Levels of contact in Court of Protection cases – what is reasonable?

The Case of Trudy Samler 2001 considers the level of costs incurred regarding contact and whether this is reasonable. The case looks into whether these costs are instigated by the Protected Party and whether the Deputy should be expected to be paid for them. Master O’Hare advised that part of the Deputy’s duty is to prevent such expenses being incurred as it is their responsibility to look after the Protected Party’s financial affairs. The Office of the Public Guardian and the Senior Court Costs Office advise that only one home visit per year is reasonable in routine general management costs unless there is reasonable justification for more attendances. Deputies should be prepared to give reason if several attendances have occurred during one management period.

The case concerned a young lady who suffered severe brain injuries who was subsequently awarded substantial damages. A professional Deputy was appointed by the Court to manager her property and financial affairs. The Deputy’s bill of costs was lodged on October 2000 and provisionally assessed by Costs Officer Edwards on 21 November 2000. By way of a letter dated January 2001, the Deputy did not accept the provisional assessment and set out in numbered paragraphs the reasons relied on in support of the restoration of the costs, which had been disallowed on assessment. On 13 February 2001, a hearing took place and some of the reasonable costs were restored. However, the Deputy still felt that some of the other items disallowed could be justified and restored and so by way of a letter dated 23 February 2001, sought the guidance of Mr R Stone at the Public Trust Office.

The letter included five questions to be referred to the Master of the Court of Protection. The appeal related to work done by the Deputy in relation to three interviews with the Protected Party and four meetings at St Andrews Hospital. An allowance had been made for two meetings, which in total were equal to four hours. At the hearing, the Deputy gave background to the matter and explained some of the attendance notes of the meetings that were in question.

The five numbered questions are set out below:

  1. Can the Deputy be paid for speaking to both carers and case managers to talk about the care and rehabilitation regime and the Protected Party’s well being and needs, assuming that the time spent is not excessive?

Master O’Hare advised that in his view, the Deputy can be paid if the issues discussed are substantial, if there is no alternate person to speak for the Protected Party and if the Protected Party’s estate is large enough to justify such expense.

  • Can the Deputy be paid for all contact with the Protected Party instigated by the Protected Party irrespective of the matters being raised?

Master O’Hare advised that his answer would be no. He confirmed that the Deputy should strive to minimise and avoid necessary expense. Master O’Hare further confirmed that he accepts that each case depends on its own circumstances.

  • Can the Deputy be paid for discussions with the family about the care requirements, existing care regimes, possibility for changes in the future?

Master O’Hare confirmed that the answer he gave to question one seemed to be appropriate for this question.

  • Can the Deputy be paid for discussions with the Protected Party, family, carers and case managers where there are difficulties with the care regime if the Deputy believes that the current regime is in the Protected Party’s best interests or would be subject to proper amendment?

Master O’Hare advised that his answer to question one and 3 apply equally here.

  • Can the Deputy be paid for quarterly visits to the Protected Party to deal with reporting on budgeting, asset performance, income and expenditure?

Master O’Hare advised that the practice for many years has been that it is easy for a Deputy to justify one visit to the Protected Party each year but that each succeeding visit must be separately justified. He also confirmed that the questions that usually arise in respect of this are:

  • Could the subject matter of the later visit have been dealt with at the earlier one, or postponed to a later one?
  • Could the progress made by the meeting have been achieved more economically by way of a telephone call or correspondence?
  • Was the Protected Party and his or her family if any (meaning here any adult relatives with whom he or she resides or in whose care he or she is) warned that the costs of such meeting and the costs of time spent travelling and travel expenses, will all be charged?
  • If the meeting involves time spent travelling by the Deputy, could this travel have been arranged so that the cost of it could be apportioned with other cases handled by the Deputy?

Master O’Hare advised that each case depends on its circumstances and with some Protected Party’s, the number of visits in the early months might be higher than the number of visits once a reasonable pattern has been established.

Electronic Filing – Court of Protection Cases

As of today, the pilot begins for voluntary electronic filing at the Senior Courts Costs Office. To request an assessment, the bill of costs, the N258B and the authority to assess are to be forwarded through e-filing. The papers are to be sent as normal in the post/DX for the current time. This process becomes mandatory on 20 January 2020.

