New Practice Directions out now!

The Practice Directions supporting the new Court of Protection Rules have been published now.  You can read them here.

The following are in force now:

PD3A- authorised court officers

PD3B- levels of judiciary

PD11A- Human Rights

PD12A-Jurisdiction to be exercised by certain judges

PD 20A-appeals

PD21A- allocation of appeals

The remainder will come into effect on 1st July 2015.

Practitioners’ attention is drawn in particular to the following:

PD 2A– supporting new Rule 3A (participation of P), and setting out the approach the court may take in deciding whether to appoint a Rule 3A representative.  Paragraph 11 describes the factors which the court will consider when deciding how P’s interests will best be furthered.  These will include for example where expert evidence is needed on P’s behalf which might be a trigger to joining P and appointing a litigation friend). Paragraph 12 makes suggestions as to who might properly be appointed a representative for P where P is not joined- for example a family member, friend, IMCA or Care Act advocate).

PD 3B- explaining the new “tiering” of judges.

PD3C- application of the CPR or FPR where there is a lacuna.

PD13A.  Rule 91(2A) now allows communication of information in accordance with Rule 13A, subject to a direction of the court.  Paragraphs 34 onwards set out the criteria for such communications, and for what purpose communication can be made.

PD19A– Costs.

Status of declarations in the Court of Protection.

In MASM v MMAM, MM and London Borough of Hackney, Mr Justice Hayden considered what sanctions could be imposed for actions made by a party to Court of Protection proceedings who had deliberately acted in defiance of declarations.  Could these be regarded as contempt of court and could committal to prison result?

You can read the judgment here.  In brief MM, MASM’s grandson, had not opposed declarations that it was in MASM’s best interests to reside in a care home, and authorising any resultant deprivation of liberty.  No injunctions were made at the time and therefore the order contained no penal notice.  Subsequently Hayden J found that MM (acting with the assistance of his father Mr MASM) had arranged the removal of MASM to Saudi Arabia and had provided an account to the court which the judge found to be “a complete fabrication”.  He was critical of the what he described as the “supine” response of the local authority commenting that “vulnerable adults have to be protected as sedulously as vulnerable children” whilst making it plain that it is the obligation that is similar and not those entitled to such protection.

It was urged upon the judge that – in analogy to the wardship or parens patriae jurisdiction- an action hampering the court’s objectives could itself be an interference with the administration of justice.  The judge did not accept this, drawing an important distinction between the paternalistic quality of wardship “which does not easily equate to and is perhaps even inconsistent with the protection of the incapacitous adult”.

Ultimately the judge concluded that a best interests declaration does not always mean that any alternative course of action is contrary to the individual’s welfare and although MM had acted cynically and frustrated the objectives of the litigation, he was not acting in defiance of an order and was not exposed to contempt proceedings. The current case was unusual and there are many cases where partners or relatives struggle to accept the outcome of proceedings and “it would to my mind be disproportionate and indeed corrosive of the co-operation ultimately required for the shadow of potential contempt proceedings to fall too darkly over cases such as this.”

The judge concluded with the following guidance:

“i)Many orders pursuant to Section 16 seem to me to be perfectly capable of being drafted in clear unequivocal and even, where appropriate, prescriptive language. This Section provides for the ‘making of orders’ as well as ‘taking decisions’ in relation to P’s personal welfare, property or affairs. Where the issues are highly specific or indeed capable of being drafted succinctly as an order they should be so, rather than as more nebulous declarations. Where a determination of the court is capable of being expressed with clarity there are many and obvious reasons why it should be so;

ii) In cases which require that P, for whatever reason, reside at a particular place the parties and the court should always consider whether to reinforce that order, under Section 16, by a declaration, pursuant to Section 15, clarifying that it will be unlawful to remove P or to permit or facilitate removal other than by order of the court;

iii) In cases where the evidence suggests there may be potential for a party to disobey the order or frustrate the plans for P approved by the court as in his best interest, the Official Solicitor or Local Authority should consider inviting the court to seek undertakings from the relevant party. If there is a refusal to give undertakings then orders may be appropriate;

iv) Where a potential breach is identified the Local Authority and/or the Official Solicitor should regard it as professional duty to bring the matter to the immediate attention to the court. This obligation is a facet of the requirement to act sedulously in the protection of the vulnerable;

v) Thought must always be given to the objectives and proportionality of any committal proceedings see Re Whiting (supra).”

He directed that MM pay personally the entire costs of the proceedings.

Richard Gordon QC, ‘Thoughts on P v Cheshire West and P and Q’

Richard Gordon QC, Brick Court Chambers, delivered the closing address at the LAG 2014 community care conference which took place on the 5 December in London.

He has kindly agreed to let us post the speech on our blog.

Richard was leading counsel for the three successful appellants in the Supreme Court in P v Cheshire West; P and Q v Surrey County Council.

Download a copy of the address here.  This  is reproduced from the December issue of Community Care Law Reports.

