To what extent should the Court consider the Protected Party’s capacity (and wishes) to consent to sexual relations and contraception?

The Protected Party is a young woman with learning disabilities. She previously lived with her family but took part in a number of social and community activities. Concerns were raised, by reason, of her learning difficulties. She was vulnerable to sexual exploitation, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. There is evidence that she was sexually assaulted, and it was reported that the police expressed concern that the Protected Party should not be unsupervised as she appeared to be a target for sexual exploitation.

The Protected Party has two children, who are in the care of her family. A few years ago, an application was made to the court for an order that the Protected Party be sterilised. This application was aborted and the decision was made to consider a long term method of contraception instead. The other main issue was the concerns regarding the Protected Party’s protection against sexual exploitation.

The expert evidence of a consultant psychiatrist was that the Protected Party lacked mental capacity to consent to sexual relations, to consent to contraceptive treatment and to litigate. It was also recommended that the Protected Party should be supervised at all times when in the presence of sexually active men. She received further education about sexual matters and the Protected Party was to undergo the insertion under general anaesthetic of a copper inter-uterine device (IUD). It was advised that the Protected Party would be sedated, and the IUD would be inserted without her knowledge. This contraception would last for 10 years.

During a lengthy hearing in 2012, Parker J made an order in which, having declared that the Protected Party lacked capacity to litigate and to make decisions with regard to contraceptive treatment, she further declared that it was lawful for the Protected Party (with or without her agreement) to undergo the insertion of a copper coil IUD, to receive a Depo-Provera contraceptive injection, to undergo a full sexual health screen, and to be subject to proportionate restraint if necessary, including sedation. Following the hearing, the Protected Party underwent the operation for the insertion of the IUD. No reasoned judgment was given at the hearing in 2012 and, in the event, no further hearing took place for several years.

In 2016, the Local Authority made an application to restore the proceedings, to revisit the question of the Protected Party’s capacity to engage in sexual relations. The proceedings were to assess and evaluate the clinical risks to the Protected Party’s health presented to her by any further pregnancy; to revisit the Protected Party’s capacity to consent to contraceptive treatment; to re-evaluate the options for Protected Party’s contraceptive treatment in view of the fact that the IUD inserted in 2012 has a life of approximately ten years; to reassess the best interests decision not to inform her of the fact of the insertion of the IUD in the light of any improvement of her understanding; and to authorise her Deprivation of her Liberty at her placement.

Following the preparation of a report on future care support by the CHT, it was agreed that the IUD should remain in situ until the end of its natural life. A statement from the social worker set out four options:

(1) option A(i) – the IUD remains in place, the Protected Party is not informed of its existence, and care and supervision remains at its current level;

(2) option A (ii) – the IUD remains in place, the Protected Party is not informed of its existence, but the level of care and supervision is reduced;

(3) option B – the IUD is removed without informing the Protected Party and the risk of sexual exploitation is managed “through social means” with the current level of care and supervision;

(4) option C – the IUD remains in place and the Protected Party is informed of this.

Having analysed the benefits and disadvantages of these options, the social worker decided option 2 was in the Protected Party’s best interests.

At the hearing in 2017, the three principal issues between the parties were as follows:

(1) Does the Protected Party have capacity to consent to sexual relations?

(2) If she does, what steps should be authorised to facilitate the relationship between the Protected Party and her boyfriend, or between her and any other person with whom she wished to have a sexual relationship?

(3) Is the proposed relaxation in supervision in her best interests? In addition, however, it was thought appropriate for the court to review wider issues concerning her treatment, including the question of whether it should continue to be covert or whether the Protected Party should be informed about it.

In addition, however, it was thought appropriate for the court to review wider issues concerning her treatment, including the question of whether it should continue to be covert or whether the Protected Party should be informed about it. As there remain a number of details within the draft order which the parties have been unable to agree, it was necessary for the judge to make an order outlining the best interests of the Protected Party in relation to her capacity – general principles, capacity other than sexual relations, her capacity to consent to sexual relations, contraception, covert treatment and her sexual relationships and supervision.

