Case Management Pilot explained

The Case Management Pilot has now been published.  It is in draft form at present, and the intention is that it will come into effect in June.  Although it has not formally been published for consultation,   practitioners are strongly urged to read and review it carefully, and to send any comments upon it to Joanna Furlong at the Ministry of Justice so any glitches can be ironed out so far as possible before it goes live.

The Case Management Pilot will introduce three distinct pathways for COP proceedings: 1) a Property and Affairs pathway, 2) a Health and Welfare pathway, and 3) a hybrid pathway for cases that have elements of both. The expectations of practitioners will be different depending upon which pathway is engaged.     Common to each, though, is an expectation of much greater ‘front-loading’ and cooperation to narrow the issues.

The Case Management Pilot is accompanied by a revised set of Rules which foreshadow a re-numbering of the Rules that is anticipated as part of the second tranche of rules changes (moving to the same model as in the CPR and FPR).   For ease of reference, all the Rules that will apply for purposes of the Pilot are set out in an annex – with suitably highlighted amendments – to the Pilot practice direction.   The intention is that practitioners (and the judiciary) will have to do the minimum of cross-referencing to the current iteration of the Rules during the life of the Pilot.

Before highlighting the key points of each, it is important to note the types of applications which the Pilot will not affect, which include: uncontested applications, applications for statutory wills and gifts, applications relating to serious medical treatment and deprivation of liberty applications (both Re X applications and s.21A applications).

It should also be noted that the intention is that the Case Management Pilot sits alongside and does not displace the Transparency Pilot for so long as they are both in operation (which will include at least part of June and all of July 2016), so the expectation will be that all of the hearings noted below, with the express exception of the Dispute Resolution Hearing provided for in the property and affairs pathway, will be listed according to the Transparency Pilot rules as regards public/media attendance.

Personal welfare pathway

The personal welfare pathway starts pre-issue, with a set of requirements designed to ensure that only those applications which actually require resolution by court proceedings come to court, and those which do, do so in circumstances where the issues are clearly delineated from the outset.   The Pilot Practice Direction then specifies in some detail what must be included with or accompany the application upon issue including – importantly – a statement as to how it is proposed P will be involved in the case.

The next stage is for matters to be considered by a judge on the papers, both for gatekeeping purposes (i.e. allocating to the correct level of judiciary) and the making of initial directions including, importantly, listing a Case Management Conference within 28 days (unless the matter is urgent).      The judge can also direct that there be an advocates’ meeting before the CMC.

The CMC will be the first attended hearing and a vital step in the proceedings because of the obligations placed upon the court (not just the parties) to ensure that the issues are narrowed and directions set for the proportionate resolution of those that are in dispute. Importantly, one of the matters that the court will do is to allocate a judge to the matter – judicial continuity being recognised as crucial to the success of the pilot.    It is also important to note that this Pilot is running alongside the s.49 pilot discussed further here, and also includes a tightening of the rules in relation to experts (where the Pilot applies) so as to limit permission to circumstances where their evidence (1) is necessary to assist the court to resolve the issues in the proceedings; and (2) cannot otherwise be provided.

The intention is that in the ordinary run of the events there would then only be (at most) two more hearings, a Final Management Hearing and the Final Hearing. Ahead of the Final Management Hearing, whose purpose is to determine whether the case can be resolved by consent and, if not to ensure proper preparation for trial, an advocates’ meeting is to be listed at least 5 days in advance for purposes of – inter alia – preparing a draft order for the court to consider at the FMH.    Matters that are likely to be covered at the FMH will include such things as the trial timetable and a witness template, as well as the contents of the trial bundle: in line with the injunction given by the Court of Appeal in Re MN, the expectation is that the trial bundle for the Final Hearing will not generally exceed 350 pages, and must not include more than one copy of the same document.

It is important to note that, unlike the Public Law Outline, there is no fixed timeframe within which proceedings must be concluded, the only fixed date being the listing of the Case Management Conference.   The intention, however, is that the process set down in the Pilot is will mean dramatically shorter resolution of welfare applications.

Property and Affairs pathway

The property and affairs pathway does not start pre-issue because it is recognised that it is often only upon issue that it becomes clear that a property and affairs application is contentious.   It therefore comprises four stages.