“A sensible decision, not the pursuit of perfection”

Mr Justice Peter Jackson has expressed concern about the costs and delay – and associated “human misery” and drain on manpower- in two Court of Protection cases, which in his conservative estimate cost around £9,000 per month, largely paid for by the State.

 

You can read his strong judgment here. It echoes some of the comments made in the family sphere (V v V, [2011] EWHC 1190 (FAM); J v J [2014] EWHC (Fam)).

 

The following comments should be noted by practitioners:

 

  • The inconsistency of “extravagance” in CoP proceedings with the parties’ duty to assist the court in furthering the over-riding objective;
  • The importance of restraining excessive costs where P’s money is being spent on deciding his future, whether he likes it or not
  • The judge’s criticism of the “search for the ideal solution, leading to decent but imperfect solutions being rejected”- s1(5) “calls for a sensible decision, not the pursuit of perfection;
  • It is not necessary to take up “every conceivable legal or factual issue, rather than concentrating on the issues that really need to be resolved”.
  • The need for professional co-operation. Here the judge noted the role of the litigation friend in one of the cases: “This was epitomised in Case A, where the litigation friend’s submission focussed heavily on alleged shortcomings by the local authority, even to the extent that it was accompanied by a dense document entitled “Chronology of Faults”. But despite this, the author had no alternative solution to offer. The role of the litigation friend in representing P’s interests is not merely a passive one, discharged by critiquing other peoples’ efforts. Where he considers it in his client’s interest, he is entitled to research and present any realistic alternatives.“

 

 

 

The judge concluded:

 

  1. “The main responsibility for this situation and its solution must lie with the court, which has the power to control its proceedings. The purpose of this judgment is to express the view that the case management provisions in the Court of Protection Rules have proved inadequate on their own to secure the necessary changes in practice. While cases about children and cases about incapacitated adults have differences, their similarities are also obvious. There is a clear procedural analogy to be drawn between many welfare proceedings in the Court of Protection and proceedings under the Children Act. As a result of the Public Law Outline, robust case management, use of experts only where necessary, judicial continuity, and a statutory time-limit, the length of care cases has halved in two years. Yet Court of Protection proceedings can commonly start with no timetable at all for their conclusion, nor any early vision of what an acceptable outcome would look like. The young man in Case B is said to have a mental age of 8. What would we now say if it took five years – or 18 months – to decide the future of an 8-year-old?
  2. I therefore believe that the time has come to introduce the same disciplines in the Court of Protection as now apply in the Family Court. Accordingly, and at his request, I am sending a copy of this judgment to the President of the Court of Protection, Sir James Munby, for his consideration.”

 

 

LAG Community Care Conference 2014

LAG has just announced details of its annual community care conference on 5 December 2014:

Social care law developments: waving or drowning?

EARLY BIRD OFFER EXTENDED TO 24 NOVEMBER: click here

Lady Hale will be delivering the keynote speech and the closing remarks are from Richard Gordon QC on Cheshire West.

Panel discussions on:

  • The Care Act 2014 – good, bad or indifferent?
  • Mental capacity and deprivation of liberty
  • The new care landscape for adults who fail the eligibility hurdle and for carers

master classes in the following areas:

  • Public law challenges for disabled children and families
  • The future of paying for care
  • Community care and people from abroad
  • Human rights after McDonald v UK
  • Accountability and access to public law remedies
  • Best practice in health and welfare applications in the COP

 

Acting as a Litigation Friend in the Court of Protection – new Guidance now out

Alex has spent a significant part of this year working on guidance commissioned by the Department of Health for IMCAs, RPRs and other advocates (as well as family members and friends of putative ‘P’s) considering acting as litigation friends in the Court of Protection.

The guidance has now been published, and is hosted by the University of Manchester, available here.   As it says in its introduction:

Th[e] Guidance aims to demystify the Court of Protection generally and the role of litigation friend specifically so as to enable more people to consider taking up the role – thereby ensuring the better promotion and protection of the rights of those said to be lacking capacity to take their own decisions.

Because of its scope, it guidance may also serve as a useful (free) overview for others wishing to learn more about the Court of Protection.

The guidance is primarily aimed at proceedings relating to health and welfare, and its chapter headings are as follows:

A:    Overview

B:    An overview of the Court of Protection

C:    Who can be a litigation friend for P in proceedings before the Court of Protection?

D:    Becoming a litigation friend and instructing lawyers

E:    What does a litigation friend do?

F:    When is it appropriate to bring a case to the Court of Protection as litigation friend for P?

G:    How do cases before the Court of Protection proceed?

H:    When would an appointment of a litigation friend come to an end?

I:     Practicalities

J:     Frequently asked questions

K:    Useful sources of information

There are also appendices containing checklists, a template position statement and details of the ‘balance sheet’ approach.

Alex is very grateful indeed to the very many people who took the time to attend workshops and comment upon drafts, and generally – he hopes – to assist in producing a document that will be of actual use!