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Tag Archives: public policy

The Supreme Court ignore my new Act

Having laboured over the drafting of brand new legislation to avoid any disputes about where people live,  https://suesspiciousminds.com/2015/07/03/the-residenceschmesidence-act-2015/  I am disappointed that the Supreme Court did not take the opportunity to pick up that particular baton and run with it.

 

And if you thought that people were litigating about ordinary residence too much BEFORE, just you wait.

 

The Supreme Court in R (on the application of Cornwall Council) 2015  https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2014-0092-judgment.pdf  were dealing with a tricky scenario.

 

P had been a child, and when he was a child, had been placed in foster care in Wiltshire. This was in 1991.  As part of his care, Wiltshire PLACED him in South Gloucestershire.   When P became an adult, his needs were such that he required accommodation under the National Assistance Act 1948.  His needs are estimated to cost about £80,000 per year and he is likely to need them for the remainder of his life, so the issue of which Local Authority pays is liable to cost millions.

P’s parents, when he was an adult, moved to Cornwall; who also got dragged into this, despite him never having set a foot in Cornwall until 2004 and only then on a short visit to his parents.  We also add into the mix that accommodation was found for P in Somerset.

 

It is real law-exam stuff.  I wrote about how the High Court resolved it here (back in 2012), and I obviously developed some form of mental scarring as a result, because when the Court of Appeal decision came in, I couldn’t even face looking at it.    (I’ve not sold this link, but if you are a masochist, or you are trying to decide whether to quit law forever and just want something to tip you over the edge, here it is  https://suesspiciousminds.com/2012/12/27/as-clear-as-a-bell-if-the-bell-were-made-out-of-mud/

 

[I’ll assume that you rightly skipped that link]

 

The majority opinion of the House of Lords is that where a Local Authority accommodate a young person, and that person then goes on to require adult services, there’s no break in ordinary residence just because they happened to put him in another area.  The LA who started the case off, keeep hold of the responsibility, even though the case moves from being a child case to an adult case, and moves from one Act to another.

 

54. The question therefore arises whether, despite the broad similarity and obvious underlying purpose of these provisions (namely that an authority should not be able to export its responsibility for providing the necessary accommodation by exporting the person who is in need of it), there is a hiatus in the legislation such that a person who was placed by X in the area of Y under the 1989 Act, and remained until his 18th birthday ordinarily resident in the area of X under the 1989 Act, is to be regarded on reaching that age as ordinarily resident in the area of Y for the purposes of the 1948 Act, with the result that responsibility for his care as an adult is then transferred to Y as a result of X having arranged for his accommodation as a child in the area of Y.

55. It is highly undesirable that this should be so. It would run counter to the policy discernable in both Acts that the ordinary residence of a person provided with accommodation should not be affected for the purposes of an authority’s responsibilities by the location of that person’s placement. It would also have potentially adverse consequences. For some needy children with particular disabilities the most suitable placement may be outside the boundaries of their local authority, and the people who are cared for in some specialist settings may comefrom all over the country. It would be highly regrettable if those who provide specialist care under the auspices of a local authority were constrained in their willingness to receive children from the area of another authority through considerations of the long term financial burden which would potentially follow.

 

That does make a degree of sense.  Firstly, if a Local Authority caring for P as a child, could remove any burden on caring for him as an adult by placing him in another local authority area, then these vulnerable individuals could become subject to a game of pass the parcel (but where you DON’T want to be holding the parcel when the music stops). Secondly, Local Authorities who had made provisions or had specialist facilities in their area for children could end up receiving a higher number of such children and then having to go on to care for them as adults. And thirdly, Local Authorities might jealously guard their borders, not being willing to accommodate children on behalf  of other Local Authorities who might be trying to shift the burden of responsibility in adulthood.

 

The majority opinion therefore concludes

 

59. In other words, it would be wrong to interpret section 24 of the 1948 Act so as to regard PH as having been ordinarily resident in South Gloucestershire by reason of a form of residence whose legal characteristics are to be found in the provisions of the 1989 Act. Since one of the characteristics of that placement is that it did not affect his ordinary residence under the statutory scheme, it would create an unnecessary and avoidable mismatch to treat the placement as having had that effect when it came to the transition in his care arrangements on his 18th birthday.

