Fluctuating capacity and how to address future uncertainties of care planning in a section 21A appeal

By Emma Sutton (instructed on behalf of MB) and Rebecca Evan-Williams (CJCH Solicitors). Re-post of article from No5 Barristers Chambers.

31 January 2018

Background

The court had before it an application brought on behalf of MB pursuant to section 21A of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘the Act’) by his RPR, Mrs Claire Reid, to challenge a standard authorisation made in accordance with schedule A1 of that Act; the primary challenges being whether the mental capacity and best interests qualifying requirements were met. So far, so good.

MB had resided in a care home since 2008 and had a diagnosis of moderate learning disability, autism spectrum disorder and complex epilepsy and as a consequence of his diagnoses, required close supervision of daily living and prompting from his carers.

Due to the complexities of MB’s presentation, a number of expert reports were necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings and a position was reached whereby the capacity evidence prepared by Dr Michael Layton (Consultant Psychiatrist) and Dr Lisa Rippon (Consultant Developmental Psychiatrist), and their jointly prepared statement, was accepted by the parties. The expert evidence unanimously concluded that MB had the capacity to make decisions regarding his residence and care needs, but lacked the capacity to conduct the proceedings.

By reason of the above, the court accepted that it had no jurisdiction to make best interest decisions regarding MB’s residence and care; notwithstanding his requests to leave his care home and move to alternative accommodation. The court determined (per section 21A(2)(a) and section 21A(3)(a) of the Act) that MB did not meet all of the necessary qualifying requirements in order for a standard authorisation to be in place (the mental capacity qualifying requirement not being met), and on such basis, the standard authorisaation was terminated with immediate effect.

Comment

Mrs Reid, as MB’s litigation friend, fully recognised that MB would (as a consequence of the expert evidence) effectively be removed from the procedural safeguards contained in schedule A1 of the Act. Her status as RPR would also end upon the termination of the standard authorisation.

Although his ‘appeal’ had been successful, careful consideration had to be given prior to the final hearing as to whether the case fell into the ambit where ‘contingent’ capacity decisions were appropriate. The Court of Protection Practice helpfully provides a template order [see pages 2362-2364 of the 2017 edition] for such circumstances and this was brought to the courts attention. However, on the facts of this particular case, it was accepted that there was no identifiable external trigger which would ‘cause’ a loss of capacity – for example, another person who unduly influences P, P resorting to alcohol use, capacity being dependent on a continuance of training/ advice etc.

Instead, MB’s fluctuation of capacity was intrinsically linked to his own inherent complex functioning and could not be put into a prescribed ‘box’ of when he would and wouldn’t have the ability to make capacitous decisions. In this regard, the experts said this:

Both Dr Rippon and Dr Leighton agreed that MB’s capacity could fluctuate during times of seizure activity but also when his level of anxiety rises and he becomes distressed because of environmental triggers. It was Dr Leighton’s view that these periods could last for several days and he gave the example of the time that MB had become angry with his RPR and had refused to see her for a week. However, what is less clear is whether his capacity was affected over the whole of this period. Therefore, although both doctors agreed that MB’s capacity had fluctuated, what is less certain is how long these periods could last(my emphasis)

As MB’s care plan had (for the past 10 years) met his complex needs, and due to the lack of specificity regarding whether and if so, for how long, seizure activity could potentially impact on his decision making, it was not considered appropriate for further exploration to be given to this issue – particularly as the ongoing nature of the proceedings was having an impact on MB.

A further point that required consideration was whether the appointment of an independent advocate (within the meaning of section 67 of the Care Act 2014) to represent and support MB for the purpose of any future needs assessment and the preparation of a care and support plan (etc) was necessary.

This was raised on behalf of MB which HHJ Parry addresses in her Judgment (with reference to the Care and Support (Independent Advocacy Support) (Number 2) Regulations 2014) and emphasised that the order would record ‘the Local Authority’s willingness and indeed, in my view, obligation to consider this ongoing additional support for MB in the decisions that he will now be making on his own behalf’.

Although set out in a recital (which is positive for reference as to the ‘reasonableness’ of future actions) this ultimately relates to a primary issue that the powers of the court do not extend to decisions compelling parties to provide services for P (N (Appellant) v ACCG and others (Respondents) [2017] UKSC 22, Baroness Hale, paragraph 29).

 

 

Emma Sutton was instructed by Rebecca Evan-Williams and Amy Rees-Roberts (Partner) of CJCH Solicitors (Cardiff) on behalf of MB

Claire Reid is a professional RPR and Project Lead for Training in Mind

Landlord and tenant issues: How long are you willing to wait to recover possession of your property?

