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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