 

[The Supreme Court do not use this guache term, but in a reductive sense, the law on ordinary residence where a Local Authority places a young person in another area and that young person then needs services as an adult is “He who smelt it, dealt it”]

 

But see Lord Wilson’s stirring dissenting opinion, and it is hard not to disagree with his conclusions. What he says in effect is that the Supreme Court majority opinion is deciding the law not on the basis of a legal interpretation or following precedent, but deciding on which outcome has the better public policy implications.  This is all even better if, like me, you choose to imagine that Lord Wilson has the same speaking voice as John Le Mesurier used for Sergeant Wilson.  (“Are you sure that’s wise, sir?”)

 

I believe that this might be my FOURTH Dad's Army illustration on the blog...

I believe that this might be my FOURTH Dad’s Army illustration on the blog…

 

 

 

62. My colleagues consider that, in making his determination under section 32(3) of the National Assistance Act 1948 (“the 1948 Act”) of the place of PH’s ordinary residence on 26 December 2004 for the purpose of section 24(1) of the same Act, the Secretary of State could lawfully have reached only one conclusion. It is, according to them, that on that date, which was the day prior to his 18th birthday, PH was ordinarily resident in a county (Wiltshire):

a) in which in May 1991, ie about 13 years earlier, he had ceased to live upon his removal to live with the foster parents in South Gloucestershire;

b) to which, during the following 13 years, he never returned, not even just to stay overnight;

c) in which in November 1991, ie also about 13 years earlier, his parents had ceased to live upon their removal to live in Cornwall;

d)in which by 1997, ie about seven years earlier, both sets of his grandparents had, in one case because of relocation and in the other because of death, ceased to live; and

e) in which, from 1997 onwards until many years after 26 December 2004, no home remained available, even in principle, for his occupation.

63. Such is a conclusion to which, with great respect to my colleagues, I do not subscribe. It is a conclusion for which no party has contended at any stage of these proceedings. A court should tread cautiously before favouring a solution devised only by itself, particularly where, as here, it has been addressed by an array of excellent counsel instructed by public authorities widely experienced in this area of the law.

 

Whether you agree with Lord Wilson or not, you have it say that to be able to pour so much information into such a condensed and easy to follow two paragraphs is masterful.

 

He goes on

 

 

 

65. I must squarely confront the problem. There appear to be strong reasons of public policy which militate in favour of imposing upon Wiltshire, rather than upon South Gloucestershire, the obligation of making decisions about a suitable placement of PH following his 18th birthday and of funding whatever placement may thereafter be suitable for him from time to time. It would be a heavy financial burden for Wiltshire but its burden in the case of PH would be borne to the same extent by some other local authority in a reverse situation: in other words the burdens should even out. Public policy suggests:

a) that it is desirable that a local authority which has exercised the decision-making power (and has borne the funding burden) in relation to the placement of a mentally incapacitated minor should, in the light of its knowledge of his needs, continue to exercise that power (and bear that burden) following the attainment of his majority; and

b) that it is undesirable that a local authority which is exercising the decision-making power (and bearing the funding burden) in relation to the placement of an incapacitated minor should, while he remains a minor, be able to place him in a suitable facility in the area of another local authority (indeed, in the case of a private placement, without the consent of that local authority), with the result that, following the attainment of his majority, the decision-making power and, in particular, the financial burden should fall upon that other local authority. In the present case, for example, the evidence suggests that Wiltshire’s placement of PH in 1991 with his excellent specialist foster parents did not in any way involve the local authority of South Gloucestershire, which for the following 13 years appears to have played no part in directing or securing his care. Yet, on my analysis, it is South Gloucestershire which should thereafter have begun to exercise the decision-making power and, in particular, to bear the financial burden. The Secretary of State accepts that, of the young people who move from being looked after by local authorities as minors to being provided with accommodation by them as adults, those lacking capacity are only a small proportion. But he explains convincingly that, in the light of their specialised needs, the cost of maintaining them indefinitely is very high. He proceeds to identify real concerns that a few local authorities might therefore be motivated (to use the crude shorthand which, only for convenience, has been deployed in the hearing before this court) to “export” such a minor to the area of another local authority prior to the attainment of his majority; and equally that, were that other local authority to be the administrator of a specialist resource entirely suitable to the needs of a minor, it might nevertheless be motivated to refuse him admission to it for fear of the financial consequences following the attainment of his majority.

 

66. But such is the result which in my view the law, as it stands, clearly compels. I am not a legislator. Nor, with respect, are my colleagues.