The first stage is when the application becomes contested, i.e. when the court is notified in the COP5 that the application is contested or a respondent wishes to seek a different order.

The case management stage takes place on the papers, and includes either: (1) listing for a Dispute Resolution Hearing; or (2) transfer to a suitable regional court for listing of the DRH and future case management.   If the respondent has not given sufficiently clear reasons for opposing/seeking a different order, the judge will also at that stage require such reasons to be given.

The Dispute Resolution Hearing is a major innovation, and represents – in essence – judicial mediation in a form familiar to family practitioners.   A DRH, which will normally take place before a District Judge, is to enable the court to determine whether the case can be resolved and avoid unnecessary litigation, and to that end the content of the hearing is not to be disclosed and everything said therein is not admissible (save in relation to a trial for contempt).    The court is expressly required to give its view as to the likely outcome of the proceedings as part of the DRH.   The aim is for the court to be able to endorse a consent order at the end of the DRH; if not, the court will list for directions of the management of the hearing and a Final Hearing.

The last stage – the Final Hearing – will take place in accordance with directions made at the DRH (there being no Final Management Hearing as with the welfare pathway).

As with the welfare pathway, there is no fixed timeframe for the determination of the application.   Nor, in this instance, is there a specific timeframe for listing of the first attended hearing – the DRH.   This recognises that there is merit to flexibility because there will be some cases in which allowing longer for a DRH is more likely to bring about a quicker resolution overall; conversely, in some cases, the sooner that judicial banging of heads takes place the better.

Mixed pathway

If an application comprises elements of both welfare and property and affairs, prospective parties are directed at the pre-issue stage to identify which pathway is most effective and to comply with the requirements of that pathway so far as possible.   At point of issue, they must file a list of issues to allow the court to identify which pathway or mixture of elements is most appropriate.

The court will then, on the papers, either allocate the case to one of the two pathways set out above, or give directions as to the elements of each pathway are to apply and the particular procedure the case will follow.

Urgent applications

In all cases there is express provision for urgent applications, requiring the parties in particular to specify why the matter is urgent and any particular deadline by which the issue(s) need to be resolved as well, as well as directing compliance (insofar as possible) with any necessary pre-issue steps.

[Note: a version of this originally appeared in the March 2016 39 Essex Chambers Mental Capacity Law Newsletter. Alex as a member of the ad hoc Rules Committee has been involved in developing the Pilot. This note does not, however, represent an official comment on behalf of the Rules Committee.]

 

 

Section 49 Pilot explained

The section 49 Pilot Practice Direction has been published to come into effect in June 2016 (but unlike the Case Management Pilot Practice Direction, published for information only).  The Practice Direction applies both to orders made under s.49 MCA by the COP of its own motion and – more importantly – to orders sought by parties.  The Practice Direction is accompanied by a draft order.   It recognises, in essence, that s.49 reports are an extremely important part of the COP’s armoury when it comes to information gathering, but that they must be deployed:

  1. Carefully, so as to ensure that they are targeted to public bodies actually able to provide useful information;
  2.  With suitable thought and preparation on the basis that, to be effective, they are best approached as if they were expert reports.

An important innovation is the requirement, where possible, for a party seeking a s.49 report from a NHS body or local authority to have made contact prior to the application being heard by the court to identify an appropriate person (“a senior officer”) able to receive the order, and to have discussed with the body the reasonableness and time scales for providing the report.   Although it does not prescribe when a court will and will not order one, the Practice Direction set out (at paragraph 3) common factors that the court may consider when deciding whether to order a s.49 report, including:

  • where P objects to the substantive application or wishes to be heard by the court and does not qualify for legal aid;
  • where it has not been possible to appoint a litigation friend or [under the new numbering] rule 1.2 representative, including where the court has made a direction under rule 1.2(5);
  • where a party is a litigant in person and does not qualify for legal aid;
  • where the public body has recent knowledge of P; or it is reasonably expected that they have recent knowledge of P; or should have knowledge due to their statutory responsibilities under housing, social and/or health care legislation;
  • the role of the public body is likely to be relevant to the decisions which the court will be asked to make;
  • the application relates to an attorney or deputy and involves the exercise of the functions of the Public Guardian; and
  • evidence before the court does not adequately confirm the position regarding P’s capacity or where it is borderline; or if information is required to inform any best interests decision to be made in relation to P by the court.
  • An unofficial draft version of the template s.49 order in Word form is to be found here.