In this case, there are a number of arguments against retaining the IUD. It is a clear infringement of the Protected Party’s human rights and freedom. Furthermore, this infringement has been brought about without her knowledge and without providing her with any opportunity to express her wishes and feelings. In her oral evidence, the Care Agency manager said that she thought that the Protected Party would not want to keep the IUD if asked. Secondly, although the Protected has not been expressly asked about her wishes and feelings concerning contraception, she has consistently said that she does not want to have a baby at this stage. It was necessary to consider the psychological harm that the Protected Party may encounter if; the IUD was removed and she became pregnant again or if the IUD was removed without sedation. In this instance, it was decided that it is in the Protected Party’s best interests for the IUD to remain in place until the end of its normal ten-year span. At that point, further careful consideration will have to be given as to what contraceptive treatment.

It was directed for the level of sexual supervision of the Protected Party and her boyfriend should be relaxed slightly and reviewed at a further hearing once this has been considered in more depth. Finally, the provisions of the order relating to the IUD plainly involve a Deprivation of Liberty. A clause was included within the order that such a deprivation is lawful.

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

Advertisements

Disproportionate Costs in the Court of Protection

In the case of Hounslow v A Father & Mother (Costs in the Court of Protection – Disproportionate litigation) [2018] EWCOP 23, Judge Eldergill looked at the effects of deviating away from the simple issue at hand and the way that costs can spiral when disproportionate and unnecessary work is undertaken. It also looked at the costs consequences and the unfairness that can be encountered by a Litigant in Person.

The proceedings were in relation to a young man. The Applicant was the London Borough of Hounslow and the Respondents, were the young man’s parents.  The young man resided with his father and suffered from a severe learning disability, which rendered him unable to manage his own property and financial affairs. The financial assets were modest, and the young man received a number of benefits. At the time that the proceedings were issued, the father was the Department of Work and Pensions appointee and the mother assisted with the administration of his state benefits.

In this case, the local authority considered that a Deputyship would be more appropriate due to financial safeguarding concerns, obtained by an anonymous informant.  On 6 February 2017, the Court issued an application filed by the local authority, which asked the Court to appoint the Director of Children’s and Adult Social Services as the Deputy.

On 1 March 2017, the father filed an acknowledgement of service, opposing the application. The father stated that the local authority had failed to provide him with a copy of the application saying it was ‘confidential’. It was also stated that the local authority had not provided any more details or evidence in support of the application.

A Dispute Resolution Hearing had been listed for 2 May 2017, following which no resolution was reached. Judge Hilder listed a number of comprehensive directions in relation to the filing of evidence, position statements and the trial. The matter then came before Judge Eldergill and he stated the following;

1) A case involving the alleged misuse of state benefits has generated an enormous amount of documentation, and no doubt legal costs, quite disproportionate to the simple central issue of an alleged misuse of benefits.

2) The position statements and correspondence are full of generalised assertions of abuse of process, applications being misconceived, summary judgment, etc, which no doubt partly explains why so much paper has been generated.

3) Both legally-represented parties have made basic procedural errors (filing lengthy documents electronically despite what the rules say, including references to discussions at a DRH, filing bundles that are immediately to be returned, not serving the application within the required time limits).

I make these points because of the very clear costs implications.

He then made a further order on 13 November 2017, setting out concerns and the following directions:

UPON

(1)  Considering bundles and other filed documentation concerning this application of in excess of one thousand pages.

WHEREAS

(1)  The local authority has applied to be appointed as the deputy for property and financial affairs of [the son] who is a gentleman in receipt of social security benefits that are managed under a DWP appointeeship held by the First Respondent.

(2)  The outcome of the application will be either that the First Respondent continues to act as [his son’s] appointee (if the application is dismissed) or that the local authority is appointed as [his son’s] deputy, in which case the local authority automatically becomes his appointee.

(3)  The overriding objective of the rules is to enable the court to deal with a case justly. This includes ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously, in ways which are proportionate to the nature, importance and complexity of the issues, saving expense, and allotting to it an appropriate share of the court’s resources. The parties are required to help the court to further the overriding objective.

