forever require dialysis and will never recover to a stage where she can live an independent life again”, as I have noted, on the same day C was recorded by Dr O as being clear in her understanding that without dialysis, adequate nutrition and treatment of her liver she would die and, within that context, as being able to take in the medical advice and fully understood the risk of refusing treatment. Further, C was recorded as appearing to have capacity on that date. Likewise, whilst telling Dr R on 10 November that “there is no hope ‘a tiny sliver of hope’ as she put it today, that she will get better” she told Dr Stevens on the same day that “I know that I could get better; I know that I could live without a health problem.” In this regard I recall G’s evidence that her mother’s response to professionals will, in G’s experience, depend on whether she considers them to be ‘on her side’ (part of her ‘charm team’ as C styles that group) or not and that Dr R was not considered to be part of that ‘team’.
  • Further, in my judgment C’s more categorical statements regarding her prognosis, and the question of the extent to which they demonstrate an inability to use and weigh information regarding the same, must also be placed in the context of the information that she was receiving during this period with respect to that prognosis.
  • Central to both the opinion of Dr R and the opinion of Professor P that C lacks the ability to use and weigh information relevant to her decision is C’s alleged rigid and insistent rejection of her prognosis within the context of consistent optimism in this regard expressed by her treating doctors, characterised by Dr L’s statement on 9 November 2015 that C’s prognosis “remains excellent with survival fully anticipated”. However, I am not satisfied that the medical records bear out the assertion that C was, in fact, receiving uniformly positive and reassuring information concerning her prognosis (most especially in relation to the likelihood of her being able to live a life without dialysis).
  • At the time C was said to have “an overvalued idea that her quality of life will not improve” on 25 September 2015 and at the time she refused dialysis on 29 September 2015, according to her medical records by that date she had, at best, received a guarded opinion to the effect that her prognosis was uncertain. When on 20 October 2015 C is recorded as stating that she does not want a life dependent on dialysis and of poor quality and apparently dismisses the medical opinion that she has every chance of making a good recovery and leading a fulfilling and normal life, she had the day before been told by Dr V only that there was a “possibility she may” get better and a “possibility she could” return to a degree of normality. Whilst On 3 November 2015, when C again refused dialysis, Dr R was concerned that the main driver of C’s decision appeared to be her categoric belief that the timescale given to her for recovery had passed and that C considered that this meant she would not recover and did not want a lifetime of dialysis, the day before C had been told by Dr N that that no-one could predict how long it would take to recover and no one could tell for sure to what level of function she would recover. On 5 November, when Dr R was concerned that C was stating that “she believes she has no hope of recovery as she is now through the period of expected recovery as described to her. She is unflinching in her belief about this”, according to the medical records Dr L appears to have told C that dialysis may not be a permanent situation and Dr S confirmed to C that there was no evidence of recovery so far and, accordingly, the prognosis was still unpredictable and remained uncertain even if the damage was potentially reversible.
  • Having regard to the foregoing summary, it is clear from the medical records that C was, entirely understandably, not receiving uniformly positive and reassuring information concerning her prognosis, both generally and in relation to the likelihood of her being able to live a life without dialysis. Whilst it is the case that on occasion C received a very positive assessment of her prognosis after incidents of refusing treatment (for example on 29 September 2015, on 21 October 2015, when Professor G explained in the presence of C that “we feel that the patient should get better very soon and that they [her kidneys] could improve any day now” and on 3 November 2015, when Professor G told C that her prognosis was good and that she could “be out with a drink in your hand by Christmas) it is not in my judgment accurate to characterise the prognosis C was being given as consistently positive. Her more categoric responses in respect of her prognosis must in my judgment be seen in this context when determining whether they are probative of an inability to use and weigh her prognosis in her decision making.
  • Further, in my judgment it is also important in this case not to confuse a decision by C to give no weight to her prognosis having weighed it with an inability on her part to use and weigh that information.
  • It is clear that on occasions C’s has expressed herself in terms of categorically rejecting her prognosis in a way which gives the impression that she does not believe or accept that prognosis. However, on other occasions it is clear that her rejection of her prognosis is the result of her having considered it and given it no weight as against other factors more important to her. Thus, on 9 November 2015 C told Dr R that she knew what the doctors were doing and were not angry with them, as they were just trying to save her life but she did not wish to be saved. As I have noted, C told Dr Stevens on 10 November 2015 that “I know that I could get better; I know that I could live without a health problem, but I don’t want it” and that “she had thought a great deal about her medical condition and that, despite appreciating that she has been given a good prognosis, she remains steadfastly determined to die as soon as possible.” Later she told the representative from the Official Solicitor that “They are doing their best to do everything they can for me and unfortunately that is not what I want” and “I know they need to save lives. But I’ve chosen a different route.” As noted, V recalls C telling her on a number of occasions that “she didn’t care whether her kidneys improved or not, and that she had thought about it, and that she wanted to die regardless.”
  • In my judgment these exchanges, and some of those outlined further above, are more consistent with C acknowledging her prognosis and choosing to give it no weight as against other information within the context of her own values and outlook when making a decision than they are with her failing to believe or weigh her prognosis when making her decision.
  • Finally, and within this context, in assessing whether C does have the ability to use and weigh information relevant to the decision in question it is also in my judgment very important to have regard to the fact that, in addition to the position C has taken with regard to her prognosis, she has given a range of reasons for reaching the decision she has regarding further treatment. C has, on a number of occasions, given very clear reasons for not wishing to continue her treatment. These reasons include the risk of a life lived on dialysis, the risk of long term disability, exhaustion with treatment and her wish not to endure further weeks or months of the same, her wish not to continue to endure the symptoms and pain associated with treatment, the risk she will not be able to attain her former lifestyle, her desire not to get old and lose her appearance and her wish to attain her original goal of ending her life.
  • Within this context I note in particular that it is clear from the medical records that C had and has a consistent and specific fear of having to live the rest of her life on dialysis. This expressed fear on the part of C is evident in her medical records. On 22 September 2015 C is recorded as continuing to state that, whilst hopeful of recovery, if her kidneys do not recover and she requires dialysis for the rest of her life she will not wish to live. C repeated this view on 23 September 2015. On 2 November C stated that she could not imagine herself dependent on dialysis and that it would be pointless to continue if she could not recover to a functional level where she could continue with her previous lifestyle. I pause to note that, in the context of the information given to C regarding her prognosis as summarised in Paragraphs 83 to 85 above, these fears on the part of C cannot be considered irrational.
  • Within the foregoing context, I am satisfied that it is not the case that C has undertaken the decision making exercise in relation to dialysis solely on the basis of a concrete or ‘black and white’ view taken in respect of her prognosis but rather on the basis of placing in the balance many factors relevant to the decision. That C considers that these factors outweigh a positive prognosis and the chance of life that it signals may not accord with the view that many may take in the same circumstances, and indeed may horrify some. However, they do in my judgment demonstrate C using and weighing information relevant to the decision in question when coming to that decision.
  • Having regard to the foregoing matters in my judgment the Trust has not proved to the requisite standard that C is unable to use and weigh information relevant to the decision in question such that she lacks capacity to make that decision. In circumstances where the Trust concedes that C meets the other criteria comprising the ‘functional test’ I am satisfied that C is not a person unable to make a decision for herself for the purposes of s 3(1) and, accordingly, does not lack capacity to decide whether or not to accept dialysis.