[Note: a version of this originally appeared in the March 2016 39 Essex Chambers Mental Capacity Law Newsletter.  Alex as a member of the ad hoc Rules Committee has been involved in developing the Pilot. This note does not, however, represent an official comment on behalf of the Rules Committee.]

 

When to find facts?

The President of the Court of Protection Sir James Munby has handed down judgment in an appeal against an order of HHJ Rogers, in the case of AG.

AG had a moderate learning disability and autistic spectrum disorder.  She was removed from her home, where she held a tenancy, on 16 November 2011 in the context of a breakdown of care arrangements.  AG was supported by a package of care and the removal was preceded by allegations and counter-allegations by DG, AG’s mother and the care staff.   She was placed in residential care and an authorisation under schedule A1 MCA 2005 was granted.  on 24 November an application to the Court of Protection was made.

On 2 November 2012 HHJ Rogers approved the local authority’s plan which was to move AG from residential into semi-supported accommodation and by the time of the final hearing on 3 September 2013 AG had moved into a supported placement.  The final order followed a contested hearing with evidence from the independent social worker, DG and the allocated social worker.

The final order named the local authority as the decision-maker in respect of AG’s contact with her family, approved the proposed plan for AG’s supervised contact with DG to be increased and the level of supervision decreased, granted the local authority the power to enter and terminate a tenancy on AG’s behalf and made declarations as to AG’s capacity and best interests.  It was in AG’s best interests to reside in her current accommodation or “such other accommodation as may be identified by the local authority”, to receive a care package in accordance with her assessed needs and to have contact with her family in accordance with her wishes and feelings and the local authority’s contact plan.

DG appealed on four grounds all of which failed.   Perhaps the most significant for practitioners is the second ground- the complaint that the judge failed to make findings of fact.

DG’s position will resonate with many family members in Court of Protection proceedings where there is a background of allegations, which may or may not have been the subject of conclusions in safeguarding procedures, but which are never determined by the court.

DG argued that in the absence of a fact-finding procedure violated her rights under Article 8 ECHR.  The President’s conclusions are set out below:

  1. Further, it is said by Mr Dixon that, in failing to make findings of fact, Judge Rogers was wrong in law given: (i) the obligation under section 4(2) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to consider all the relevant circumstances; (ii) the presence in this case of what are said to be a multitude of factors recognised in law as justifying the need for a fact finding hearing; (iii) the fact that the issue of contact was, it is said, inextricably linked with the allegations of abuse; (iv) the inconsistency of the local authority’s stance – professing to have no need for a fact finding hearing yet relying upon the allegations; and (v) that the failure to make such findings amounted to a procedural violation of Article 8. DG, it is said, was entitled to a hearing at which she could seek to be exonerated.
  2. In support of contention (ii), Mr Dixon placed reliance on the decisions of McFarlane J in A County Council v DP, RS, BS (By the Children’s Guardian) [2005] EWHC 1593 (Fam), [2005] 2 FLR 1031, para 24, and in Re W (Care Proceedings) [2008] EWHC 1118 (Fam), [2010] 1 FLR 1176, para 72, and the decision of Cobb J in LBX v TT (By the Official Solicitor as her Litigation Friend), MJ, WT, LT [2014] EWCOP 24, paras 49-50.

 

24. In the first of these cases, McFarlane J, as he then was, had to consider whether to direct a fact finding hearing in the context of care proceedings where by that stage no party was seeking any public law order. He identified the relevant authorities before summarising matters thus (para 24):

“The authorities make it plain that, amongst other factors, the following are likely to be relevant and need to be borne in mind before deciding whether or not to conduct a particular fact finding exercise:

(a) the interests of the child (which are relevant but not paramount);

  1. (b)  the time that the investigation will take;
  2. (c)  the likely cost to public funds;
  3. (d)  the evidential result;
  4. (e)  the necessity or otherwise of the investigation;
  5. (f)  the relevance of the potential result of the investigation

to the future care plans for the child;

(g) the impact of any fact finding process upon the other parties;