(4) Unfortunately, an application concerning the management of [the son’s] benefits has generated over one thousand pages of documents and a huge amount of professional time, expenditure and legal costs quite disproportionate to a simple central issue of alleged misuse of benefits. While the court acknowledges that some of the documentation and expense was required of the parties as a result of the court’s case management directions of 2 May 2017, the amount of documentation filed has nevertheless been contrary to the overriding objective.

(5) Furthermore, and notwithstanding any submissions to the contrary:

(a) The position statements and correspondence are full of generalised assertions of abuse of process, applications being misconceived, summary judgment, etc, which no doubt partly explains why so much paper has been generated.

(b) Both legally-represented parties have made basic procedural errors (filing lengthy documents electronically despite what the rules say, including references to discussions at a DRH, filing bundles that are immediately to be returned, not serving the application within the required time limits, referring inappropriately to public interest immunity, etc).

(6) The parties will be aware that such considerations and observations have clear implications in terms of the recovery of the legal costs generated by these proceedings.

(7) On the documentary evidence filed to date, the court makes the following provisional observations in order to assist the parties:

(a)  The safeguarding investigation was fundamentally flawed and unfair.

(b) The financial information filed to date suggests that there was a lack of prudent good housekeeping under the previous arrangements in force until February 2017 in relation to the way in which benefits were used for [the son’s] benefit.

(c)  The position statement dated 27 September 2017 filed on behalf of the First Respondent is in quite general terms, in particular the financial tables at (internal) pp.10-12.

(d)  A hearing in the Court of Protection regarding the redaction of the identity of the informant would be disproportionately costly. Whether the initial report was malicious or not, and whoever the informant was, it is for the local authority to establish on evidence that there has been mismanagement or misuse by the Second Respondent of [her son’s] funds, that such mismanagement or misuse means that the First Respondent (sic) cannot remain as [his son’s] appointee, and furthermore that it justifies a deputyship order in favour of the local authority.

(e) To date, and despite a prolonged safeguarding investigation, the local authority has not established that the Second Respondent has used [the son’s] funds for her own benefit or that the First Respondent is an inappropriate appointee. If the local authority cannot prove that then it follows that the informant was an unreliable informant.

(f)  In relation to that issue, the local authority has not received unredacted copies of the Second Respondent’s bank statements or had an opportunity to test the evidence of both Respondents by way of cross-examination. That being so, summary dismissal of the application (with the likely costs consequences) would not be just or appropriate at this stage.

(g) On the basis that the local authority is unwilling to withdraw its application, a short half-day final trial is appropriate with the following witness template: First Respondent Evidence-in-Chief 15 minutes, Cross-Examination 30 minutes; Second Respondent Evidence-in-Chief 15 minutes, Cross-Examination 30 minutes; Submissions 30 minutes; Judgment 30 minutes.

(h) Prior to the hearing the Second Respondent must (as she has very fairly willingly agreed to do) file and serve unredacted copies of the previously filed bank statements.

The mother provided the bank statements and details of the withdrawals and expenditure and the final hearing was on 2 February 2018. The Local Authority had withdrawn its application and left the matter of costs to be determined.

The young man had no savings so the usual rule of costs, that the costs be paid from the estate was not an option.  Judge Eldergill stated that the ‘proceedings had taken up a wholly disproportionate amount of court time and had been conducted with insufficient proportionality.’ The Judge concluded that the case could have been resolved in an efficient manner by simply reviewing bank statements and asking questions, but instead there were ‘hundreds of unnecessary and bad-tempered correspondence, witness statements, position statements and emails’ which amounted to approximately £50,000.00 plus VAT costs in respect of the Respondents costs and £15,000.00 in respect of the local authority’s costs.

Payment of costs in respect of property and financial affairs applications under Rule 19.2, state that the ‘costs should be paid by P or charged by to P’s estate’, however Rule 19.5 can be applied when there is support in departing from the general rule. The judge held that the litigation was conducted disproportionately by both sides and there was a failure to focus on the simple central issue of; whether the bank statements could indicate any misuse of funds. Furthermore, Judge Eldergill stated that he did not believe that the ‘costs incurred by the First Respondent were proportionate to the issues, complexity of the case and the son’s circumstances’.

