Re X considered (and limited)

The fall out from Re X continues.   A hearing has been listed (in public) for 30-31 July before Charles J to consider the matters raised in MOD & Ors [2015] EWCOP 47, with a number of other issues of general application.

In the interim, Baker J has had cause to consider Re X and Rule 3A on the very first day of the latter’s life.  In HSE Ireland v PD [2015] EWCOP 48, Baker J was asked to consider whether the subject of an application for recognition and enforcement of a foreign protective measure providing for their deprivation of liberty in England and Wales had to be made a party to the English proceedings.   This case, the sequel to HSE Ireland v PA & Ors [2015] EWCOP 38, required him to consider both the effect of Re X and the scope of the powers available to the court under Rule 3A.   In relation to Re X Baker J noted that:

“14. […] the Court concluded that the President had no jurisdiction to determine the issues upon which the appellants were appealing and, accordingly, the Court of Appeal had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeals. It could then be argued that the observations of the judges of the Court were (at best) obiter dicta or (possibly) merely dicta. It would, however, be extremely unwise for any judge at first instance to ignore what was said by the Court of Appeal. On the contrary, I consider that I must treat the dicta as the strongest possible indication of how the Court of Appeal would rule on the question before it, in the event that the issue returns to that Court as part of a legitimate appellate process.”

Baker J held that:

31.  In Re X, the judges of the Court of Appeal were considering proceedings for orders authorising in the deprivation of liberty by the Court of Protection exercising its original jurisdiction under the MCA 2005. They were not asked to consider applications for the recognition and enforcement of foreign orders under Schedule 3. Their clear statements of principle, however, serve as a strong reminder of the importance to be attached to ensuring that P’s voice is heard on any application where deprivation of liberty is in issue.”

Hearing P’s voice was, though, at the heart of the process of recognition and enforcement.  Therefore, when carrying out the limited review of the process before the foreign court mandated by Articles 5 and 6 ECHR, the Court of Protection “must therefore bear in mind the observation of Black LJ at paragraph 86 that ‘it is generally considered indispensable in this country for the person’s whose liberty is at stake automatically to be a party to the proceedings in which the issue is to be decided.” To my mind, however, where the adult has been a party and represented in the proceedings before the foreign court, it is not ‘indispensable’ for that adult also to be a party before this court on an application for recognition and enforcement of the foreign order, given the limited scope of the enquiry required of this court when considering an application under Schedule 3.”

Baker J continued

“[e]ach case will turn on its own facts. In some cases, the court will conclude that the adult needs to be joined as a party immediately. In other cases, the court will adopt one or other of the alternative methods provided in Rule 3(A)(2). In a third category of case, the court will be satisfied on the information before it that the requirements of Schedule 3 are satisfied without taking any of the measures provided by Rule 3A(2)(a)-(d). In very urgent cases, the court may conclude that an interim order should be made without any representation by or on behalf of the adult, but direct that the question of representation should be reviewed at a later hearing. Such a course seems to me to be consistent with the analysis of Black LJ at paragraph 104 of Re X. In every case, however, when carrying out that analysis, the court must be alive to the danger identified by Black LJ, at paragraph 100 in Re X that the process may depend ‘entirely on the reliability and completeness of the information transmitted to the court by those charged with the task’ who may ‘be the very person/organisation for P to be deprived of his liberty.'”

Baker J anticipated that in the majority of applications for recognition and enforcement of this nature, joinder of the adult as a party will be considered necessary, but that in the majority of cases it will not.   He further noted that the flexibility provided for by Rule 3A was well-suited to Schedule 3 applications, and expressed the hope that a panel of Accredited Legal Representatives would be swiftly established because the appointment of an ALR would in many cases facilitate a quick but focussed analysis of the particular requirements of Schedule 3.   Pending such appointment, the court would need to consider in each case what other Rule 3A step should be taken.