This is a big change in costs and particularly regarding COP costs, whereby it was expected that electronic filing would not apply. We have had confirmation from the SCCO that this does apply to COP cases and we recommend that all practitioners begin doing this going forward before the process becomes mandatory.

 The portal link can be found here: https://efile.cefile-app.com/login

 Information about existing FAQ’s following the E-Filing in other Courts can be found here: https://leedslawsociety.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/E-Filing-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

The link to the government website regarding CE-Filing which includes step by step guides can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-file-system-information-and-support-advice

 If you have any queries, please contact Stephanie Kaye on 0113 336 3402 or stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com

 

 

Court of Protection Court Fees: An Update

In order to have a bill of costs assessed, it is necessary to pay a Court Fee to the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO). Depending on the type of the bill, the fee amount varies. Currently, within the Court of Protection, the cost to have a bill assessed is £225 for a detailed bill and £115 for a short form bill of costs. A short form bill is a bill with profit costs up to £3,000 and a detailed bill of costs is a bill with profit costs above £3,000.

From the 22nd July 2019, these fees are due to change. By way of The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019 there is due to be a reduction to the Court Fees due to have a bill of costs assessed. S4 (3)(a) of the Act states that the fee for filing a bill of costs to be assessed will be £85.00. This is dramatic change within the rules and something that will affect all professional Deputies who wish to have their bill of costs assessed, making it cheaper to do so.

The most significant aspect of the Act is that going forward, there will be no distinction between fees for filing short form and detailed bills of costs. As stated, this will be taking place from the 22nd July 2019 and so all professional Deputies should be aware of this when sending any bills to the SCCO to be assessed on or after this date.

There will also be changes made to application, appeal and hearing fees for all Court of Protection matters. These can be found in s3 The Court Fees (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019.

 

What Costs Are Reasonable for a Deputy? JR v Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides an explanation.

At a glance, the costs of a professional Deputy may seem expensive. However, the level of knowledge and work undertaken by a Deputy justifies these costs, especially in a case where the award was of substantial value. Once broken down, the costs of a Deputy are reasonable and can be justified.

Case summary

The Protected Party is a 24-year old with severe cerebral palsy. He suffered intracranial haemorrhage and brain injury following a traumatic premature birth and during a breech delivery. His litigation friend brought a clinical negligence claim on his behalf, arguing that the Protected Party’s injuries could have been avoided by a caesarean delivery. The Defendant accepted liability as the brain injury could have been avoided.

At the settlement hearing, some heads of loss had been agreed, but the costs of the professional deputy remained in dispute.

All parties accepted that the Protected Party lacked capacity to look after his own financial affairs, and predicted that this would be the case for the remainder of his life time. Therefore, a Professional Deputy was to be appointed; the cost of which continued to be argued.

It was deemed that although the Protected Party’s parents were supportive, it was not appropriate for them to administrate the Protected Party’s financial and property affairs. They had stated that they wanted to work alongside the Deputy, not against them. The Protected Party had some level of understanding and communication, so the Deputy was obliged to liaise directly with him.

What is considered reasonable for Deputyship costs?

For annual management

Year Claimant Costs Defendant Costs Award
1 30,605 plus cost of 2 visits 14,000 inclusive of 2 visits 30,000 inclusive of visits
2 21,492 plus cost of 2 visits 9,000 inclusive of 2 visits 20,000 inclusive of visits
3 17,040 plus cost of 1 visit 8,000 inclusive of 1 visit 15,000 inclusive of visits
4 17,040 plus cost of 1 visit 8,000 inclusive of 1 visit 15,000 inclusive of visits
5 onwards 11,232 plus cost of 1 visit 7,000 inclusive of 1 visit 10,000 inclusive of visits

The parties agreed that for extras such as transfers of Deputies, Wills, co-habitation or pre-nuptial agreements and “crisis payments”, a further £38,160.00 was reasonable.

The Judge allowed a total of £898,993.00.

This judgment can then be compared to the PNBA Facts & Figures 2017/18 (pages 258-288) whereby this outlines what could be classed as reasonable when awarding damages to cover the cost of the claimants Deputyship fees. Please refer to the table below.