 

 

 

Having decided that C has capacity to make the decision for herself, MacDonald J did not have to go on to say what decision he would have made as being in her best interests if he had found that she lacked capacity.

 

The Judge did, however hold out an olive branch to C, that he hoped that doctors would still engage with her in discussions and see if she could be persuaded to consent to the treatment, but that the decision was hers and hers alone to make.

 

CONCLUSION

 

  • For the reasons set out above I am not satisfied on the evidence before the court that the Trust has established on the balance of probabilities that C lacks capacity to decide whether or not to accept treatment by way of dialysis.
  • Within the context of C’s stated wish to refuse the life saving treatment which renal haemodalysis represents for her I am acutely conscious of the gravity of my decision. However, as set out at the beginning of this judgment, a capacitous individual is entitled to decide whether or not to accept treatment from his or her doctor. The right to refuse treatment extends to declining treatment that would, if administered, save the life of the patient and, accordingly, a capacitous patient may refuse treatment even in circumstances where that refusal will lead to his or her death.
  • The decision C has reached to refuse dialysis can be characterised as an unwise one. That C considers that the prospect of growing old, the fear of living with fewer material possessions and the fear that she has lost, and will not regain, ‘her sparkle’ outweighs a prognosis that signals continued life will alarm and possibly horrify many, although I am satisfied that the ongoing discomfort of treatment, the fear of chronic illness and the fear of lifelong treatment and lifelong disability are factors that also weigh heavily in the balance for C. C’s decision is certainly one that does not accord with the expectations of many in society. Indeed, others in society may consider C’s decision to be unreasonable, illogical or even immoral within the context of the sanctity accorded to life by society in general. None of this however is evidence of a lack of capacity. The court being satisfied that, in accordance with the provisions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, C has capacity to decide whether or not to accept treatment C is entitled to make her own decision on that question based on the things that are important to her, in keeping with her own personality and system of values and without conforming to society’s expectation of what constitutes the ‘normal’ decision in this situation (if such a thing exists). As a capacitous individual C is, in respect of her own body and mind, sovereign.
  • In circumstances where I have decided that C has at this time the capacity to make the decision in question, this court has no jurisdiction to interfere with the decision making process. Accordingly, although rightly brought, I dismiss the application of the Trust for declarations under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  • As I said at the conclusion of this hearing, my decision that C has capacity to decide whether or not to accept dialysis does not, and should not prevent her treating doctors from continuing to seek to engage with C in an effort to persuade her of the benefits of receiving life saving treatment in accordance with their duty to C as their patient. My decision does no more than confirm that in law C is entitled to refuse the treatment offered to her for her benefit by her dedicated treating team. Nothing I have said prevents them from continuing to offer that treatment.
  • That is my judgment.

 

 

I don’t know that C would have been the easiest person to live with, and her decisions aren’t ones that I would make, but I am pleased that the State hasn’t imposed on her a choice that she would have bitterly resented.  I still hope that she might be persuaded, now that she knows that the choice is entirely in her hands, but only if she is persuaded that there is still sparkling to be done yet.

 

Otherwise, to paraphrase the Bard, she has decided that “nothing  in her life quite became her like the leaving it”  and why shouldn’t everyone in life have the chance to make that choice at least ? None of us have any say in how we Enter the stage, but perhaps we get some influence over the manner of our Exit.

