Can a family member or care worker be appointed as a Representative or Litigation Friend if they are partly responsible for constituting a Deprivation of Liberty?

SCC v MSA & Another (2017) EWCOP 18

This case looked at the issues of where a Protected Party’s mother should act as his Rule 3A representative, in light of the fact that she was the person responsible for implementing a restrictive care regime that constituted a deprivation of liberty.

Background

The SCCG commissioned a care package to MSA who was a young adult with severe learning disabilities and was deprived of his liberty at his family home. The Court had previously authorised that it was in MSA’s best interests to reside at home and receive the  care package. MSA was recorded as;

“unable to communicate or mobilise independently, is frequently strapped into his wheelchair, is kept for some of the time in a padded room at his home with a closed door that he cannot open, is highly resistive to personal care interventions so that physical restraint is required, and does not have external carers in the home.”

The issue that arose during the proceedings, was whether MSA’s mother, JA could or should act as his 3A Representative. The Official Solicitor (OS) submitted at a hearing on 23 March 2017, that it would be inappropriate for MSA’s representative in these proceedings and any future proceedings to be the person responsible for implementing a restrictive care regime that constituted a deprivation of liberty, where the arrangements surpassed 24 hour supervision.

Written submissions were filed by both parties and the Court agreed to consider the appropriateness of JA acting as his litigation friend. It is worth noting here, that JA did not wish to be appointed, the OS had raised the issue and guidance on the matter was sought.

Court of Protection Rules 2007

Rule 3A, requires the Court to consider in each case how best to ensure the Protected Party’s participation in proceedings was assured.

Rule 3A(2)(c) ” P’s participation should be secured by the appointment of a representative whose function shall provide the Court with information as to the matters set out in s4(6) of the Act and discharge functions as the Court may direct.

Rule 147 states “A person may act as an accredited legal representative or representative for P, if that person can fairly and competently discharge his or her functions on behalf of P.”

Rule 148B provides the Court with the power to prevent a person from acting  or terminate an appointment of a person as a litigation friend

Rule 140(1) states that a person may act as a litigation friend for P if that person,

  1. A) fairly and competently conduct proceedings on behalf of that person, and
  2. B) has no interests adverse to those of that person

The OS stated that it would not be appropriate to appoint a family member who who supported the deprivation of the Protected Party’s liberty as being in his best interests, as it would be difficult for them to challenge the deprivation due to a conflict of interest. Especially in this case, as the Protected Party was locked in a padded room at times and had to be physically restrained in a wheelchair.

The CCG argued that JA could undertake the role as she was engaged with statutory services and care providers and had a history of acting as the Protected Party’s advocate. They also stated, that there was no rule which prohibited a family member from acting.

District Judge Bellamy stated the following would need to be considered;

  1. a) Whether or not a family member or friend who is responsible in part for implementing a restrictive care arrangement is appropriate to be representative or litigation friend is fact and case specific
  2. b)The Court will have close regard to the relationship between the family member and the Protected Party
  3. c)The conduct, if any of the family member and any available evidence that he or she has acted otherwise in accordance with Rule 140(1) or Rule 147
  4. d)The Court must consider the nature of the restrictive care package and the role that the family member would play in the regime

An agreement with the OS in terms of where a family member is responsible for providing care that includes restrictive physical interventions, the Court should take great care in exercising its discretion as regard to the Protected Party’s representation in proceedings pursuant to Rule 3A. However, it would go no further than that and if a family member who was so involved put themselves forward to act as a representative or litigation friend, providing that all circumstances were scrutinised, there could be no blanket objection in principle, to undertake the role.

The Court must be satisfied that the representative can,

1.i) Elicit P’s wishes and feelings in accordance with s4(6) of the MCA known to the Court without causing any unnecessary distress to the Protected Party

2. ii) Critically examine from the Protected Party’s perspective their best interests, the pros and cons of the care package and whether it was the least restrictive option

3.iii) Review the implementation of the care package

Therefore, it was determined that providing the Protected Party’s Rights under Article 5 were adequately protected and the Court were satisfied, the role could be undertaken by a family member. In my opinion, this appears reasonable, as the family member may actually be the best person to represent the Protected Party as they have a personal connection and will more often than not understand from the Protected Party’s point of view as to what would be in their best interests.

In this case, as JA did not want to act as litigation friend, the OS would continue with the appointment.

If you require any further information, please contact; Danielle.walker@clarionsolicitors.com

 

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