Baker J emphasised that this decision was taken in the an area “where the principles of comity and co-operation between courts of different countries are of particular importance in the interests of the individual concerned. The court asked to recognise a foreign order should work with the grain of that order, rather than raise procedural hurdles which may delay or impeded the implementation of the order in a way that may cause harm to the interests of the individual. If the court to which the application for recognition is made has concerns as to whether the adult was properly heard before the court of origin, it should as a first step raise those concerns promptly with the court of origin, rather than simply refuse recognition.”   Further, “The purpose of Schedule 3 is to facilitate the recognition and enforcement of protective measures for the benefits of vulnerable adults. The court to whom such an application is made must ensure that the limited review required by Schedule 3 goes not further than the terms of the Schedule require and, in particular, does not trespass into the reconsideration of the merits of the order which are entirely a matter for the court of origin.

Comment

Baker J’s conclusion as to the status of the dicta in Re X is not surprising.  Nor, I suggest, is the conclusion that he reached as to how those dicta apply in the narrow (but important) field of recognition and enforcement.   It is clearly of the highest importance that the individual concerned is properly heard (or properly enabled to participate) before the court that is taking the decision to deprive them of their liberty.   It is not immediately obvious why it is that they should then need to be joined as a party to proceedings for recognition and enforcement of that order before the Court of Protection, so long as the COP is both enabled – and indeed required – to assure itself that the individual in question has been so heard.

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Exceptional Case Funding – Good news (for the time being)

In IS v Director of Legal Aid Casework and the Lord Chancellor [2015] EWHC 1965 (Admin), Collins J has roundly condemned the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) scheme established under s.10(3) of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 as too restrictive and not complying with the requirements of Articles 6 or 8 of the ECHR.

The claim was ultimately framed as a test case, pursued by the Official Solicitor (very properly discharging his wider functions), on the basis of his concern that the scheme failed properly to deal with claims made by those who lack capacity, whether as children or as adults, particularly where the Official Solicitor has to act as litigation friend because no other person is available. That was the position in this claim.

The judgment of Collins J is very lengthy, but for mental capacity addicts, the most significant passages are those vividly describing the difficulties arising where individuals lack the material capacity:

“73. The OS has particular concerns for patients, namely persons lacking mental capacity, and children who cannot engage in litigation without a litigation friend. He is a litigation friend of last resort in the sense that he will act only where no other litigation friend can be found. He will not, save in rare cases, himself conduct litigation and needs to have external funding. His concerns not only relate to cases in which he has acted as a litigation friend, but more generally that the scheme fails to meet the needs of those who lack capacity. It must be obvious that the difficulties in dealing with the prescribed forms and in making applications apply with greater force where children or adults who lack capacity are concerned. The response given is that a litigation friend can conduct the litigation and can apply for ECF. Equally, it is said that a litigation friend can conduct a case and so can be expected to be treated in the same way as would a litigant who had capacity. The evidence from Mr Bryant, the head of ECF determinations in the LAA, is that the ECF team does not expect litigation friends to conduct the litigation as advocates, but they step into the protected person’s shoes. The same point is made by the policy manager in the Ministry of Justice’s legal aid policy team, Mr Holmes, in his statement.

74. There is a powerful disincentive for a litigation friend to act since he or she undertakes not only to pay the protected persons costs but any costs that the court may order to be paid by the protected person. [note, the relevant forms in the Court of Protection do not make this express, but it is must be implicit as a matter of substantive law]. While the litigation friend will expect to recover from the protected person such costs, that is unlikely to be realistic when the protected person lacks means and so could be financially eligible for legal aid. Equally, a litigation friend is under a duty to act always in the protected person’s best interests and those may not be in accordance with the protected person’s views, albeit those views must always be put to the court. Thus in many cases it would be inappropriate for a family member (for example a parent of a child) to act as a litigation friend since there may be a need for objectivity which could not be met. Further, McKenzie friends cannot be used. It follows that in many cases involving impecunious children or adults who lack capacity there will be real difficulties in finding a litigation friend prepared to act having regard in particular to liability for costs. Thus the OS may have to act if approached. He will not normally be able to act for an impecunious individual, unless, absent a CFA or a costs undertaking from the opposing party, there is legal aid.