 

Whether the case should be decided on law or public policy  (and I agree with Lord Wilson – if the Supreme Court start to decide cases on what it considers to be the best outcome for public policy then we are on a slippery slope), the Supreme Court have not really considered the real public policy outcome here.

 

If Local Authority A and Local Authority B are arguing about which area is responsible for providing care for little Tommy, then at the moment, they fight like cat and dog about meeting those costs for a maximum of 18 years.  Following this decision, the loser of that argument could, if little Tommy is going to require accommodation throughout his adult life, be stuck with those costs for 80-90 years.

Now, using your skill and judgment, do you think that those arguments will as a result become :-

(a) more amicable; or

(b) more contentious

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Capacity to marry”

Sandwell MBC and RG, GG and SK and SKG 2013 and whether an arranged marriage where the individual had no capacity should endure or be dismantled

http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/COP/2013/2373.html

This was a Court of Protection case, heard before Mr Justice Holman. It involved two adult males, both of whom had significant capacity issues.

After considerable investigation and careful consideration by the local authority, the Official Solicitor and experts variously instructed by them, it is now common ground: first, that GG and RG each lack the capacity to make a range of decisions as to where they reside, their care packages, their contact with others, and certain other matters; and, second, that it is in their respective best interest that there be a range of declarations and other orders in terms which have been carefully drafted, and with one exception, are agreed.

 

The ‘one exception’ is of course, the majority of the litigation. In 2009, RG’s family arranged a marriage for him, to a woman named SK, and that marriage took place in India.

SK then came to the UK. It was her evidence, accepted by the Court, that it was only subsequent to the wedding ceremony that  she learned that RG had profound difficulties. Nonetheless, the marriage was consummated.

Mrs SK bears no personal responsibility at all for the events which happened. There is no question whatsoever of her having personally exploited the mental disability of RG. She was an obedient daughter, in a Sikh family, who compliantly participated in the arrangements that her family made for her marriage. Having married him, she now feels committed to him, and, indeed, says that she does now love him. She says that it would be impossible in her culture and religion for her ever to marry anyone else, and that if she were divorced, or her marriage was annulled, she would be ostracised in her community.

  1. The issues that now remain in relation to RG relate to the status and continuation of that marriage. It is accepted by Mrs SK that she cannot provide to RG the support and daily care and assistance that he needs, and always will need, and she no longer resists that he remains living in the accommodation provided and staffed by the local authority. She implores me, however, not to facilitate or permit steps to be taken to annul their marriage.
  1. At the outset of the hearing Mrs SK was also still asking to be permitted to have some sexual relationship with her husband, the more so as it would be culturally impossible, now, for her to do so with any other man. The evidence of Dr Xenitidis was, however, crystal clear that RG has no understanding at all what sex is, and, accordingly, that he lacks any capacity to choose whether to agree to sexual touching. As Xenitidis put it: “He does not even understand what sex is. Whether it is voluntary, or not, is a kind of luxury for him.”

That would place SK in difficulties with the criminal law, and specifically section 30 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, in that making love with her husband could potentially land her in prison, the maximum sentence being life.

Section 27(1)(b) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 expressly provides that nothing in that Act permits a decision to be made on behalf of a person consenting to have sexual relations. Accordingly, if, as is clear, RG himself lacks any capacity to consent to sexual relations, the court cannot provide any consent on his behalf, even if (I stress if) that might enable him to gain some physical pleasure from some sexual activity.

 For these reasons the order will include a declaration that RG lacks capacity to consent to sexual relations. It will be the duty of the local authority, as his carers, to take all reasonable steps to prevent him from being the victim of a criminal act, and the regular contact between Mrs SK and RG will have to be supervised to the extent necessary to ensure that there is no sexual touching between them. Mrs SK now accepts a condition of contact that she does not communicate to RG that she would like to have sexual relations with him, or go to the bedroom with him.

Turning to the marriage, the Court unsurprisingly found in the light of the expert evidence on RG’s capacity that he had no understanding whatsoever of what a marriage was, that he had not had capacity to enter into the marriage contract.

The argument then, and it becomes an interesting one, is what should happen with the marriage. Underlining mine

  1. There remains, therefore, the question of whether I should declare that it is in the best interests of RG that the Official Solicitor should present a petition for a decree of nullity on his behalf, there being no doubt that RG personally lacks any capacity to make a decision whether to do so.
  1. The Court of Protection cannot itself annul a marriage. So in relation to a petition for nullity all I can do in the present proceedings is authorise, and, if necessary and appropriate, direct that the Official Solicitor presents and pursues one. For that purpose, the actual decision where RG was domiciled on the date of the marriage, would fall to be made, not by me in these proceedings, but by the matrimonial court, once seised with a petition for nullity.