 

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”

Court’s power to get an expert report for free

 

Don’t get too excited, this power only works in Court of Protection cases. But it is still pretty cool.   [Unless you work for an NHS Trust, in which case this power is soul-crushingly awful.]

 

Re RS 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2015/56.html

 

In this case, there was an application for authorisation of  a deprivation of liberty.  The Court directed (on 28th May) that the NHS Trust should prepare a report on capacity.  Days went by, with no report, then weeks, then two months.

 

And then this:-

  1. On 31st July by direct email, the court received a letter on behalf of Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which, notwithstanding the order of 28th May and the assurance given via LCC to the court on 29th July advised that it was impossible to comply with the order and further that it was inappropriate for the evidence sought to be obtained by way of an order pursuant to Section 49 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  2. In light of this letter, which I treated, albeit exceedingly late, as an application as provided for in the order of 28th May to set aside or vary the original order.

 

The Trust set out their arguments as to why it was not right that they should prepare a report – in part because taking a doctor away from patients to write a report on someone they barely knew was not terribly in keeping with their job of looking after patients, especially where there was no fee for the report to offset the costs of doing it.

The Trust advanced ten reasons to support their view that it was inappropriate for the required evidence to be obtained by way of Section 49. They were:-

(1) The Trust has no clinical involvement or knowledge of P (other than the information contained in the applicant’s enclosed letter). P is not a patient under the Mental Health Services of the Trust.(2) There appears to be a clear dispute on capacity the outcome of which may have a significant impact on P’s future care and welfare. Such a dispute should properly be resolved by way of a jointly instructed independent court expert. It is not appropriate to seek quasi expert evidence through Section 49.

(3) A Section 49 Report is not a joint instruction and therefore can potentially leave open a dispute in the event that the evidence is not accepted by all parties. We understand that the first Respondent was not in agreement that Section 49 is appropriate.

(4) The Trust’s consultants are not court experts: they do not have the expertise in preparation of Medico Legal reports and should not be expected to do so, particularly where it is not in connection with a patient under their care.

(5) We understand a report in the proceedings has been prepared on a private instruction by Dr Gonzalez (of the Trust). There is a potential conflict of interests in seeking a further report from a consultant of the Trust.

(6) The request was a publicly funded body into proceedings of which it has no involvement.

(7) Complying with the request places a significant and disproportionate burden on limited NHS resources.

(8) A consultant would need to cancel clinics to make time to prepare the report; putting vulnerable patients at risk.

(9) There is no provision for costs of the report in order to enable the Trust to employ locum cover for the report author. The Trust is already under significant pressure to reduce its locum cover.

(10) Even where locum cover can be sourced this can be detrimental to patients if they are not able to see their usual consultant with whom they have built a trusting professional relationship. Consistency of care is an important factor in mental health care and should be maintained wherever possible.

The Trust position was therefore that capacity evidence should be facilitated through the instruction of an independent jointly instructed expert and not through Section 49.

 

 

Can’t this be resolved just by paying a fee?

 

No, the Code of Practice specifically says that there IS no fee payable for a report ordered under s49.

 

 

  1. There are a number of notes to Section 49 contained within the Court of Protection Practice 2015. Specifically one of the notes states

    Fees – there is no provision for fees to be charged for any report requested by the court.

    Reference is also made in the notes to the Court of Protection Rules and in particular Rules 117 and 118 and Practice Direction E (PD14E).

  2. I do not propose to set out Rule 117 in full but will refer to:

    (1) this Rule applies where the court requires a report to be made to it under Section 49 of the Act;(2) it is the duty of the person who is required to make the report to help the court on the matters within his expertise.

 

 

What did the Judge have to say about the Trusts’s arguments?

 

  1. In relation to the specific submissions on behalf of the Trust then I will deal with these briefly:

    (1) While I note the argument there is no such distinction drawn within the powers given in Section 49 and the accompanying Rules or Practice Direction. In my view it would be wrong for the court to undertake such distinction either in the preparation of its orders generally or in this order in particular.(2) The dispute as to capacity has arisen following a report from a consultant psychiatrist dealing with matters pertaining to a lasting power of attorney. There is an existing assessment by a consultant psychiatrist Dr Loosmore and a very experienced social worker. A question has therefore arisen in relation to RS as to the extent or otherwise of her capacity. It is a matter well suited for determination by Section 49 which is a proportionate response as opposed to an instruction to an independent expert. Such direction would have additional funding and cost consequences particularly in the instant case where three of the parties are either publicly funded or public bodies and the fourth is privately paying albeit acting in person. Furthermore a Section 49 Report would [or should at any rate] incur significantly less delay.

    (3) A Section 49 Report is a direction of the court. If a letter of instruction cannot be agreed the court will deal with any such dispute. It was the court’s direction and not that of any specific party.

    (4) The Rules and in particular the Practice Direction are clear as to the contents and format of a report. If that format is followed specific medico legal experience is not required. However, given the significant growth in the volume of work undertaken by the Court of Protection and in particular Section 21A or related challenges, it is no doubt a level of expertise that all consultant psychiatrists particularly dealing with the elderly will acquire if they have not already done so.

    (5) The court can see no potential conflict of interest in another consultant of the Trust preparing a report. Again the duty of the author of the report is fully set out in the Rules and Practice Direction.

