Should P continue to have contact with her abusive partner?

In a recent case, A County Council v LW & Anor [2020], an application was brought by a Local Authority in relation to the Protected Party’s capacity. The Protected Party was 60 years of age, and three years prior to the application, the Protected Party was admitted to a unit. The Protected Party was initially detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. When the Protected Party was admitted to the unit, she was described as being in a ‘truly parlous condition’ and it was clear that her personal hygiene was neglected.

In 1991, the Protected Party had been diagnosed as having Bipolar Affective Disorder. However, the main concern in relation to the Protected Party’s life seemed to be the long term relationship she had formed. The judge described the relationship as being abusive, exploitative, coercive and wholly inimical to the Protected Party’s welfare. It became clear that she was emaciated due to her partner restricting her food intake, limiting her to one potato and salad per day. The abusive partner had also forbidden the Protected Party from wearing underwear and engaging in activities she enjoyed, such as playing the piano, in order to meet his distorted perceptions on religion.

Whilst the Protected Party had been residing at the unit, her partner had still been living in her property, which had been neglected and was in a state of disrepair. The Protected Party’s partner has declined various requests from the Local Authority for them to meet with him or to assess the property.

The entire team who surrounded the Protected Party had a shared view that she would benefit considerably from a complete cessation of contact with her abusive partner. An application was made to decide where she should live and whether or not she should continue to have contact with her abusive partner.

If the Protected Party was allowed to return to her property with the partner, it was considered that the Court would be exposing her to a regime of controlling and abusive behaviour which was certainly not within her best interests. It was agreed by the Court that contact should be ceased between the Protected Party and her abusive partner and that the Local Authority and the Property and Affairs Deputy would progress the matter in order to evict the partner from the Protected Party’s property, in her best interests.

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The Local Authority seeks orders to restrict the Husband’s contact with the Protected Party.

The case of SR v A Local Authority & Anor (2018), involves the Protected Party (SR), who was an 83-year-old woman who suffered from late onset Alzheimer’s, which was of moderate to severe intensity.

The Protected Party resides at a care home and lacks capacity to decide who she has contact with and to decide on any arrangements for such contact. The Local Authority raised awareness that the Protected Party may be at risk of harm in her husband’s sole care, due to his expressed views on euthanasia, which involved reference to throwing himself and his wife into a river and supplying her with tablets. The Protected Party’s husband also had restrictions placed on the care that he could provide to the Protected Party, such as having to be accompanied if he took her out of the care home. The Protected Party’s family wished for her to return home and the Protected Party has allegedly stated her wishes to be with her husband as she becomes distressed when he leaves her.

In determining whether the Protected Party would be at risk, the court reached the conclusion that the restriction sought by the Local Authority was neither justifiable, proportionate or necessary. They therefore declined to make the Order sought. It was believed that the Protected Party’s husband would most likely not harm the Protected Party, as he had been previously been with her many times unaccompanied. The Protected Party’s daughter also stated that her mother and her father were a happy and loving couple with no allegations of domestic violence ever having been made between them.

Deprivation of Liberty Proceedings on behalf of a minor [2017] EWHC 2458 (Fam)

The Local Authority made an Application for permission to deprive the Protected Party (a minor) where there was no secure accommodation available.

The Protected Party was a 13 year old child and had a background of very serious uncontrollable behaviour which had resulted in damage to himself and others. As a result, he had been placed in over six different accommodations for his own and others’ safety. There were a number of occasions where the staff were unable to manage his behaviour or keep themselves and the Protected Party safe.

The Local Authority had repeatedly expressed their wishes to place the Protected Party in an approved secure placement, however these were rare and they were unable to find a suitable home. As a result, they had hoped it would have been possible to place him in a unit which was not deemed an approved secure accommodation. A plan was put in place that meant the Protected Party would stay at the accommodation and if necessary, be subject to considerable restraint, including physical restraint, solely for the purpose of keeping him safe.

Section 25 of the Children Act 1989 makes express and detailed provision for the making of what are known as Secure Accommodation Orders. Such Orders may be made and, indeed, frequently are made by Courts. It is not necessary to apply to the High Court for a Secure Accommodation Order, however, as there was no approved secure accommodation available, the Local Authority required the authorisation from a Court for the Deprivation of Liberty that the Protected Party would be subjected to.

Mr Justice Holman delivered his concern over the way in which applications of this kind were handled, saying that “the device of resort to the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court is operating to by-pass the important safeguard under the regulations of approval by the Secretary of State of establishments used as secure accommodation. There is a grave risk that the safeguard of approval by the Secretary of State is being denied to some of the most damaged and vulnerable children. This is a situation which cannot go on, and I intend to draw it to the attention of the President of the Family Division.”

The Judge ordered that the child now be joined as a party to these proceedings and a guardian must be appointed to act on his behalf. A further hearing was fixed for a months time, as the Judge was concerned the Protected Party had been deprived of his liberty for the past 3 months. The Judge advised further “in view of the gravity of the subject matter and the age of the child, I propose to order that he must be enabled to attend the hearing if he expresses a wish to do so unless the guardian states that in his opinion it would be damaging to the health, wellbeing or emotional stability of the child to do so. In my view it is very important that ordinarily in these situations, which in plain language involve a child being ‘locked up’, the child concerned should, if he wishes, have an opportunity to attend a court hearing. The exception to that is clearly if the child is so troubled that it would be damaging to his health, wellbeing or emotional stability to do so. But subject to that exception, if a child of sufficient age, which includes a child of this or any older age, wishes to attend a hearing of this kind, then in my view he must be enabled to do so.”

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