Re X- the never-ending story.

Re NRA

 

Charles J has today (25 September) handed down the judgment in Re NRA [2015] EWCOP 59, sometimes described as Re X (2).

 

Summary

 

The case concerned welfare orders sought in respect of ten individuals whose care arrangements involved deprivation of their liberty. He described it as part of the “fall out” from the majority judgment in P v Cheshire West.

 

The case considered the procedural safeguards needed and at the heart of the case was the question as to whether P should be joined as a party. The Re X litigation had thrown up contradictory obiter views in respect of applications (which were referred to as “judicial detention” cases) that were seen as uncontentious. The President of the Court of Protection had delivered two judgments (Re X (1) and Re X (2)). The Court of Appeal judgment had concluded that the initial Re X judgments had been ultra vires. Therefore the Court of Appeal did not have jurisdiction to consider the appeal, but had strongly indicated what they would have done had they been able to do so, and all three judges considered that P should be a party.   The Court of Appeal had not considered ancillary issues such as, if P is always a party, who should act as litigation friend and whether there should be an oral hearing.

 

The cases were described as examples of “benevolent” arrangements that “many find difficult to characterize as a deprivation of liberty” (taken from the comments of Baroness Hale at para 10 in P v Cheshire West).

 

Charles J noted that in Cheshire West Baroness Hale referred to the need for “periodic checks” and suggested that these should not be stigmatizing. He cast doubt on whether this reflected the experience of family carers and noted that any simplified solution should recognize the central role of families and carers [para 12].

 

His approach was to consider what was required to satisfy requirements of common law and Convention rights, which he grouped under the heading “the safeguards” [para 24] and then what procedural steps would satisfy these in a practical effective and speedy way in cases of deprivation of liberty. Identifying the Safeguards entailed considering alternative ways of guaranteeing procedural fairness (“the requirements”) and whether these were likely to work (“the Effects”) [para 25].

 

Charles J acknowledged that the instinctive reaction of lawyers in England and wales would be that P should be a party in all cases in the Court of Protection because he will be affected and bound by them [para 34]; but that consideration of the fact that the overwhelming majority of cases relate to property and affairs and are uncontentious indicates that fairness does not always require this. He applied to the Court of Protection the comment in Re R (Care; Disclosure; Nature of Proceedings) [2002] 1 FLR 755 that family cases have both adversarial and investigatory aspects [para 36]. The requirements of fairness will be different depending on whether a case is or is not contentious. An independent check on each of the property and affairs cases – and deputyship applications- would be disproportionate; hence the presumption that P need not be a party in such cases.

 

The purpose of ss5 and 6 MCA was again to allow day to day decisions to be made by those involved in caring for P [para 40]. The test for such interventions (ie, is the intervention the least restrictive and in P’s best interests) is not different in substance from the test to be applied in Article 5 cases [para 41].

 

Moreover some adults with capacity are objectively deprived of their liberty by their care packages but have no alternative but to accept this as they lack the resources to bring judicial review proceedings [para 42].

 

Charles J accepted that a balance needed to be struck in order to acknowledge the risk that an apparently uncontentious package in P’s best interests may not in fact be either; and acknowledged the advantage for P of an outside check [para 44].

 

In many cases the appointment of a family member or friend, or the Official Solicitor will add little value other than to confirm the accuracy of information provided (and in some cases to uncover inaccuracies) [para 51].

 

Reviewing the statutory scheme under the MCA and DOLS Charles J noted that the Court does not determine whether P should or should not be deprived of his liberty but makes a determination of his best interests the corollary of which may be a deprivation of his liberty and thus require additional safeguards eg reviews and whether P should be a party [para 73]. The existence of a deprivation of liberty may further have relevance to the question of damages for breach of Article 5.

 

Although the Official Solicitor had agreed to accept an appointment to act under specific funding arrangements in 8 of the 10 cases (whereby some solicitors had agreed to carry out some preliminary work pro bono) the Official Solicitor had indicated that he would reach saturation point in the future absent additional funding.

 

Under the heading “legal aid” Charles J noted that the Lord Chancellor had been reviewing the impact of Cheshire West and the House of Lords recommendations to end the disparity between those detained under DOLS and those detained under the MCA for some time [para 95]. He noted that full representation would only be granted if there was to be or was likely to be a hearing [99 onwards] and rejected the suggestion that an oral hearing was always necessary and should not be listed simply to access legal representation.

 

He took the view that legal help would not be available once proceedings were issued and P was represented by a litigation friend [91] and even if this were incorrect the means requirements precluded this as a source of funding in most cases.

 

He concluded (correctly) that legal aid will only be a solution if the case proves contentious and requires a hearing.

 

He did not agree that a rule 3A representative would resolve the issue [116] as this did not provide P with the status of a party. He rejected the Law Society’s submission that an ALR could never be appointed in a case involving deprivation of liberty [117].

 

He noted the impact on resources of the Court of Protection of the joinder of P in all cases, as well as on the resources of litigation friends [124].