    (6) The provisions of Section 49 are clear. There is a wide range in power to direct a report from an NHS body as the court considers appropriate. It is common for Section 49 Reports to be directed in this way.

    (7) The court has sympathy with the effect of its order upon the Trust. However as is noted earlier no provision is made within Section 49 in relation to fees or expenses incurred by the author of the report (be it NHS body, Trust or otherwise). What the court will do is to carefully consider resources and listen to any argument from the Trust particularly in relation to the time for compliance and the scope of the work to be undertaken. That would appear to be both a reasonable and proportionate approach.

    (8) While this is noted the answer to 7 would seem to cover this.

    (9) I have already dealt with this in 7 above.

    (10) As stated above every effort will be made to accommodate the preparation and extent of the report so as to limit wherever possible the disruption in healthcare provided by a consultant to his patients.

  2. It follows, for the reasons given above I am not prepared to vary or alter the principle behind the original order of 28th May. However it must be right that compliance with any order is subject to reasonable adjustment on application by the Trust in relation to the scope and extent of any report ordered and the time for compliance. However such applications must be made promptly and supported by evidence on behalf of the Trust or NHS body.
  3. Finally, this is a difficult and recurring problem and brings into sharp focus the burden upon any Trust or NHS body to comply with such direction while at the same time maintaining the provision of its service to existing patients. The cost of the report is also funded by the Trust. There is no provision within Section 49 for the court to order payment of fees or expenses in that regard. These are matters that ultimately may have to be considered elsewhere. In line with the President’s guidance I propose to publish a suitably anonymised version of this judgment on Bailii.

 

 

In short, you might, as the Trust, be able to plead extenuating circumstances and time pressures and get longer to DO the report, but you have to ask the Court and do so in good time, but you aren’t going to get out of doing it.

 

If you are an NHS accountant /manager/ worker / taxpayer who feels miserable about this, read this fun case where a Husband in divorce proceedings who is claiming that he has no assets at all (due to them all being put into a in a Trust which has subsequently kicked him out and taken them all) also struggles to explain to a Court why he has at the same time entered into an agreement to buy a private jet plane and put a deposit down yet is completely unworried about his ability to pay for the rest of it given that he has no assets, no income and no job.  His courageous answer  is, in effect “I’m such a great businessman, I can make it work”

 

While on the topic of aircraft, I should mention that H shows as an illiquid asset US$250,000 which he has paid as a deposit against the much delayed delivery of a Honda Jet. The balance of the purchase price is US$4m. H expressed no anxiety in his current parlous circumstances (another global economic meltdown apart) in coping with this liability when it falls due. In evidence he said that the latest estimated delivery date was probably the first or second quarter of 2016, and that he had “set up a multi-billion dollar empire with very little capital. It is a question of leverage and investing partners.” Asked whether he regarded operating a single jet as a viable source of income and livelihood he was optimistic describing it as “a big growth area of business especially if you have the latest jet technology.”

 

I don’t know about my readers, but if I had no money in the bank, no income and no job, and for some reason, I had to pay $3.75million for a jet plane in the next year, I’d probably be on the phone to the plane company explaining how, “yeah, it turns out maybe I don’t need the plane so much after all, can I take a rain-check on that? Also, could I get my deposit back?”

 

Note that he also has / or rather had because the Trust, which is not run at all by one of his former friends as a complete device to escape his wife’s financial claims oh no, a fleet of luxury cars including cough “A Ferrari that cost $8.5 million”

“Their position is an elaborate charade, the stage management of which has been conducted ruthlessly and without regard to cost”

 

and

“There is a clear distinction between the question whether a trust can be characterised as sham (which was, as rightly stated, not asserted at the hearing), and the conclusion which I reached that the case collusively advanced by H and TB was a rotten edifice founded on concealment and misrepresentation and therefore a sham, a charade, bogus, spurious and contrived. I do not shrink from applying to it the description fraud, a deliberate design to deceive, inflicted on W and on the court, and found by the court so to be”

 

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2015/2507.html

Care proceedings can be retrospectively validated

 

Readers might remember the recent case where the President looked at a set of care proceedings where it had not been known at the time that the mother lacked capacity, and the outcome was that the orders were effectively overturned and the proceedings re-wound to the beginning.

 

[Actually, if you remember it, it is because of the bad pun in the title….

https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/08/07/re-e-wind-when-the-crowd-say-bo-selecta/   ]

 

 

Here, the Court of Appeal were faced with a very similar issue – the mother in care proceedings conducted them  as though she had capacity and her lawyers fought hard on her behalf, but it turns out that perhaps she didn’t have capacity – at the very least there were two conflicting reports and the Court had not expressly resolved the issue.   She then appealed on that basis, arguing that the Care Order and Placement Order should be overturned and the case re-heard.

 

In this one, though, the Court of Appeal ruled that even though the original proceedings had been flawed, it would not have made any difference to the eventual outcome if she had been represented through the Official Solicitor rather than instructing her solicitor directly, and so the Court of Appeal could retrospectively validate the proceedings and orders.

Hmmm.