The proportionality of the work undertaken on behalf of the First Respondent were deemed to be assessed on an item-by-item detailed assessment basis. The Local Authority would then pay 90% of those costs, with the 10% reduction reflecting the Courts findings of the conduct of the other party. The costs in relation to the Litigant in Person were much more complex and the Judge felt that they lead to an injustice. The Judge also called for the rules to be reviewed and revised so that the Court can award a Litigant in Person costs in a case such as this one. It will be interesting to see if there are any developments in this area.

Mr Justice Hayden appointed as the new Vice-President for the Court of Protection – what does this mean for the Court of Protections future?

Further to the recent appointment of Sir Andrew McFarlane as President of the Family Division of the High Court comes the appointment of Mr Justice Hayden as the new Vice-President of the Court of Protection.

Who is Mr Justice Hayden?

Sir Anthony Paul Hayden was called to the bar at Middle Temple and was appointed as Queen’s Counsel in 2002. On 31 July 2013, he was appointed as a judge of the High Court of Justice in the Family Division.

Some of his most noteworthy cases that he has overseen include the legal challenge by the parents of Alfie Evans against Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

What are the responsibilities of the President and Vice President?

The powers of the President and Vice President are to oversee the daily activities of the Court of Protection and to liaise with lower level judges to ensure effective performance in all aspects of the Court’s work. They require a good level of leadership, detailed knowledge of the Court’s jurisdiction and a comprehensive understanding of the Mental Capacity Act.

What does this appointment mean for the Court of Protection?

Considering the cases overseen by Mr Justice Hayden, his experience in matters relating to families and those who would be under the care of the Court of Protection is extensive, and will be invaluable in the future development of the Court.

Given the Mental Capacity Act (Amendment) Bill currently making its way through the legislative process, changes in the Court of Protection are on the horizon and Justice Hayden’s history in practice will be extremely useful in the implementation of these.

The team here at Clarion Solicitors wish to congratulate both Andrew McFarlane and Anthony Hayden.

Departure from the General Rule of Costs in the Court of Protection due to ‘Disorganised Thinking, Planning and Management’

There has been a departure from the general rules on costs within the Court of Protection in the recent case of London Borough of Lambeth v MCS (by her litigation friend) and Anor (2018).

The Official Solicitor (OS) was of the view that all of the costs incurred in respect of the proceedings should be born entirely by the London Borough of Lambeth and the CCG, as it was believed that the proceedings should never have been brought in the first place and also because of the conduct of the parties throughout the  proceedings. Taking this view point, a departure from the general rule of costs would be appropriate.

The background to the matter was that the Protected Party was originally from Columbia and collapsed in a street in the UK in 2014. Following on from the incident, the Protected Party was left with a severe cognitive impairment. She remained in hospital for a significant length of time, despite her requests to return to Columbia, and that it was also deemed in her best interests to return to there under section 4 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

An application was made by Lambeth Counsel which resulted in years of hearings and protracted proceedings which not only cost the tax payer in funding the Protected Party’s care and the legal fees, but it meant that the Protected Party was being kept against her wishes and for no good reason. The Judge stated ;

‘if the authority had done what it should have done in a timely professional manner, not only could they have saved themselves over £100,000 a year, and saved the cost to the taxpayer of these protracted High Court proceedings, they could have avoided P the years of misery from being kept a prisoner here, against her will.’

The Protected Party did not leave the UK until 25 January 2018.

Mr Justice Newton thereafter invited parties to submit their submissions on costs at the recent Hearing it was also reported within the Costs Judgement;

‘ The Court is deeply critical of the manner in which this case was handled both before and after the institution of proceedings. It is further troubling that even within the written submissions are many misconceived assertions or contentions as to fact. The proceedings were instigated by P’s RPR in December 2016 because no constructive progress for P was being made. P was unsettled, unable to communicate, frustrated and quite evidently deeply unhappy. A situation which could and should have been avoided.’

Furthermore, the Judge went on to say that he could not ignore the “disorganised thinking, planning and management” which resulted in the Protected Party being detained in the UK for a longer period of time than was necessary.

