Re X (2): further amplification of judicial deprivation of liberty process

 On 16th October 2014 Sir James Munby P handed down his second judgment in Re X and others (Deprivation of Liberty) [2014] EWCOP 37.  In this he expanded on the preliminary judgment handed down on 7th August 2014 (Re X and others: Deprivation of Liberty [2014] EWCOP 25).

This new judgment does not answer all the questions which were before the President when he heard this case in June 2014, particularly some relating to the possible extension of urgent authorisations by the court (a further judgment addressing these points is still awaited)  It does however expand upon three questions:

 “(7)      Does P need to be joined to any application to the court seeking authorisation of a deprivation of liberty in order to meet the requirements of Article 5(1) ECHR or Article 6 or both?

(9)        If so, should there be a requirement that P … must have a litigation friend (whether by reference to the requirements of Article 5 ECHR and/or by reference to the requirements of Article 6 ECHR)?

(16)      If P or the detained resident requires a litigation friend, then: (a) Can a litigation friend who does not otherwise have the right to conduct litigation or provide advocacy services provide those services, in other words without instructing legal representatives, by virtue of their acting as litigation friend and without being authorised by the court under the Legal Services Act 2007 to do either or both …?”

The president answered the first question in the negative, using the analogy of wardship proceedings, where wards do not always have to be a party.    Drawing on his conclusions in RC v CC (By Her Litigation Friend the Official Solicitor) and X Local Authority [2014] EWCOP 131, [2014] COPLR 351, namely that the principles of disclosure in the family division also applied in the COP, and the essentially welfare-based nature of COP proceedings, he concluded that there is no distinction to be drawn between the need to join P in a COP case and the need to join a child who is a ward.

Turning to the Convention jurisprudence, the President noted P’s entitlement to the safeguards of Article 5(4) and the UNCRPD, and concluded:

Article 6 requires that P be able to participate in the proceedings in such a way as to enable P to present his case “properly and satisfactorily”: see Airey v Ireland (1979) 2 EHRR 305, para 24. More specifically, referring to Article 5, “it is essential that the person concerned should have access to a court and the opportunity to be heard either in person or, where necessary, through some form of representation, failing which he will not have been afforded ‘the fundamental guarantees of procedure applied in matters of deprivation of liberty’.”: Winterwerp v Netherlands (1979) 2 EHRR 387, para 60. This may require the provision of legal assistance: Megyeri v Germany (1992) 15 EHRR 584, para 23. There is a margin of appreciation (see, for example, Shtukaturov v Russia (2012) 54 EHRR 962, para 68), but this cannot affect the very essence of the rights guaranteed by the Convention. The Strasbourg court has made clear that deprivation of liberty requires thorough scrutiny and that any interference with the rights of persons suffering from mental illness must, because they constitute a particularly vulnerable group, be subject to strict scrutiny. So the process must meet that demanding standard.

14. More generally, P should always be given the opportunity to be joined if he wishes and, whether joined as a party or not, must be given the support necessary to express views about the application and to participate in the proceedings to the extent that they wish. Typically P will also need some form of representation, professional though not necessarily always legal.

15. So long as these demanding standards are met, and in my judgment they can in principle be met without P being joined as a party, there is, as a matter of general principle, no requirement, whether in domestic law or under the Convention, for P to be a party.”

The suggestion that P will “need some form of representation, professional though not necessarily always legal” does not appear in the first Re X judgment.

The President then turned to the question of whether P could be participate and be represented in proceedings in the COP without being a party.  He concluded there is no such objection.  If P is participating other than as a party there is no need for a litigation friend: so P could be represented without one.

If P is a party, then there is no reason in principle why the rules cannot be amended to allow P to act without a litigation friend:

“19. The next question is whether, assuming that P is a party, he is required to act by a litigation friend. The general principle is long-established, and hardly requires citation of authority, that in welfare proceedings, as in any other kind of litigation, a child or incapacitated adult can participate as a party only if represented by a litigation friend. But there are exceptions to this general rule. I mention two, though the first is now only of historical, indeed almost antiquarian, interest. In the days of the Lunacy Act 1890, although a person of unsound mind not so found by inquisition sued, like an infant, by a next friend or guardian ad litem, a lunatic so found by inquisition sued by the committee of his estate: see Daniell’s Chancery Practice pp 118-119, 121. Of more contemporary significance is rule 16.6 of the Family Procedure Rules 2010, replacing rule 9.2A of the Family Proceedings Rules 1991, which permits a child in certain circumstances to conduct proceedings without a children’s guardian or litigation friend.

23. In his submissions, Mr Jonathan Butler helpfully drew attention to the practice in the First-tier Tribunal (Health Education and Social Care Chamber), and previously in the Mental Health Review Tribunal, where the relevant rule provides for the appointment of a legal representative – not a litigation friend – where the patient, a party to the proceedings before the Tribunal, lacks capacity: see AA v Cheshire and Wirral Partnership HNS Foundation Trust and ZZ [2009] UKUT 195 (AAC), [2009] 1 MHLR 308. Mr Butler suggests that the sole question to be asked is whether the requirement for a litigation friend is necessary for P to have a voice within proceedings? The answer, he suggests, and I agree, can in part be found in the decision in that case.

24. These examples demonstrate, in my judgment, that there is no fundamental principle in our domestic law which dictates that P, if a party, must have a litigation friend. The question is ultimately one going to the practice of the particular court or tribunal. Generally speaking, the practice – the rule – has long been that those who lack capacity must have a litigation friend. But that is all.

25.  At present Rule 141(1) requires P, if a party, to have a litigation friend.

26. The requirement to have a litigation friend is compliant with, but not mandated by, the Convention: RP v United Kingdom [2013] 1 FLR 744. The Convention requirement is to ensure that P’s interests are properly represented and that does not, of itself, require the appointment of a litigation friend.

27.  Again, this is a matter which requires consideration by the Committee.”

The President repeated his view that a litigation friend could act without legal representatives but required permission of the court to act as advocate for P.

He concluded:

“36. It is not for me in this judgment to advise the Committee how to proceed. There is, however, one aspect of the matter to which the Committee will, I suggest, need to give careful consideration. It is essential that where the issue concerns P’s deprivation of liberty the Court of Protection’s processes are rigorous, so that the circumstances of the individual case are subjected, as they must be, to the strict scrutiny demanded by the Convention. Both our domestic law and the Convention impose demanding standards. But the need to meet this challenge must not be allowed to lead to a system of technical requirements which may, in the real world, operate to deny P the speedy access to a judicial determination which is the very essence of what is required. To speak plainly, the Committee will have to consider how best to craft a process which, while it meets the demanding requirement of the law, also has regard to the realities consequent upon (a) the legal aid regime and (b) the exposure of a litigation friend to a costs risk. There is no point in a system which requires there to be a litigation friend, let alone which requires the litigation friend to instruct lawyers, if the reality is that there is, because of an absence of legal aid and possible exposure to an adverse costs order, no-one willing and able to accept appointment as litigation friend. Indeed, such a system would be self-defeating. And in this connection it needs to be remembered that the Official Solicitor can never be compelled to accept appointment. Moreover, as I understand it, he is not funded to act as a litigation friend in deprivation of liberty cases, so he is dependent on external funding which in many cases will not be available in the absence of legal aid.

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