Not sure that I agree.   (I agree that the Court of Appeal’s analysis that they HAVE the power is right. Whether it was right to use it, I’m not so sure of. Of the two approaches, I think the one before the President is more in keeping with article 6 and a right to a fair trial. I think that instructing a solicitor involves rather more than just saying “I want to fight” and that the protections for vulnerable persons or Protected Parties are fundamental, and where they’ve been lost even due to honest mistake, that’s a fatal flaw in the process, not something that can be patched up after the event)

 

Re D (Children) 2015

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed146431

 

There were two issues :-

 

  1. Had the original Court process been flawed because it had proceeded on the basis that mother had capacity when she in fact didn’t?
  2. If so, did those flaws amount to an irresistable basis for an appeal, or can the Court retrospectively validate the orders if that seems the right outcome?

 

The mother had been represented through the Official Solicitor in previous care proceedings, so the starting point in these ones was that an updating report on her capacity was sought. However, no doubt to avoid delay and ensure that there wasn’t drift past the 26 week timetable, the expert saw the mother within the first six weeks of giving birth. This is important, as it is no doubt happening in other cases.

The cognitive assessment therefore came with a significant health warning, although it did say that she lacked capacity

 

“The immediate post natal period (under six weeks) tends to be a somewhat volatile period in terms of health and mood. Cognitive tests undertaken during this period are likely to reflect mood variations and difficulties with concentration due to hormonal changes…. In this assessment, therefore I have drawn on the results of SD’s August 2012 assessment together with a brief corroborative assessment conducted on 4 .11.13”

 

That report from Dr Morgan also gave a further health warning, that when one repeats the tests in a short period of time, the results can be skewed.

Those representing the mother sought a further expert opinion, from a Dr Flatman. The Court of Appeal were criticial that the Part 25 procedures on expert assessments were not followed and as a result, mistakes were made.

In any event, Dr Flatman examined the mother and concluded that she DID have capacity to conduct litigation.

 

Here’s the error

 

 At the hearing before the District Judge on 20 January 2014 the District Judge was simply told that:

“there has been a cognitive assessment further filed to say that she does have capacity to give instructions to her legal representatives”.

Dr Morgan’s conflicting report was not brought to the attention of the judge, neither was the fact that Mr Flatman had failed to apply the proper test for assessing capacity. As a consequence no consideration was given as to how to resolve the conflict, whether by additional questions, an experts meeting or by hearing short oral evidence to resolve the issue. Ms Weaver was simply discharged as litigation friend.

41. When the mother came before the judge for the final hearing Ms Weaver attended as the mother’s IMCA and the case proceeded without further consideration as to the mother’s capacity.

 

There were two competing reports and the Court needed to resolve which opinion was correct (bearing in mind the starting point of the Mental Capacity Act is to presume capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary)

 
44. All those who are regularly involved in care proceedings are aware that such a situation is all too common and it is plain to see why issues of capacity are critical to those affected. The starting point for the court is not only that a party has capacity, but that every effort must be made to help a party without capacity to regain it. Only in this way which accords with the statutory principles found in MCA 2005, can a parent feels that his or her case has been presented in accordance with his or her wishes, no matter how unrealistic or unachievable those wishes may be when considered against the yardstick of the welfare of her child in question. On the other hand the MCA 2005 is designed to ensure that those vulnerable adults, who have not got the capacity to conduct litigation on their own behalf, are properly identified and provided with appropriate support and a litigation friend in order to ensure that they not prejudiced within the proceedings as a consequence of their disability.

45. Process is not all and should never, particularly when one is concerned with a child’s future, be slavishly adhered to at the expense of achieving the right welfare outcome for a child without delay. Having said that, I am satisfied that the informal course which was adopted in the present case went far beyond a pragmatic and practical approach to case management and amounted to serious procedural irregularity.

 

The answer to that first question then was, yes, the original process had been flawed.

The analysis of whether the Court has the power to retrospectively validate the flawed process is set out very carefully from paragraphs 46-58, and if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of that, then it is all set out.

In a nutshell, it is this

 
47. FPR 2010 r.15.3 qualifies the general rule that a protected party may only conduct proceedings by a litigation friend. In particular FPR 2010, r.15.3(3) provides:

“(3) Any step taken before a protected friend has a litigation friend has no effect unless the court orders otherwise.”

 

So if the Court orders otherwise, then the Court can proceed even though a person ought to have been treated as a protected party and could only conduct proceedings through a litigation friend.   [Of course, as the Court at first instance DIDN’T do that, since they wrongly decided that she DID have capacity and neglected to take into account that there were conflicting reports, the Court at the time DIDN’T  “order otherwise” under r 15.3]

 

However

 

Bailey v Warren [2006] EWCA Civ 51. Hallett LJ said:

“[95] Within CPR r.21.3 (4) there are no restrictions whatsoever on the court’s discretion to validate steps taken in proceedings before a litigation friend is appointed. A court can regularise the position retrospectively provided, as Kennedy L.J. observed in [31] of Masterman-Lister “everyone has acted in good faith and there has been no manifest disadvantage to the party subsequently found to have been a patient at the time”. He could not envisage any court refusing to regularise the position because “to do otherwise would be unjust and contrary to the over-riding objective ….

[96] It is for the judge to consider all the facts of the case before him, therefore, and where as here, there is no suggestion of bad faith, decide whether or not the compromise is manifestly disadvantageous to the patient”

 

And that was the line that the Court of Appeal took.