 

He concluded that a litigation friend need not always act through a solicitor. A litigation friend is not a party [143]. In comments which emphasise the rapprochement between the Court of Protection and the Mental Health Tribunal worlds, he referred to his judgment in YA v CNWL, where he likened the role of the appointed representative under TPR 11(7)(b) to a litigation friend who may sometimes have to over-ride P’s wishes. He returns to this analogy when considering the role of the RPR.

 

At paragraphs 158 onwards Charles J considered the availability of family or friends as potential litigation friends to P. This can be replete with difficulties where there is family conflict (as in Re UF) or a dissonance between the views of P and of his family (as in Re AJ).

 

In a comment which sits uncomfortably with the judgement of Baker J in Re AJ, Charles J does not agree that the RPR should challenge a standard authorization whenever P objects; but instead should decide whether to issue at all and then should only advance arguable points (again analogous to his views about the role of the Tribunal representative in YA): para 171-2.

 

Part 3 of the judgment contains the discussion on the question whether the Requirements and the Effects mean that P must be a party to ALL applications for welfare orders seeking a deprivation of liberty. He concludes that the answer is “no” and that he prefers the obiter reasoning of the President to the Court of Appeal: para 177.

 

This is because:

 

  • what fairness requires will depend on the context [para 187] where Charles J noted that in para 57 of the judgment in Winterwerp the court concluded that an Article 5(4) compliant process must “have a judicial character and gives the individual concerned guarantees appropriate to the kind of detention in question” [para 187 (iii)].
  • The comments in RP vUK about the margin of appreciation, which takes into account “all relevant factors” including the nature and complexity of the issue and what was at stake for P” [para 187 (v)].

He acknowledged the need to protect “the very essence” of Article 5 rights which will vary with each case [para 190].

 

The heart of the judgment is Charles J’s conclusions as to the “essence” of the rights guaranteed by Article 5.

 

These are set out below:

“The combination of the requirements of Article 5(1) and 5(4) to the initial decision making and the challenge of the decision made (see paragraph 182 above) shows that, when in reliance of Article 5(1)(e) there is or is going to be an objective deprivation of liberty, the essence of Article 5 is to provide safeguards that put a person who lacks the relevant capacity in a sufficiently equivalent position to a person who has that capacity and so who could himself:

  1. consider, test and decide between competing provisions for his care or treatment,
  2. consent to one of them, and
  • keep under review and challenge the arrangements put in place.

This gives rise to the need for a process that is directed to ensuring that the steps referred to in paragraph 164 (i) to (iii) above are adequately carried out or that their subject matter is adequately investigated by the court. Namely:

  • the elicitation and communication to the court of P’s wishes and feelings and the matters referred to in s. 4(6) of the MCA without causing P any or any unnecessary distress,
  • the critical examination from the perspective of P’s best interests, and with a detailed knowledge of P, the pros and cons of a care package, and whether it is the least restrictive available option, and
  • the review of the implementation of the care package and changes in P’s behaviour or health.

and in his view require

 

  • elicitation of P’s wishes and feelings and the matters referred to in s4(6) MCA “without causing P any or any unnecessary distress”;
  • critical examination of the pros and cons of the care plan from the perspective of P’s best interests and in the context of the least restructive alternative and
  • the review of its implementation and changes in P’s behaviour and health.”

 

The minimum standards required of procedural safeguards will vary from case to case and within the exceptions to Article 5, and within the issues which arise in each case [para 193]. He considers this consistent with Baroness Hale’s comments about the possibility of simplifying the safeguards in Cheshire West [para 195] which support the proposition that the COP rules can be applied flexibly.

 

Under the heading “Flaws and gaps in the reasoning of the Court of Appeal” [para 197 onwards] he criticizes the reasoning of Black LJ for treating “all deprivations of liberty as being effectively the same for the purpose of the application of the procedural safeguards” [para 205]. He distinguishes cases where deprivation of liberty is authorized purely because of P’s best interests from secure accommodation cases relating to children and these involve factors other than the paramountcy principle (such as risk to others, which also features in decisions to detain under the MHA); and this is relevant to the minimum standards question.

 

Nor does the Court of Appeal recognize that the relevant comparator is with an adult with capacity who consents to the deprivation of liberty because this is the role of the court under s16 (circular!- possibly an argument for reduced safeguards on review).

 

 

At para 215 Charles J refers to his conclusion in YA at paras 39-41 that legal representation is not a minimum requirement in all cases. He considered that in many cases family members will be best placed to act as litigation friends and provides examples from the 10 cases before him.[219-224].

 

At paragraphs 223- 229 Charles J considers the information provided in the streamlined procedure and how this could be improved. He recommends additional information, such as- importantly- details of when supervision is provided; use of sedation or assistive technology; what would happen if P tried to leave, and statements from those providing care to P [225].

 

He suggested that information should also be provided about any tenancy agreement; the participation of family and friends; and why it is considered that the case can be dealt with on the papers.