  1. (h)  the prospects of a fair trial on the issue;
  2. (i)  the justice of the case.”
  1. Proper application of these principles in the circumstances of the present case – and those circumstances were carefully analysed by reference to each of the factors identified by McFarlane J – clearly pointed, Mr Dixon says, to the need for a fact finding hearing. The argument was further bolstered by what the same judge had said in Re W (para 72):“It is important that the planning in the future for these children … is based upon as correct a view of what happened to R as possible. It is not in the children’s interests, or in the interests of justice, or in the interests of the two adults, for the finding to be based on an erroneous basis. It is also in the interests of all of the children that are before this court for the mother’s role to be fully understood and investigated.”
  2. Furthermore, as Mr Dixon pointed out, in LBX Cobb J accepted the submission (see paras 39, 49) that, suitably modified, these principles could be appropriately transported from the Family Division to the Court of Protection as providing a useful framework of issues to consider in relation to the necessity of fact finding in the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection.

 

  1. In support of contention (v), Mr Dixon prays in aid McMichael v United Kingdom (1995) 20 EHRR 205, paras 87, 91, and R (B) v Crown Court at Stafford [2006] EWHC 1645 (Admin), [2007] 1 WLR 1524, para 23. In the latter case, May LJ said this:“… the court will have regard to the decision-making process to determine whether it has been conducted in a manner that, in all the circumstances, is fair and affords due respect to the interests protected by article 8. The process must be such as to secure that the views of those whose rights are in issue are made known and duly taken account of. What has to be determined is whether, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case and notably the serious nature of the decisions to be taken, the person whose rights are in issue has been involved in the decision making process, seen as a whole, to a degree sufficient to provide them with the requisite protection of their interests. If they have not, there will be a failure to respect their family life and privacy and the interference resulting from the decision will not be capable of being regarded as “necessary” within the meaning of article 8.”
  2. In answer to this, the local authority and the Official Solicitor make common cause. Their arguments contain five essential strands.
  3. First, as Ms Khalique points out, by reference to the decision of Wall J, as he then was, in Re S (Adult’s Lack of Capacity: Care and Residence) [2003] EWHC 1909 (Fam), [2003] 2 FLR 1235, para 13, it is important to remember that, unlike in the case of care proceedings in relation to a child, there is no requirement to establish ‘threshold’ in the case of proceedings in relation to an adult, whether the proceedings are brought in the High Court under the inherent jurisdiction or, as here, in the Court of Protection.
  4. Wall J went on to point out (para 15) that the absence of any threshold criteria equivalent to those contained in section 31 of the Children Act 1989, “raises the question as to the extent to which (if at all) it is necessary, for the purposes of exercising the jurisdiction and deciding which course of action is in the best interests of S, to make findings of fact relating in particular to disputed historical issues.” His answer was as follows (paras 18, 21):

“18 … I agree that there must be good reason for local authority intervention in a case such as the present. Equally, if there are disputed issues of fact which go to the question of Mr S’s capacity and suitability to care for S, the court may need to resolve them if their resolution is necessary to the decision as to what is in S’s best interests. Findings of fact against Mr S on the two issues identified in para [16] would plainly reflect upon his capacity properly to care for S. But it does not follow, in my judgment, that the proceedings must be dismissed simply because the factual basis upon which the local authority instituted them turns out to be mistaken, or because it cannot be established on the balance of probabilities. What matters (assuming always that mental incapacity is made out) is which outcome will be in S’s best interests. There will plainly be cases which are very fact specific. There will be others in which the principal concern is the future, and the relative suitability of the plans which each party can put forward for both the short and long-term care of the mentally incapable adult. The instant case, in my judgment, is one of the cases in the latter category.

21 Whilst I acknowledge that in a relatively untried jurisdiction there are dangers in too relaxed an approach to historical issues, I am unable to accept the proposition that the approach to best interests is fettered in any way beyond that which applies to any judicial decision, namely that it has to be evidence based; that it excludes irrelevant material; and that it includes a consideration of all relevant material. In a field as complex as care for the mentally disabled, a high degree of pragmatism seems to me inevitable. But in each case it seems to me that the four essential building blocks are the same. First, is mental incapacity established? Secondly, is there a serious, justiciable issue relating to welfare? Thirdly, what is it? Fourthly, with the welfare of the incapable adult as the court’s paramount consideration, what are the balance sheet factors which must be drawn up to decide which course of action is in his or her best interests?”