 

 

 

55. In the present case it is recognised that the outcome of the case would have been the same regardless of whether the mother had litigation capacity. There was therefore no forensic disadvantage to the mother. Further, thanks to the dedication of Mrs Weaver, there was in reality no difference in the nature and quality of the representation the mother received. Mrs Weaver’s title within the proceedings changed from IMCA to Litigation friend and back to IMCA depending on the current court order, but the manner in which she carried out her role remained the same. It is apparent from the attendance notes that Mrs Weaver, in whatever guise, was not about to agree to the orders sought by the local authority being made; she felt strongly that the mother’s best interests could only be served by the applications for care and placement orders being opposed, I am entirely satisfied that not only would the outcome of the trial have been the same had the mother been found to lack capacity, but that the case would have been conducted in exactly the same way on her behalf.

56. There is no question but that all involved have acted with good faith. In dissecting the progress of this case, as has been necessary in order to consider the important issues before the court, I do not lose sight of day to day life in busy family courts with Counsel and Judges over stretched in every direction. This case does however perhaps provide a cautionary tale and a reminder that issues of capacity are of fundamental importance. The rules providing for the identification of a person, who lacks capacity, reflect society’s proper understanding of the impact on both parent and child of the making of an order which will separate them permanently. It is therefore essential that the evidence which informs the issue of capacity complies with the test found in the MCA 2005 and that any conflict of evidence is brought to the attention of the court and resolved prior to the case progressing further. It is in order to avoid this course causing delay that the PLO anticipates issues of capacity being raised and dealt with in the early stages of the proceedings.

57. SSD is now 20 months old and has been in her adoptive placement for over half her life. Her future needs urgently to be secured. I am satisfied that notwithstanding the procedural failings which led to this court being unable to conclude with any certainty whether the mother was or was not a protected party at the time of the trial, she was not in the end adversely affected and no practical difference was made to the hearing or outcome as a consequence. In those circumstances it is open to this court to validate the proceedings retrospectively and in my judgment that should and will be done.

 

Not being allowed to see an expert report

 

I’ve read this case half-a-dozen times now, and I still don’t entirely get it.

 

NCC v AH and DH 2015

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Fam/2014/4845.html

 

Dramatis personae

 

NCC is the Local Authority.   (It isn’t a very cryptic disguise of whom they might be)

AH is a woman, who has some mental health problems and for a time was considered to lack capacity and be a person at risk from :-

 

DH her husband.

 

The application

(a) an application by DH for disclosure to him of any reports and/or letters by Dr. McInerney and the report of Dr. Khouja dated 29th July 2011;

(b) an application by AH for disclosure to her of the said reports and of her Social Services records (it being acknowledged by all parties that she would share them with DH); and

(c) applications by AH and DH for their costs, or a proportion thereof, incurred in both sets of proceedings to be paid by the local authority.

These applications arise from a set of proceedings under the Inherent Jurisdiction and a set of proceedings under the Mental Capacity Act in the Court of Protection.  Both seem to have arisen because AH made allegations about her husband’s behaviour towards her which were believed (but which appear to have been more a result of her mental health problems).   NCC considered that AH was a woman that they owed duties towards, as a result of Re Z (Local Authority: Duty) [2005] 1FLR 740, especially at para.19.

 

In my judgment in a case such as this the local authority incurred the following duties:

i) To investigate the position of a vulnerable adult to consider what was her true position and intention;ii) To consider whether she was legally competent to make and carry out her decision and intention;

iii) To consider whether any other (and if so, what) influence may be operating on her position and intention and to ensure that she has all relevant information and knows all available options;

iv) To consider whether she was legally competent to make and carry out her decision andintention;

v) To consider whether to invoke the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court so that the question of competence could be judicially investigated and determined;

vi) In the event of the adult not being competent, to provide all such assistance as may be reasonably required both to determine and give effect to her best interests;

vii) In the event of the adult being competent to allow her in any lawful way to give effect to her decision although that should not preclude the giving of advice or assistance in accordance with what are perceived to be her best interests;

viii) Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the commission of a criminal offence may be involved, to draw that to the attention of the police;

ix) In very exceptional circumstances, to invoke the jurisdiction of the court under Section 222 of the 1972 Act

 

 

A psychiatric report was directed in those proceedings, from a Dr McInerney. It appears that within the proceedings, the Official Solicitor (on behalf of AH) and Local Authority, took the view that the Court should take the unusual step of not disclosing that report to DH, on the basis that there were things AH had said about his behaviour which might put her at risk if DH were to see it.  [That’s quite unusual, we’ll come back to it later]

The Official Solicitor and LA also told the Court that they did not rely on Dr McInerney’s report and wanted a second opinion, from a Dr Khouja.  DH  of course, had not seen it, so it was rather hard for him to say whether he did seek to rely on it, or whether a second opinion was necessary.  (One can make an informed guess that if it said things that the LA and OS agreed with, they wouldn’t have been asking for a second opinion, so DH would probably have agreed with what was said)

[It is also worth noting that DH had to pay a share of the costs of Dr McInerney’s report, although he never got to see it or know what it said. He didn’t have to pay a share of the costs of Dr Khouja’s report]

Dr Khouja was directed to file two reports, one on capacity (which DH DID get to see) and one”considering the recent Social Services assessment of AH, and he may also include in that supplementary report, any matter or opinion which he would wish to report upon, but he is of the view should be withheld from DH pending judicial determination of any disclosure issues.”  which DH didn’t get to see.