 

As litigation friends do not need to instruct solicitors; and as a hearing is not needed in all cases, there is very little benefit in making P a party and appointing a family member as a litigation friend rather than as a Rule 3A representative and where this is an available option this will provide P with the requisite safeguards [231-2]. There should be a direction to keep the care package under review. He considers that this can reliably secure P’s participation without making P a party and thus falls within the exceptions to the need for party status identified by Black LJ in the Re X judgment.

 

Where there is not a family member or friend who can be appointed this should not require joinder of P but instead the court should consider the use of s49 reports and summonses; and the “much better solution” of the Secretary of State for justice of appointing “Rule 3A representatives identified by the local authority”. He urged the Secretary of State and local authorities to consider “urgently” how this solution can be provided on the ground and recognized that it this not available this will need to be addressed [265-7].

 

He expresses the view that his conclusions do not discriminate for the purposes of Article 14 [para 268].

 

His conclusions are summarized in 269:

 

“A brief summary of my conclusions is that:

  • P does not have to be a party to all applications for welfare orders sought to authorise, and which when they are made will authorise, a deprivation of P’s liberty caused by the implementation of the care package on which the welfare order is based.
  • In two of the test cases before me I have made orders that reflect that conclusion and my conclusion that the procedural safeguards required by Article 5 are (and are best) provided in those cases by appointing a parent of P as P’s Rule 3A representative. As such, that parent as a continuation of the dedicated and devoted support given by P’s family to P and directed to promoting P’s best interests, in a balanced way, can best provide (a) the court with the information it requires about the care package and P, and (b) P’s participation in the proceedings. Also, that parent can and in my view will monitor the implementation of the care plan and so initiate any challenge to it or review of it that the parent considers should be made in P’s best interests.
  • I do not have a test case before me in which (a) P has not been joined as a party and the Official Solicitor has not agreed to act as P’s litigation friend, and (b) the appointment of a family member or friend as P’s Rule 3A representative without joining P as a party is not an available option. Such a test case or cases should be listed for hearing.
  • In contrast to the Court of Appeal in Re X and subject to further argument in such a test case or cases, I consider that the way in which the Court of Protection can at present best obtain further information and P’s participation in such cases is for it to exercise its investigatory jurisdiction to obtain information through obtaining s. 49 reports or through the issue of a witness summonses. This keeps the matter under the control of the court rather than invoking the necessity of appointing a litigation friend with the problems and delays that history tells us this entails and will entail and I have concluded is, or shortly will be, not fit for purpose.
  • I do not for a moment suggest that absent further resources being provided there will not be problems and delays in taking the course referred to in paragraph (4). Also, and importantly, I recognise that it would be focused on Article 5(1) and would not provide for monitoring on the ground until it is repeated from time to time for that purpose. But, the appointment of a litigation friend will also not provide that monitoring.
  • In such cases the argument advanced by the Secretary of State before me that a Rule 3A representative identified by the local authority be appointed shows that if this was a practically available option it would replicate the input that I have decided can be provided by an appropriate family member or friend and so satisfy the procedural safeguards required by Article 5 and common law fairness in non-controversial cases without joining P as a party.
  • That replication is an obvious solution that will provide the necessary safeguards more efficiently and at less expense than either
    1. the making of orders for s. 49 reports and the issuing of witness summonses perhaps coupled with more frequent reviews, or
    2. joining P as a party.
  • So I urge the Secretary of State and local authorities to consider urgently, and in any event before a test case or cases of this type are before the court, how this solution can be provided on the ground.”

Comment:

 

This is a decision focussed on practical solutions. It is of note however that much reliance is placed on the availability of resources – the Rule 3A representatives. There will of course be cases where family members and friends are able and willing to step into this role. There will be many other cases where P is unbefriended. In these cases, the court has two options. The first is to make use of s49 reports and the power to issue witness summonses to elicit the required information. This appears quite onerous, and can also be contentious- see the recent decision in RS. The second is the solution identified by the Secretary of State which is to appoint Rule 3A representatives “identified by the local authority.”

There must be some doubt as to the ability of local authorities- already struggling to meet their obligations to provide IMCA and Care Act advocacy- to conjure up another group of individuals who will step in and provide the safeguards needed. Nor is there any consideration given as to how these representatives will be funded.

The comments on YA and Re AJ can be seen as obiter as both judgments related to quite different scenarios. However it is noteable that in paragraph 145 Charles J appears to go further than he went in the YA judgment by expressly referring to the need for litigation friends (and by analogy Rule 11(7) representatives) to over-ride the wishes and feelings of patients without capacity.

It is worth remembering that those appointed as “Rule 3A” representatives may ask for directions under COPR 148A, which could include a request for P to be joined and a litigation friend appointed.

The possible use of “accredited legal representatives” (ALRs) if they become available was dealt with quickly at paragraph 117. There is currently no such panel of ALRs (although there is also no cohort of rule 3A representatives to be called on by local authorities). This would have been a practical solution at least in cases where P is entitled to legal aid. It is noted that in Re PD Baker J encouraged the possible use of ALRs in Schedule 3 cases. ALRs appointed in Re X types cases would have been well placed quickly to scrutinise and identify which cases require contested hearings and which really are uncontentious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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