By Nerys Thomas.

Generation rent (generation of young people living in rented accommodation with little immediate chance of becoming home owners due to the high cost of property) is an ever-increasing reality within the UK.  Whilst this is good news for landlords, whether they have one rental property to their name or those with large property portfolios, being a landlord can at times be compared to a costly roller coaster experience, especially when attempting to recover possession of your property.

Fundamentally, no landlord can recover possession of their property without the tenant providing vacant possession or the court ordering for the tenant to vacate.  If the tenant does not leave the property following a court order being obtained, landlords must then apply for a court approved bailiff to undertake an eviction.  All of which can become an expensive and time-consuming situation, where the landlord is usually already aggrieved e.g. unpaid rent.        

The Ministry of Justice published statistics in November 2017 surrounding landlord possession proceedings.  It is pleasing to note from this publication that the actual number of possession claims directed to court are slowly reducing, but those claims which are directed to court have seen the time frames for the matters being addressed marginally increasing.  On average, the Ministry of Justice inform us that it could take 11.4 weeks from the filing of a claim at court to getting a possession order.  This means that if your tenant has fallen into rent arrears and you have served the appropriate notice it will take, on average, just shy of three months from filing your claim at court to the matter being considered by a Judge.  That would potentially be three further months where rent is not being paid.

It is detailed in the Ministry of Justice report that it will take on average 41.2 weeks from the date of issuing a claim at court for possession to actually recovering possession, should a tenant fail to adhere to the court order requiring that he/she vacates, and a court approved bailiff is employed to undertake an eviction.  Once again, if the reason for pursuing possession is rent arrears, this time frame is likely to result in an eye-watering debt owed to the landlord.     

Please note that the Ministry of Justice statistics have been collated across England and Wales, therefore the true situation in your local court may vary depending on the court’s workload.  Nevertheless, the figures are a clear warning for landlords to try and protect themselves where possible.

At CJCH Solicitors, we have the experience and knowledge of providing an all-encompassing service in relation to landlord and tenant matters, whether this is to safeguard the landlord prior to entering into a rental agreement; when disputes have arisen or to recover possession and/or rent arrears through the court process.  Should you wish to discuss your situation further or seek assistance with a dispute, contact Nerys Thomas at disputeresolution@cjch.co.uk or by telephone on 0333 231 6405.

Compliance without borders

CJCH Solicitors is a law firm based in Cardiff, United Kingdom. The firm has grown substantially through a combination of a focused expansion strategy and key merger and acquisition projects. With collective legal experience spanning over 34 years, CJCH Solicitors is focused on dedicated solution development for both corporate and private clients.

The firm has developed a standalone Anti-Piracy and Compliance offering, which is coordinated by its team of experienced solicitors and compliance and research professionals. Compliance is no longer a tick-box function of corporate governance. Rather CJCH sees Anti-Piracy and Compliance as a dynamic element of the modern, digitally-aware organisation both in the UK and globally.

At CJCH we are committed to perfecting our compliance solutions to ensure that no client’s software or intellectual property is utilised without licence. We have grown our sphere of knowledge sharing and best practice development. Having recently hosted Attorneys from a leading American Law firm, our CEO and head of Anti-Piracy and Compliance embarked on a tour of partner firms in the Nordic and Baltic regions to share our compliance processes and learn from their local experiences.

The tour included visits with Njord Law in Copenhagen, a prominent Scandinavian law firm, as well as Sorainen in Latvia which was voted Baltic Law firm of the year for 2016.

(L to R) Stephen Clarke – CEO of CJCH Solicitors; Frederik Lindboe Refsgaard – Legal Assistant at Njord Law; Emma Whitehead – Dassault Systemes Lead Investigator, Baltic Region; Jeppe Brogaard Clausen – Partner at Njord Law.

(L to R) Steve Rees – CJCH Compliance and Enforcement Team Manager; Stephen Clarke – CEO of CJCH Solicitors; Agris Repass – Head of Intellectual Property of Sorainen in Latvia; Emma Whitehead – Dassault Systemes Lead Investigator, Baltic Region. Our objective in Latvia was to discuss our IP enforcement policies for the Baltics and in particular increased use of court procedures and raids on premises where businesses are using illegal software.

As illegal usage and piracy of our clients’ software continues to expand globally, so too does our focus on enforcing Anti-Piracy and Compliance on an international scale. The increased use of court authorised raids in particular has proved very helpful, playing a major part in increasing our recovery rate by over 50% in the recent year from €11.8 Million in 2015 to €18.6 Million in 2016.

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