The Judge ruled that the costs of the proceedings were to be born by the Applicant and the Second Respondent both jointly and severally due to the circumstances of the case being ‘so poor and so extreme’.

This case highlights that even though it is rare, the Court will depart from the general rule if they have good reason to do so and the conduct of the local authority and the delays satisfied section 19.5 (1) (2) of the Court of Protection Rules 2017. It is noteworthy to consider the proceedings as a whole and to ensure that the matter is being dealt with accordingly in order to avoid any unnecessary costs consequences.

Latest statistics show 50% annual increase in orders made under the Mental Capacity Act [2005].

The Family Court statistics bulletin relating to the final quarter of 2017 has been published, providing an overview and insight into the data relating to Court of Protection applications and orders for the year.

The latest report published by the Ministry of Justice show that the number of orders made under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) continued to rise significantly in the last year, with a staggering 38,945 orders being made in 2017. This is an increase of almost 50% on the number of orders made in 2016. It is noted, however, that much of this increase can be attributed to the clearance of a number of preexisting and outstanding cases during the first quarter of 2017.

Around 40% of the orders made under the MCA in 2017 related to the appointment of a Deputy for property and financial affairs, continuing the consistent increase since 2009. Please see the below table for a complete breakdown of all orders made under the MCA in 2017.

 

Picture1.png

 

The upward trend relating to numbers of Deprivation of Liberty (DoLS) applications also continued in 2017. There were 3,995 DoLS applications made throughout the year, a 27% increase on 2016, showing the continued increase in awareness of DoLS and the increased impetus to have deprivations authorised. The numbers of DoLS orders made in 2017 also rose by 81%, which (when compared with the 27% increase in applications) evidences the delay between application and order.

There was a continued increase in the numbers of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) received in 2017; LPAs received rose by 28% between 2016 and 2017, with over 180,000 LPAs being registered in the final quarter of the year alone. This increase is a continuation of the upward trend seen since 2015, likely due to the ease of online forms and increased publicity and media coverage of Powers of Attorney. The long-term downward trend relating to the number of Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) continued, with a 7% annual decrease in EPAs received in 2017.

The full report can be found here.

If you have any questions about the above, please feel free to contact Ethan Bradley at ethan.bradley@clarionsolicitors.com.

Various Incapacitated Persons, Re (Appointment of Trust Corporations As Deputies) [2018] EWCOP 3

Where concerns were raised when Trust Corporations apply as a Deputy for the Financial and Property affairs of a Protected Party.

A judgment was issued whereby the courts raised their concerns when considering an application that had been made to appoint a Trust Corporation as a Deputy, for the financial and property affairs of a Protected Party. Judge Hilder informed of the details required for the Court to be satisfied that the corporation is a fit and proper legal person to hold such appointment.

The case involved 36 applicants covering 11 different trust corporations, all of which are connected to solicitor practices.

The proposed Deputy (the Trust Corporation) is a Trust Corporation within the meaning of section 64(1) of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and can lawfully act as such; and the Trust Corporation will inform the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) immediately if that ceases to be the case.

The Trust Corporation will comply with the OPG’s published standards for professional deputies.

EITHER:

(i) The Trust Corporation is authorised by the SRA;

OR 

(ii) all the directors of the Trust Corporation are solicitors and it employs no one (save to the extent that it employs a company secretary); and

(iii) the Trust Corporation will retain its associated legal practice to carry out all practical work in relation to the management of the incapacitated person’s property and affairs; and

(iv) the Trust Corporation is covered by the professional indemnity insurance policy of its associated authorised legal practice on the same terms as that practice;

The Trust Corporation will notify the OPG immediately, if there is any change to any of the matters set out in paragraph 3 above.

The Trust Corporation must also ensure that it obtains and maintains insurance cover..

The Trust Corporation will lodge a copy of the insurance policy with the OPG on appointment and will inform the OPG immediately if there is any reduction in the terms or level of the insurance cover.

The note offered some explanations as to why a law firm might chose to create a Trust Corporation, these include:

  1. A Trust Corporation is designed to increase flexibility and improve services for clients. By creating a Trust Corporation, you can streamline the administration of estates and trusts to provide greater flexibility in the day-to-day administration of the files that it handles.”