31.   I respectfully agree with that analysis.

 

  1. Accordingly, it is submitted, the analyses of McFarlane J and Cobb J relied upon by Mr Dixon, have to be read in the context of the overarching principles articulated by Wall J, which, it is submitted, fully justified the approach adopted by Judge Rogers in the present case. I agree.
  2. Secondly, as both Ms Lattimer and Ms Khalique emphasise, Judge Rogers was careful to spell out, and accurately, both in the order of 23 July 2012 and in the passage from his judgment of 2 November 2012 which I have set out in paragraph 19 above, the legal consequences of there having been no fact finding hearing. It is worth repeating, and emphasising, part of what he said:“I bear in mind, however, that those allegations … are strongly denied by DG and, applying a normal approach to the forensic fact finding enquiry, in the absence of the specific findings. I do not hold them in the background as it were by way of a suspicion lurking over DG.”Moreover, there is, they say, nothing whatever to show that this was not in fact the approach adopted by Judge Rogers, both in November 2012 and subsequently in September 2013. Again, I agree.
  1. Thirdly, as Ms Lattimer correctly observes, the decision of Judge Rogers not to have a fact finding hearing must be viewed in context – a context in which, not least in the light of DG’s own stated position, matters had by July 2012 moved on significantly since November 2011. As Ms Khalique puts it, although the proceedings had been issued against the background of the safeguarding concerns arising out of the various allegations, matters had progressed and the court was faced with a different landscape. Judge Rogers correctly recognised that he was looking at the present position and looking to the future. Given how matters then stood, the degree of enquiry undertaken by Judge Rogers during the hearing in October / November 2012 was, says Ms Lattimer, entirely sufficient to inform the decisions in respect of future planning for AG that the court was tasked with making. A lengthy and costly finding of fact hearing would, she submits, have been entirely disproportionate. I agree.
  2. Fourthly, there is, Ms Lattimer submits, and I agree, nothing to suggest that Mr M’s analyses and recommendations were adversely influenced by the allegations.
  3. Finally, as both Ms Lattimer and Ms Khalique point out, DG never sought to challenge on appeal either the order of 23 July 2013 or the order of 2 November 2012. It is far too late to be taking the point now.
  4. In my judgment, Judge Rogers was fully entitled to proceed as he did and for the reasons he gave. I accept Ms Lattimer and Ms Khalique’s submissions.
  5. This ground of appeal fails.

The President rejected DG’s argument that by the time of the final hearing AG’s residence was a fait accompli.  He further rejected the argument that the contact arrangements breached DG’s Article 8 rights, and commented that the judge’s measured findings on this issue were founded in the evidence before him and demonstrated that he had put aside the unresolved allegations against DG.  The President found that DJ Rogers had been appropriately sensitive to balancing AG’s needs and wishes against her mother’s understandable wish to increase contact with her daughter.

He concluded with an important final observation

  1. Ms Khalique submits, and I am inclined to agree, that the local authority acted unlawfully in removing AG from OG in November 2011 and placing her at HH without having first obtained judicial sanction. Local authorities must seek and obtain appropriate judicial authority before moving an incapacitous adult from their home into other accommodation. Local authorities do not themselves have power to do this.

Comment:

This is a clear judgment which builds on the comments made in LBX v TT. The President’s conclusions are not surprising in light of the authorities.  His underlining of the distinction between COP cases and care cases- where there is a threshold- may lead to fewer cases in the COP sphere involving fact-finding hearings.  It is hard however not to sympathise with the desire of those like DG to be able to clear their name in these cases.

The clear statement that local authorities “do not have the power” to remove an incapacitous adult from “their home into other accommodation” is important and may raise the question as to when somewhere becomes “home” for an adult lacking capacity.

Transparency Pilot Going Live!

This important pilot will start in early 2016.  The majority of hearings will be heard in public, with steps taken to preserve the anonymity of P and P’s family.