Dr. Khouja concluded that AH did not lack capacity in respect of any of the matters which he had been instructed to assess. This led to Bodey J’s order of 11th November 2011. By consent, NCC were given permission to withdraw both sets of proceedings. The Official Solicitor was discharged as litigation friend to AH although he remained as an interested party for the purposes of the disclosure application.

 

So, the proceedings were withdrawn, because AH had capacity to make her own decisions about whether she wanted to be with DH or not, and it wasn’t the role of the State to intervene on her behalf.

DH, having gone through all of this and having had to pay for all of his own legal costs, was understandably unhappy, and wanted to make a series of complaints about what had happened.  In order to inform his complaints and no doubt to bolster them, he wanted to see both of the expert reports that had been withheld from him. And he was also asking that some of his costs be paid.

 

Law on non-disclosure

 

The law is that generally, a document filed at Court should be seen by all parties, and the burden is on the party seeking non-disclosure to establish why that general rule should not be followed.

The substantive law is set out in the House of Lords case of Re D (Minors) (Adoption Reports: Confidentiality) [1996] AC 593 [1995] 2 FLR 687. The test is:

“(1) It is a fundamental principle of fairness that a party is entitled to the disclosure of all materials which may be taken into account by the court when reaching a decision adverse to that party…

(2) … the court should first consider whether disclosure of the material would involve a real possibility of significant harm to the child.

(3) If it would, the court should next consider whether the overall interests of the child would benefit from non-disclosure, weighing on the one hand the interest of the child in having the material properly tested, and on the other both the magnitude of the risk that harm will occur and the gravity of the harm if it does occur.

(4) If the court is satisfied that the interests of the child point towards non-disclosure, the next and final step is for the court to weigh that consideration, and its strength in the circumstances of the case, against the interest of the parent or other party in having an opportunity to see and respond to the material. In the latter regard the court should take into account the importance of the material to the issues in the case.

(5) Non-disclosure should be the exception not the rule. The court should be rigorous in its examination of the risk and gravity of the feared harm to the child, and should order non-disclosure only when the case for doing so is compelling.”

[Although Re D here deals with a child, the principles are much the same. The argument was that disclosing to DH an expert report in which AH was presumably making allegations to the expert about abuse might put her at risk.  The counter argument to that is that as a consequence of these proceedings, DH might have to live apart from his wife as a result of such allegations but they were being made in a way that concealed from him what they were.  ]

Moylan J’s judgment does not really deal with this, although to be fair, the decision to not disclose the documents at that earlier stage had already been taken and presumably there is a judgment weighing up those factors at that time.  Instead, he looks at the duty of disclosure being that the documents are disclosed in order to allow a person to participate effectively in the hearing  –  in order to have a fair trial.

  1. Turning now to the legal framework, the expert evidence in this case was obtained for the purposes of these proceedings and pursuant to court orders. The court has power to provide to whom such evidence is to be disclosed and to whom it is not to be disclosed, including a party to the proceedings: see, for example, Re B (Disclosure to Other Parties) [2001] 2 FLR 1017.
  2. The experts overriding duty is to the court. Both proceedings in this case were heard in private. The reports are, therefore, confidential to the court, as described by Sir Nicholas Wall, President, in A County Council v. SB, MA & AA [2011] 1FLR 651. At para.34, he said:

    “In my judgment, ‘confidentiality’ in this context means that the information contained in the papers filed with the court for the purposes of the proceedings is confidential to the court. It is for this reason that, with very few exceptions, the court papers cannot be disclosed to people who are not parties to the proceedings without the court’s permission; and publication outside the proceedings of information relating to the proceedings is in most cases a contempt of court unless permission for it has first been given by the court”.

  3. As a result of being confidential to the court, and to the proceedings, a report cannot be used by any party for any collateral purpose or purpose unconnected with the proceedings without permission from the court. There are a significant number of cases which address the factors which the court will take into account when deciding whether to give such permission.
    1. Turning now to disclosure, the general rule is that a party is entitled to the disclosure of all evidence which any party proposes to adduce to the court. As Lord Dyson said in Al Rawi & Ors. v. The Security Service & Ors. (Justice & Ors. Intervening) [2012] 1 AC 531, at para.12:
      1. “Trials are conducted on the basis of the principle of natural justice. There are a number of strands to this. A party has a right to know the case against him and the evidence on which it is based. He is entitled to have the opportunity to respond to any such evidence and to any submissions made by the other side. The other side may not advance contentions or adduce evidence of which he is kept in ignorance”.
    2. It can be seen from this passage that disclosure is made for the purposes of the proceedings and to ensure that any trial is fair.

 

But of course we know that during the proceedings, those documents were kept from DH. There were allegations being made about him that he was kept in the dark about.  When it emerged that AH had capacity, and wanted to remain in a relationship with DH, the proceedings were withdrawn.