Year and Expected Work to be Undertaken During the Deputyship Management Estimated Costs
Deputyship Application £6,638
1st Deputyship Year £32,570
2nd Deputyship Year £23,666
3rd Deputyship Year £19,775
Thereafter annual costs of £15,959 x 21.28 £339,607
Applications for appointment of new Deputy (x2) £7,588
Statutory Will Application £14,538
Contingency for crises £6,360
Preparation of tax returns £600 p.a x 24.28 £14,568
Winding up – single payment £1,800
 

 

Total Costs

 

 

£467,110.00

Finally, it’s noteworthy that all Deputyship costs are assessed by the Senior Courts Cost Office and the fee earners are regularly limited to the SCCO Guideline Hourly Rates whilst costs are awarded for Deputyship work, this is further scrutinised on assessment based on what is reasonable, proportionate and necessary in the Protected Party’s best interests.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Georgia Clarke or the team at COPCosts@clarionsolicitors.com

 

NB, Re (Consent to sex) [2019]- After 27 Years of marriage, did the Protected Party have capacity to marry and consent to sexual relations with her husband?

The Protected Party came to live in the UK in 1985 and married her husband in 1992. The marriage was contracted abroad. When the Protected Party first came to live in the UK she did so without her husband. There was a period in which the couple were separated whilst her husband made an application for permission to enter the UK, but in May 1996, the Protected Party travelled abroad to return to live with her husband. Following a series of applications to the Home Office throughout 1997, the couple came, eventually, to live together in London. They lived with the Protected Party’s parents and a year later their daughter was born.

The question was brought to the Court relating to the Protected Party’s capacity to marry and subsequent capacity to consent to sexual activity.

Mr Justice Hayden reviewed a letter to the Immigration Appeals department, that was brought before him by the Official Solicitor, dated March 1996, in which a clinical psychologist, Ms Suzanne Wilson, stated:

‘I believe Protected Party’s experience of her husband’s absence is stressful due to her attachment and affection towards him which has developed during their periods together. In her daily life the Protected Party consistently demonstrates her intense attachment to her husband. She often says his name with affection. She repeatedly asks where he is and pleads that he should be with her. She appears to understand the lasting nature of marriage, including that of marriage as a committed sexual bond between a man and a woman. It is my view that the Protected Party would be very unlikely to have such an affectionate attachment to her husband if this were not on a mutual basis and I therefore believe that her attachment can be taken as evidence of her husband’s positive attention and caring towards her when they are together’.

It is important to note that the Protected Party suffered from what is referred to as ‘general global learning difficulty’ and ‘an impairment’ in relation to her ability to communicate with others. She has been, at least historically, assisted using Makaton sign language and her sentences were limited.

As a result of a number of remarks the Protected Party made to her dentist, in October 2014, a safeguarding enquiry was instigated. There is no record of what it was that she said to the dentist, but it was clear that it had something to do with the quality of her relationship with her husband and it was such as to give rise to a concern that she might be vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Very quickly, an education programme was put in place focusing on sex education, relationships, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases as well as more general issues relating to Protected Party’s health.

The conclusion of the assessment was that the Protected Party was unable to demonstrate an appreciation of why people got married, separated or divorced. It was concluded that she lacked the mental capacity to marry. In respect of her capacity to consent to sexual relations it was considered that she lacked an understanding of the association between sexual intercourse and pregnancy. Inevitably, it followed, that she could not link various forms of contraception to the concept of averting pregnancy. She did not have the capacity to retain information in relation to these issues. It was also considered that she was unable to communicate the concept of refusal of sex to her husband.

The Protected Party’s husband was a man in his early 50’s who has never been in any trouble with the police. It was agreed that there had been no concerns expressed by any of the professionals in relation to his behaviour either more recently or historically.

The couple found themselves in a challenging situation in which their private and sexual life was being scrutinised by a variety of professionals. Whilst the Protected Party’s husband was being analysed, he appeared both frightened and embarrassed when he came to Court. On 29 March 2019, when the matter was brought to Court there had been an agreement between the Protected Party’s husband, the Applicant and the Respondent that the case would proceed by way of the Protected Party’s husband giving an undertaking to the Court not to sleep with his wife.