 

The link below gives details as to the pilot with links to the new Practice Directions and precedent orders:

https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/announcements/court-of-protection-to-test-increased-access-for-public-and-media/

Practitioners will need to ensure their clients are aware of these changes.  The criteria against which the success of this pilot will be assessed will be important as will the methods used to assess it.  We will provide more information as soon as we are able.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 49 reports – the thorny issues

Summary

Somewhat surprisingly, the question of the responsibility of NHS bodies/local authorities to provide s.49 MCA reports at no cost to the parties has not been the subject of a reported judgment until now (although I am aware of both unreported judgments and observations expressed by judges in the course of hearings).     In RS v LCC & Ors [2015] EWCOP 56, District Judge Bellamy has now stepped into the breach, although, as he noted, the difficult questions arising the provision of s.49 reports and their consequences for public bodies may ultimately have to be considered elsewhere.

The detailed facts of the case are not relevant. Suffice it to say to say that, during the course of a s.21A application, the court required a s.49 report to be provided by the mental health Trust responsible for P, addressing her capacity “as the gateway to the jurisdiction of the court.”   The relevant NHS Trust declined to provide the report, both on the basis that it was impossible to provide it, and – more fundamentally – that it was inappropriate for the evidence sought to be provided by way of an order under s.49.    The Trust’s objections were both specific to the nature of the evidence sought and more generally directed to the application of s.49 in respect of individuals for whom they already had a clinical responsibility.   The Trust advanced 10 reasons to support their view that it was inappropriate for the required evidence to be obtained by way of Section 49.    As District Judge Bellamy then addressed each of these reasons in turn, it is convenient to set out each of the objections together with his conclusions on each point in turn:

(1)  The Trust has no clinical involvement or knowledge of P (other than the information contained in the applicant’s enclosed letter). P is not a patient under the Mental Health Services of the Trust.

Conclusion: While I note the argument there is no such distinction [i.e. between patients and non-patients] drawn within the powers given in Section 49 and the accompanying Rules or Practice Direction. In my view it would be wrong for the court to undertake such distinction either in the preparation of its orders generally or in this order in particular.

There appears to be a clear dispute on capacity the outcome of which may have a significant impact on P’s future care and welfare. Such a dispute should properly be resolved by way of a jointly instructed independent court expert. It is not appropriate to seek quasi expert evidence through Section 49.

Conclusion: The dispute as to capacity has arisen following a report from a consultant psychiatrist dealing with matters pertaining to a lasting power of attorney. There is an existing assessment by a consultant psychiatrist Dr Loosmore and a very experienced social worker. A question has therefore arisen in relation to RS as to the extent or otherwise of her capacity. It is a matter well suited for determination by Section 49 which is a proportionate response as opposed to an instruction to an independent expert. Such direction would have additional funding and cost consequences particularly in the instant case where three of the parties are either publicly funded or public bodies and the fourth is privately paying albeit acting in person. Furthermore a Section 49 Report would [or should at any rate] incur significantly less delay.

(3)  A Section 49 Report is not a joint instruction and therefore can potentially leave open a dispute in the event that the evidence is not accepted by all parties. We understand that the first Respondent was not in agreement that Section 49 is appropriate.

Conclusion: A Section 49 Report is a direction of the court. If a letter of instruction cannot be agreed the court will deal with any such dispute. It was the court’s direction and not that of any specific party.

The Trust’s consultants are not court experts: they do not have the expertise in preparation of Medico Legal reports and should not be expected to do so, particularly where it is not in connection with a patient under their care.

Conclusion: The Rules and in particular the Practice Direction are clear as to the contents and format of a report. If that format is followed specific medico legal experience is not required. However, given the significant growth in the volume of work undertaken by the Court of Protection and in particular Section 21A or related challenges, it is no doubt a level of expertise that all consultant psychiatrists particularly dealing with the elderly will acquire if they have not already done so.

(5) We understand a report in the proceedings has been prepared on a private instruction by Dr Gonzalez (of the Trust). There is a potential conflict of interests in seeking a further report from a consultant of the Trust.

Conclusion: The court can see no potential conflict of interest in another consultant of the Trust preparing a report. Again the duty of the author of the report is fully set out in the Rules and Practice Direction.

(6) The request was a publicly funded body into proceedings of which it has no involvement.

Conclusion: The provisions of Section 49 are clear. There is a wide range in power to direct a report from an NHS body as the court considers appropriate. It is common for Section 49 Reports to be directed in this way.

(7) Complying with the request places a significant and disproportionate burden on limited NHS resources.