It might well have been an interesting position for the Official Solicitor (who were, on RG’s behalf opposed to petitioning for nullity) if the Court had declared that it was in RG’s best interests for them to do so. Clearly they would have to have either done so, or appealed the declaration.  

The LA were very keen for the marriage to be ended, chiefly as a matter of public policy

I have been told that within the area of this particular local authority there are a number of incapacitated adults who have been the subject of arranged or forced marriages, and that it is important to send a strong signal to the Muslim and Sikh communities within their area (and, indeed, elsewhere) that arranged marriages, where one party is mentally incapacitated, simply will not be tolerated, and that the marriages will be annulled

 

 

  1. In the forefront of Miss Pratley’s submissions is policy. The position of the local authority is encapsulated in paragraphs 7 and 8 of her cogent, written, outline submissions dated 28 June 2013, where she wrote:

“7: It is plainly a relevant circumstance that RG lacked the capacity to enter into the marriage, and continues to lack that capacity. Indeed, his lack of capacity is a fact of such importance that it would be difficult to argue it is not the starting point (or, if not the starting point, a circumstance of very significant weight) in determining best interests. It is submitted on behalf of the local authority that it is an overarching and compelling consideration in the best interests analysis. Whilst it is not asserted that it could never be in a person’s best interests for the court to decide not to take steps to end their marriage in these circumstances, only in exceptional cases will such a conclusion be sustainable.

8: This is because the court would otherwise make a decision, the effect of which would be that RG remain married in circumstances where he lacked capacity to marry, on the basis of circumstances, such as RG’s wishes and feelings and the impact on RG if his marriage was brought to an end, with little or no weight given to the fact of his incapacity on the basis that he is already married. It is impossible to reconcile this with the fact that a court could never take such considerations into account in allowing RG to marry in the first place. This would undermine the legal foundation of the institution of marriage in England and Wales, where consent is a fundamental element of a legally unassailable and enduring marriage contract.”

 

 

SK pleaded vehemently that the marriage should not be annulled, that as a consequence of her religion and culture it would cause her shame and might cause her to be ostracised.

The Official Solicitor took the view that RG would not want to cause SK any harm or distress, and when the issue that SK might have to permanently leave the UK (as she would if the marriage were annulled) he reacted very badly against this, and thus it was in his best interests not to annul the marriage, notwithstanding that he had not had the capacity to enter into it.

  1. The present wishes and feelings of RG himself, so far as they can be ascertained, are quite clear. Although he has such little understanding of marriage that he lacked capacity to marry, he, nevertheless, frequently uses the words “wife”, and “marriage”, or “marry”, in relation to Mrs SK. She visits him regularly, several times a week. Although the visits are quite short, he reacts to them with pleasure and appears to gain pleasure from the visits and from the relationship.
  1. RG reacts badly to references to divorce. Mr Dipak Mohan, his key social worker, said that if RG is told that his marriage is at an end, he is likely to take it extremely badly. When his brother told him that Mrs SK might be deported, he reacted extremely badly and aggressively

The Judge determined that the Official Solicitor was correct

  1.  Unquestionably, RG cannot gain the support, pleasures and benefits of a marriage, as normally understood. He cannot gain many other of the pleasures of life that are available to persons of normal capacity. But still he gains some pleasure and some benefits from this marriage and relationship.

 

  1. Like the Official Solicitor, I am completely unpersuaded that his best interests require or justify that it is now annulled. For these reasons I will exclude from the otherwise agreed order in relation to RG those parts which provide for the Official Solicitor now to present a petition for the marriage to be annulled.

There was obviously a tension in this case between public policy (the compelling argument that marriages arranged by families overseas with the knowledge that the bride or groom lacked any capacity to enter into it should not result in the families benefiting from the marriage enduring)  and the individuals in the case, with there being good evidence that RG would have been caused distress by the annulment – since SK would have had to leave the country and little evidence of positive benefit to him. The Judge found in favour of the individual rather than public policy.

Whilst the Judge was at pains to point out at the outset that the case turned on its facts and that he was not seeking to establish any general principles, it is not difficult to see that those acting in such cases in the future would point to the issues in this case as being broadly supportive of the marriage not being annulled on the basis of public policy alone, and that there would have to be benefits to the individual concerned.