Mr Justice Hayden concluded that he was “Reserving Judgment in order that I can take the time to look carefully and in some detail at the case law and its applicability to the facts of this case. It would appear, that it requires to be said, in clear and unambiguous terms that I do so in order to explore fully Protected Party’s right to a sexual life with her husband and he with her, if that is at all possible.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Georgia Clarke (georgia.clarke@clarionsolicitors.com) or the team at COPCosts@clarionsolicitors.com.

Court of Protection Costs – Types of Assessments for your Costs.

The previous blog in this series focused on the process of what goes into a Bill of Costs in the Court of Protection world. This blog will instead look at the process of an assessment in the Court of Protection and the different types of assessment that can occur.

Firstly, authority for the cost’s assessment must be established, as all Orders as to costs are at the discretion of the Court of Protection. There are three main methods of evaluating costs; agreed costs, fixed costs and summary/detailed assessment of Costs.

  • Agreed Costs

These kinds of costs Order are not regularly available in Court of Protection cases. As a principle, all bills of costs must be assessed, except where fixed costs are available. However, the Court may authorise parties to agree costs, where appropriate to do so. This is often used upon the death of a Protected Party whereby the Deputy is expected to agree costs with the Executor of the estate.

  • ­Fixed Costs

­Found within Practice Direction 19B, fixed costs are available to solicitors and professionals acting as Deputy. The general rule is that costs of the proceedings should be paid by P or charged to their estate, but this rule can be departed from.

In Cases where fixed costs are not appropriate, professional Deputies may, if preferred, apply to the SCCO for a detailed assessment of costs. However, this does not apply if P’s net assets are below £16,000. In these cases, the option for detailed assessment will only arise if the Court makes a specific order.

  • Detailed Assessment

The detailed assessment of costs under Orders or Directions of the Court of Protection is dealt with in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules. Professional Deputies should lodge a request for detailed assessment with the SCCO (not the Court of Protection or the Office of Public Guardian) using the N258B (request for detailed assessment), accompanied by:

  • The bill of costs;
  • Documents giving the right to detailed assessment;
  • Copies of all the orders;
  • Fee notes of counsel or experts;
  • Details of other disbursements;
  • Postal Address of any person who has a financial interest in the outcome of assessment;
  • Relevant assessment fee (£115 or £225);
  • The OPG105 (if applicable).

Part 27 of the Practice Direction 17.2(2) states that cases over £100,000.00, complex or other cases are to be dealt with by a Master. The relevant papers in support of the bill must only be lodged if requested by the Master.

Once the bill of costs is lodged in the correct manner, the Costs Officer will review the bundle of documents and assess the costs. The Costs Officer will review the bill of costs alongside the files of papers and decide whether costs have been reasonably, necessarily and proportionately incurred, making reductions, where necessary based on relevant case law and judicial decisions. The bill of costs is thereafter returned to the Deputy for consideration.

Clarion can also assist with requests for reassessment if the outcome is not as expected. If you would like further information about this process, then please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Joshua Sidding is a Paralegal in the Court of Protection Team of the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him at Joshua.sidding@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 222 3245, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

You can also take advantage of our free telephone advice service – available outside of office hours – by calling 07764 501252.

Successful appeal against a Judge’s decision in respect of the Protected Party’s Deprivation of Liberty

In the case of CB v Medway Council & Anor (Appeal) [2019] EWCOP, the Official Solicitor appealed against a decision which justified the Protected Party’s Deprivation of Liberty.

The Protected Party was a 91 year old female, who no longer lived at her own property following a fall and persistent urinary tract infections. The Protected Party resided at a care home and was provided with a care package, which ultimately was said to have not worked out. The Protected Party’s litigation friend, the Official Solicitor, made an application to enable the Protected Party to reside at her own property, however, the Judge dismissed this application using her summary power.

The Official Solicitor disagreed with the decision of the Judge and therefore appealed the same. The Official Solicitor argued that the Judge did not abide by her duty to ensure that the Protected Party’s best interests were considered as the Judge had failed to allow the Official Solicitor to gather further evidence to support the argument in relation to the feasibility of the Protected Party returning to live at her property. The Court allowed the appeal as the Protected Party’s Deprivation of Liberty should have been considered and thoroughly explored, rather than the Judge dismissing the application based on speculation and general experience within similar cases.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Casey McGregor or the team at COPCosts@clarionsolicitors.com