75. Problems have arisen in that the LAA has in a number of cases required the lack of capacity for an adult to be established. It is said that evidence is not now requested and cases in which that request was made occurred in the early days and are not to be repeated. Nevertheless, there have been instances when information perhaps in the form of existing reports has been requested. It seems somewhat improbable that an individual would falsely assert a lack of capacity but no doubt that could occur. I was told that if the OS were acting no issue would be raised about capacity. However, it will often be necessary to have some medical evidence and that must be paid for. Furthermore, solicitors must be available to act. The defendants say that the OS’s concerns that protected persons cannot be expected to make applications themselves is based on the incorrect assumption that solicitors are unwilling to make such applications. The evidence before me as I have said shows that it is no assumption but entirely correct.

In summary, Collins J held that:

“105. As will become apparent, I think that there must be changes to the scheme. The ECF application forms are far too complex for applicants in person. Separate forms should be provided. Indeed, overall the test set out in R(G) can be set out in the form and applicants or providers can then be required to give full details of the need for legal assistance by producing all existing material relevant to the application. As I indicated, what is put on the website can surely be put on a form. Consideration must be given to provision of Legal Help to enable providers to do work to see whether a client has a case which should be granted legal assistance because it qualifies within s.10 of the Act. No doubt the LAA will be entitled to decide whether any such application is reasonable since a provider must satisfy himself that there is a possible need for legal assistance on the basis of preliminary information given by the client and any relevant documents provided. Legal Help does not require a prospect of success test.

106. The rigidity of the merits test and the manner in which it is applied are in my judgment wholly unsatisfactory. They are not reasonable.

107. As will be clear, I am satisfied that the scheme as operated is not providing the safety net promised by Ministers and is not in accordance with s.10 in that it does not ensure that applicants’ human rights are not breached or are not likely to be breached. There is a further defect in the failure to have any right of appeal to a judicial body where an individual who lacks capacity will otherwise be unable to access a court or tribunal.”

We understand that Collins J granted permission to appeal, an avenue that the LAA/Lord Chancellor will no doubt be pursuing with vigour.   Hopefully the line can be held before the Court of Appeal.

Re X continued

A series of cases applying for “judicial detention” listed before District Judge Marin have now been referred to the Vice President in what the judge referred to as a “complete impasse” because of the unavailability of litigation friends.

The judge noted an increase of such cases following the Court of Appeal’s decision in Re X.  Some were plainly substantive welfare disputes which would proceed accordingly.  However others were cases where the only issue was the need to authorise a deprivation of liberty.

The Official Solicitor had written to the court explaining that it would be impossible for him to accept an invitation to act in the anticipated number of cases.

DJ Marin considered whether a Rule 3A representative ( as opposed to a legal representative) could be a suitable means of allowing P’s participation, given that the Court of Appeal’s obiter dicta in Re X strongly suggests P should be a party.

He has asked the President to consider a number of questions, summarised here:

– whether P must be a party in all deprivation of liberty cases

-whether family members with an interest in the case can be litigation friends

– whether a Rule 3A representative was sufficient in such cases and

– whether cases raising similar issues should be stayed pending determination of the above issues.

You can read the judgment here.    

We will keep you up to date with further developments.

Rule changes and new forms are here!

A reminder that today, 1 July, is a big day at COP Towers because:

(1)  The remainder of the first round of COPR rule changes come into force today: an unofficial compilation of the amendments with a commentary by Alex can be found here;

(2) New Practice Directions are in force to accompany the Rules, available here;

(3) New forms are available here (do not misled by the fact some of them suggest that they are the old versions on the link – they are the new forms as can been seen in the top left hand corner of each: check it has 07.15 below the relevant COP1 etc number); and

(4)  New LPA forms are available here.

We are hard at work providing updates here as to how the changes affect the text of the Handbook, so keep checking back over the next week or so for more.