Conclusion: The court has sympathy with the effect of its order upon the Trust. However as is noted earlier no provision is made within Section 49 in relation to fees or expenses incurred by the author of the report (be it NHS body, Trust or otherwise). What the court will do is to carefully consider resources and listen to any argument from the Trust particularly in relation to the time for compliance and the scope of the work to be undertaken. That would appear to be both a reasonable and proportionate approach.

A consultant would need to cancel clinics to make time to prepare the report; putting vulnerable patients at risk.

Conclusion: While this is noted the answer to 7 would seem to cover this.

(9) There is no provision for costs of the report in order to enable the Trust to employ locum cover for the report author. The Trust is already under significant pressure to reduce its locum cover:

Conclusion:  I have already dealt with this in 7 above.

(10) Even where locum cover can be sourced this can be detrimental to patients if they are not able to see their usual consultant with whom they have built a trusting professional relationship. Consistency of care is an important factor in mental health care and should be maintained wherever possible.

Conclusion: As stated above every effort will be made to accommodate the preparation and extent of the report so as to limit wherever possible the disruption in healthcare provided by a consultant to his patients.

District Judge Bellamy therefore declined to vary or alter the principle behind the original order directing the s.49 report, although he noted that: “it must be right that compliance with any order is subject to reasonable adjustment on application by the Trust in relation to the scope and extent of any report ordered and the time for compliance. However such applications must be made promptly and supported by evidence on behalf of the Trust or NHS body.”

Comment

On the very specific facts of this case, an immediate question comes to my mind as to why District Judge Bellamy did not seek a report (under s.49) from a Special Visitor.   If the issue to be addressed was that of P’s capacity, and the court felt that it needed independent expertise in order, the obvious route to obtain that evidence is undoubtedly that provided for by the Special Visitor route.   There may well have been reasons not apparent on the face of the judgment why such a course was not open to him, and, if so, then the course adopted would appear to have been both proportionate and reasonable.  The conclusion that a public body cannot seek to recoup the costs of preparation of such a report is also undoubtedly correct.

The case, though, does raise a wider point about the importance of s.49 reports that may be at risk of being lost in the (understandable) concerns expressed by public bodies as to the time and resources that may be required where they are directed to provide such reports.   The Court of Protection is a strange beast. It is regularly said to be inquisitorial in its jurisdiction: see, e.g. Re G [2014] EWCOP 1361 at paragraph 26. However, by comparison with the Family Division/Family Court, which is also said to discharge an inquisitorial jurisdiction, the Court is strangely underpowered – there is, in particular, no equivalent to a children’s guardian (whether a consequence is that the role of litigation friend in the COP is being distorted is something I am working on at present).   If COP judges are to be put in a position where they are able properly to assess the questions of P’s capacity and best interests, it is crucial that they are, themselves, able to identify and call for such evidence as they see fit.  Section 49 is therefore vital, both as regards the ability to call for reports from (Special) Visitors and for evidence from NHS bodies/local authorities.   There is undoubtedly a price to be paid in consequence by such bodies, but, societally, it is a small one to pay for the proper determination of such cases.

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.

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.

New Practice Directions now out

In advance of the COP Rule changes coming into force on 1 July, we have updated the legislative materials page of the Handbook website to give you the updated (or new) Practice Directions.   We will be providing updates to the book on the website pending further rules changes being made (hopefully) later this year and a second edition next year.

New COP forms – samples now available

Samples of the new COP forms which will take effect on 1 July are now available here.

The annexes that will be required are as follows:

 Deputy, proposed deputy or other:
 Appointment of deputy for property and affairs COP1A
Property and affairs (where deputy not required) COP1A
Appointment of deputy for personal welfare COP1B
Personal welfare order (where deputy not required) COP1B
Application relating to a statutory will, codicil, gift(s), deed of variation or other settlement of property COP1C
Application relating to the appointment or discharge of a trustee COP1D and COP12
Application by existing deputy COP1E
Other applications COP24
 Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPA) or Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA):
Question of validity or operation of an EPA/LPA COP1F
Application relating to a statutory will, codicil, gift(s), deed of variation or other settlement of property COP1C
Application relating to the appointment or discharge of a trustee COP1D and COP12
Application by existing attorney COP1E
Other applications COP24

We will provide links to the ‘live’ forms as soon as they are ready.