Should he now be entitled to see those reports?   (after all, they are about AH, and she has capacity to say whether she wants him to have them – and she does)

  1. Given the determination of the substantive proceedings, I can identify no grounds on which disclosure of the reports should be ordered. They were prepared for the purposes of the proceedings. They were not disclosed to DH and AH pursuant to orders made during the course of those proceedings. There is no freestanding entitlement to disclosure once proceedings have concluded. Disclosure is part of the process by which the court ensures that a fair trial is effected. It is self-evident that, following the determination of proceedings, disclosure of evidence is no longer required for the purposes of the proceedings or in order to effect a fair trial.
  2. It is self-evident in this case that disclosure can no longer be sought for the purposes referred to in DH’s Solicitor’s letter of 18th March 2010, namely to enable the evidence to be tested within the proceedings. Rather, disclosure is sought by DH and AH for collateral purposes, namely to challenge, what they refer to as, the “toxic” comments in the reports. This, they contend, is necessary to enable them to clear their names. They also want to report Dr. McInerney to the GMC, and possibly to take libel proceedings.
  3. None of these appear to me to provide, in the circumstances of this case, any ground for ordering disclosure. I cannot envisage any court giving permission to DH and/or AH to use the reports for the purposes of any such step. Now that the proceedings are at an end, there is no justification in seeking to challenge the contents of reports prepared for, and only for, the proceedings. I can, therefore, see no basis on which DH and/or AH could now successfully seek to challenge the orders made during the course of the proceedings.

 

That seems to me to be a rather curious way of looking at things. It ought not to matter what DH wants to do with the documents, and whether you think he ought not to do it. This was a report about AH, and we now know that she has capacity to decide for herself whether she wants it to remain confidential or whether she wants her husband to see it, and she does.  I can see that the Court approach is to draw a line under the proceedings and for everyone to move on and forget the whole thing, but once AH has capacity, she is no longer a vulnerable person who needs the protection of the Court. The decision not to disclose the reports at the time were taken in the context that it was believed that she lacked capacity and needed that protection.

The next bit is even more suprising.

Finally, given the clear risk of satellite litigation, I propose to order that neither the Official Solicitor nor the solicitors instructed by the Official Solicitor should disclose the non-disclosed documents or the Social Services records, insofar as they have them, to AH. If this were to happen, it would undermine the effect of my judgment and proposed order.

 

Well, it makes sense. The Court order could easily be circumvented by a subject access request under the Data Protection Act 1998, for disclosure of the records that are held about AH and DH.  This is, however, the Court making an order that a Local Authority need not comply with their statutory obligations under primary legislation if a request were made.  Not only that, it is an order about primary legislation where the first port of call in a dispute or challenge is not actually the Court but to the Information Commissioner.  Does the Court even have jurisdiction to do this?

 

[Well, of course the answer to that is going to be that the original application was under the inherent jurisdiction, and we can all chant the answer “the powers are theoretically limitless”]

 

I can’t actually establish under the DPA what section you would use to refuse a section 7 request.  It doesn’t fit any of the non-disclosure provisions in Schedule 7 of the Act.

 

My best argument would be that in making that order, the Court has effectively determined (though without giving a judgment as to why) that this is satisfied

The Data Protection (Subject Access Modification) (Social Work) Order

2000:

this provides that personal data held for the purposes of social work

are exempt from the subject access provisions, where the disclosure to the

data subject would be likely to prejudice the carrying out of social work, by

causing serious harm to the physical or mental health, or condition, of the

data subject, or another person.

 

For law geeks, there’s a really obvious way of getting the reports, but obviously it would be wrong of me to spell it out here.

 

You won’t be surprised, having read the rest of this, that Moylan J didn’t allow the application by DH for costs.

 

  1. Turning next to the issue of costs, I am satisfied on the evidence that AH was given no assurance that her costs prior to the appointment of the Official Solicitor would be paid. I accept the evidence of Ms. Hardman and Mrs. Ord to that effect, which is supported by the records produced from AH’s own solicitors. Additionally, AH herself says that she was not in a fit state at the relevant time and was not taking things in.
  2. Secondly, in respect of proceedings in the Court of Protection, I can identify no justification for departing from the general rule that there should be no order as to costs. There is nothing in NCC’s conduct which would justify my departing from that rule. The proceedings have concluded without any determination. I am satisfied that NCC have acted properly throughout, in accordance with their obligations. There is no point at which they should have decided, as submitted by DH and AH, to discontinue the proceedings earlier than they did, namely following the receipt of Dr. Khouja’s report.
  3. I am also not persuaded that I should make any separate order in respect of Dr. Khouja’s costs. These were part of the costs of the proceedings to which the general rule applies.
  4. Thirdly, in respect of the costs of the proceedings under the inherent jurisdiction, I am also persuaded that NCC acted properly throughout in bringing the proceedings, in that, in so doing, they were acting in accordance with their obligations in respect of vulnerable adults. As the letter from DH’s solicitor dated 18th March 2010 makes clear, it was accepted that AH had said things to social workers which would lead professionals to have concerns. The letter specifically states that:

    “Our client accepts that the premise of the proceedings is that the local authority believes that his wife’s descriptions of how he has treated her may be true”.

    I can identify no point at which NCC should have decided to discontinue those proceedings earlier than when they did.

 

Thus DH had to pay for legal representation, in order for NCC to go to Court and argue that his wife lacked capacity and needed protecting from him, even though it turned out in the end that she didn’t, and had to pay for a share of an expert report (which probably would have helped his case if he’d seen it) which he wasn’t allowed to see and will never see. The whole of this case was based on allegations which he hasn’t seen and none of which were proved.

 

This one is probably far too legally complex for our friend over at the Telegraph, but it certainly is one that might warrant the “Kafka-esque” label that he routinely affixes to cases.