From the Protected Party’s perspective, the benefits of appointing a Trust Corporation include:

1. Continuity – new trustees are never needed as a Trust Corporation never dies, goes on holiday, gets ill or retires. This can create substantial savings in professional fees: each time an individual trustee retires and a new trustee appointed, a deed needs to be created and the assets of the trust have to be transferred, whereas with a Trust Corporation, the appointment and retirement of directors will not affect the assets within particular trusts.

2. Availability – individual trustees aren’t always available due to holidays and other commitments, but a Trust Corporation will always be available.

3. Professionalism – Trust Corporation signatories will be senior members of the private client department of the firm who deal with trusts and estates every day.”

These identified benefits are procedural or financial. Whilst these are important, they are not the only aspects to consider. It was explained in the judgment that “each case will be different but Deputyships generally also require an appropriate person-to-person interaction with the protected person and often their family. Considered from that perspective, it can be seen that the benefit of continuity accrues also to the law firm – a client is retained for the long term, even if the individuals familiar with the case change firms.

Conclusion

A Trust Corporation can apply to be on the Office of the Public Guardian’s panel of deputies, but there is no ‘panel’ of Trust Corporations which have demonstrated compliance with legal requirements to act. Information necessary to satisfy the Court as to suitability must therefore be ’built into’ the application process itself.

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

 

The Hospital Trust v V & Ors [2017] EWCOP 20 (20 October 2017)

The Protected Party is 21 and suffers from a severe learning disability. She has an ‘understanding‘ age of about 3-5 years. She conceived a child in late 2015, by means which in all probability amounted to rape. The perpetrator of the sexual assault remains unknown by neither the family or the Protected Party. In 2016, she gave birth to a child that was placed in foster care.

At 28 weeks pregnant, the Health Authority sought the authority of the Court of Protection to arrange the delivery of the baby by caesarean section; Newton J made the relevant order in August 2016, and the baby was born on the following day.

The father of the baby is unknown. The circumstances of the conception were undetermined although it is believed that the father may be a friend of one of the Protected Party’s brothers. There is professional agreement that the Protected Party did not have the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse.

The Protected Party was confused and distressed at the pregnancy and confinement, and immensely distressed when her baby was removed from her care, pursuant to emergency orders obtained under Part IV Children Act 1989. Professionals speak of an extreme reaction to these events: a “significant physical and psychological trauma“.

An Application was made to the Court of Protection in 2016 for best interests determinations relevant to ante-natal care, and the delivery of the baby. The issues before the Court now are:

  1. i) Whether the Protected Party has the capacity to consent to sexual relations:
  2. ii) Whether she has the capacity to agree to the administration of non-therapeutic contraception;

iii) Whether it is in the Protected Party’s best interests that she receives non-therapeutic contraception.

All parties shared a strong common objective to protect the Protected Party from further harm, and specifically from sexual exploitation and pregnancy. However, they differ as to the means by which this can, or should, be achieved.

The Applicant, The Hospital Trust (“the Health Authority“), supported by the community learning disabilities team of the relevant Local Authority (“the Local Authority”) contend that it is in the Protected Party’s best interests that she should be provided with contraception as part of a wider safeguarding package, that should be trialled for a number of months.

Any medical intervention she found traumatising and she was scared. Though physically she healed well after the baby, the removal of the baby had a devastating effect on her emotional and psychological welfare. She could not understand where the baby was and was constantly asking for her baby. She was physically lashing out at her mother, self-harming, not sleeping, not eating, throwing herself on the floor and the community care officer took her to the GP and she got anti-depressants.

Following the delivery of the baby, professional attention swiftly turned to the formulation of a plan to prevent a recurrence of the pregnancy. Attentions turned to educating the Protected Party about sexual health. The Official Solicitor acting on the Protected Party’s behalf indicated that contraception was not necessary, and that the safeguarding package is sufficient to protect her.

The safeguarding plan appears to have been broadly successful, however, there have been a number of lapses of the safeguarding plan over the last 12 months. These lapses are admitted by the parents. They included leaving the Protected Party alone with her male siblings, on a number of occasions, which was against the safeguarding policy that had been decided upon.

Best interests

There is disagreement between the advocates as to the correct approach to the best interests of the Protected Party and a number of questions were raised:

i) Is it in the Protected Party’s best interests that she receives contraceptive protection?

ii) If so, what form of contraception is in her best interests, as the less restrictive option?

iii) If contraception is in her best interests, is it in her interests that such contraception is first trialled?

iv) Would the benefits of the contraceptive outweigh the negatives with regards to the best interests of the Protected Party?

It was decided that the Health and Local Authorities say that the safeguarding plan has been robust, but that contraception offers an important additional level of safeguard in the event that the plan fails.

The authorities argue that contraception will materially reduce the risk of pregnancy yet further. The social worker summarised the position in her oral evidence thus:

Even though I believe that the plan is robust and the family are working with us, breaches are still happening, and the last two breaches, the parents did not even know of the Protected Party’s whereabouts.”

They continued, “this will give us an extra layer of protection, in the event that anything goes wrong, or not within the family’s control. However, it was agreed by all that the Protected Party would need assistance in administering the contraception and charts would be created monitoring the menstrual cycle of the Protected Party.”

In considering all the issues raised, the views of the Protected Party were taken into consideration. The Protected Party demonstrated a “clear ability to learn“, and had an understanding of certain forms of contraception, is able to identify these and is “able to demonstrate the part of the body where each contraceptive is used.” The following were considered:

i) She does not wish to become pregnant again, or to have further children;

ii) She wishes to avoid surgery;

iii) She does not want intrauterine contraception;

iv) She would favour the patch (the view formed by the community matron.)

Following a number of reviews, it was concluded that the Protected Party had limited understanding of the “patch” and the link to pregnancy.

Judgment

By noting that the Protected Party is not sexually active, had no boyfriend, and that the proposed administration of contraception is non-therapeutic. It was judged against making a decision that is unfavourable and is one that respects the Protected Party’s Article 8 rights, and maintains clear focus on what is best for the Protected Party’s, striking the balance between protection and empowerment.

I return to the point I made at the outset of this judgment: the combined objective of the parties to ensure that the Protected Party is protected from further harm. The Local Authority considers that the safeguarding plan is “as robust as it can be”. Although The Protected Party’s mother has deposed in her signed statement to the fact that her daughter “… is never alone, she comes everywhere with me”, this has been shown – even very recently – not to be true.

The fact that the protection plan would remain unaltered whether contraception is administered or not does not mean, that there are not real advantages to the Protected Party receiving contraception. The safeguarding plan is designed to reduce the risk of sexual exploitation particularly outside of the home; contraception is proposed to reduce the risk of pregnancy in the event that the plan fails. If this additional safeguard can be introduced without undue side effects, and is a safeguard which the Protected Party is not unwilling to accept, then the best interests balance tilts in favour of its use.”

The prospect of any medical intervention, even the simple task of being weighed and measured in a clinic, and of blood pressure being taken, has left the Protected Party “petrified” in the recent past. It is vital for the court to reduce the need for such medical interventions.

It was decided that it may be that the side-effects of the patch are uncomfortable to the Protected Party in that regard and that the disbenefits of the contraceptive patch outweigh the benefits. This will only be known after a trial of the patch. At the conclusion of the trial period, or at an earlier time, should it become clear that the contraceptive patch is not appropriate, a best interests’ meeting will be held, at which a decision will be taken as to whether it is right to continue with the patch or whether an alternative method of contraception should be attempted, or whether the likely disbenefits of continuation or of any other form of contraception outweigh the benefits.

It was declared that it was in the Protected Party’s best interests that a contraceptive patch be administered for a trial period of up to six months. I shall list the case for review to coincide with the end of the trial, when further decisions can be taken.

I wish to make clear that this decision is about the Protected Party, and her best interests; the decision is taken in the context of her unique situation. I wholly reject the submission on behalf of the Official Solicitor that by declaring contraception in the Protected Party’s best interests I would in one way or another be setting a precedent for all incapacitous and vulnerable women.”

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