AJ v a Local Authority
SummaryIn an extremely important judgment, Baker J has given detailed guidance as to the heavy burden that is placed upon local authorities in making sure that deprived of their liberty in care homes (and, by extension, hospitals) are afforded effective access to the Court of Protection so as to secure their rights under Article 5(4) ECHR. He has also confirmed again the importance of taking appropriate steps in advance where it is clear (or should be clear) that a person will be deprived of their liberty.
For those in a hurry, Baker J gave at the conclusion a series of wider lessons, which we reproduce here, although this is no substitute either for reading the balance of this note or – more importantly – the judgment itself.
"113. First, I emphasise that the scheme of the DOLS is that, in the vast majority of cases, it should be possible to plan in advance so that a standard authorisation can be obtained before the deprivation of liberty begins. It is only in exceptional cases, where the need for the deprivation of liberty is so urgent that it is in the best interests of the person for it to begin while the application is being considered, that a standard authorisation need not be sought before the deprivation begins.
114. Secondly, professionals need to be on their guard to look out for cases where vulnerable people are admitted to residential care ostensibly for respite when the underlying plan is for a permanent placement without proper consideration as to their Article 5 rights.
115. Thirdly, a RPR should only be selected or confirmed by a BIA where he or she satisfies not only the criteria in regulation 3 of the Mental Capacity (Deprivation of Liberty: Appointment of Relevant Person's Representative) Regulations 2008 but also the requirements of paragraph 140 of Schedule A1 of the MCA. This requires that the BIA not only checks that the facts set out in regulation 3 are satisfied but also carries out an analysis and reaches a judgment as to whether the prospective representative would, if appointed, (a) maintain contact with the relevant person; (b) represent the relevant person in matters relating to or connected with the Schedule and (c) support the relevant person in matters relating to or connected with the Schedule.
116. Fourthly, the local authority is under an obligation to satisfy itself that a person selected for appointment as RPR meets the criteria in regulation 3 and in paragraph 140 of Schedule A1. If the local authority concludes that the person selected for appointment does not meet the criteria, it should refer the matter back to the BIA.
117. Fifthly, it is likely to be difficult for a close relative or friend who believes that it is in P's best interests to move into residential care, and has been actively involved in arranging such a move, into a placement that involves a deprivation of liberty, to fulfil the functions of RPR, which involve making a challenge to any authorisation of that deprivation. BIAs and local authorities should therefore scrutinise very carefully the selection and appointment of RPRs in circumstances which are likely to give rise to this potential conflict of interest.
118. Sixthly, an IMCA appointed under section 39 D must act with diligence and urgency to ensure that any challenge to an authorisation under schedule A 1 is brought before the court expeditiously. Failure to do so will lead to the evaporation of P's Article 5 rights.
119. Seventhly, the appointment of a RPR and IMCA does not absolve the local authority from responsibility for ensuring that P's Article 5 rights are respected. The local authority must monitor whether the RPR is representing and supporting P in accordance with the duty under paragraph 140 and, if not, consider terminating his appointment on the grounds that he is no longer eligible. The local authority must make sufficient resources available to assist an IMCA and keep in touch with the IMCA to ensure that all reasonable steps are being taken to pursue P's Article 5 rights.
120. Finally, in circumstances where a RPR and an IMCA have failed to take sufficient steps to challenge the authorisation, the local authority should consider bringing the matter before the court itself. This is likely, however, to be a last resort since in most cases P's Article 5 rights should be protected by the combined efforts of a properly selected and appointed RPR and an IMCA carrying out their duties with appropriate expedition."
Although the principles set down by Baker J are of general application, the particular factual context in which they arose is of some importance, not least because they represent a not uncommon state of affairs.
An elderly lady, AJ, had lived for a considerable period of time in an annexe of the home of her niece and her husband ('Mr and Mrs C'). She developed vascular dementia and became increasingly dependent on others, in particular Mrs C. She was, however, very reluctant to acknowledge her condition, and insistent that she could manage without any help. In April 2013, she signed LPAs in respect of health and welfare and property and financial affairs naming Mr and Mrs C as donees.
At around this time, AJ was referred to social services by a psychiatric nurse. When a local authority case co-ordinator visited on 22nd April 2013, Mrs C raised the possibility of respite care for AJ to prevent the breakdown of the care arrangements. In June 2013, Mrs C made it clear that she could not continue with her caring role in its current form as she and her husband had planned a fortnight's holiday. She said that she now felt that permanent residential care was required. The local authority social worker offered to find the nearest suitable home for respite while Mr. and Mrs. C were away, and duly identified a home, X House, for that purpose. It was clear that, in fact, it was hoped that if AJ settled she could remain in the care home on a permanent basis.
On 13 June, just before they went on holiday, Mr and Mrs C took AJ to X House. Upon arrival, she stated that she did not wish to be there and repeatedly asked to leave. No assessment under Schedule A1 to the MCA 2005 had been carried out prior to her arrival but an urgent authorisation under the Schedule was granted by the manager at X House on 14 June. The urgent authorisation recorded inter alia that AJ had been placed at the home whilst her main carers, Mr and Mrs C, went on holiday for two weeks, "with a view to [AJ] staying here on a permanent basis." On the same day, a request was made to the local authority as the supervisory body for a standard authorisation, which was granted for a period of 21 days because of the uncertainty of the situation.
Mr C was appointed AJ's RPR, on the basis that AJ had a donee whose under the LPA permitted them to select a family member, friend of carer to be their RPR, that the donee had selected Mr C to act in that capacity and that he was eligible to be appointed. It was clear at this stage that Mr C supported AJ continuing to be accommodated in a care home, even though it amounted to a deprivation of her liberty. A s.39D IMCA was also appointed, a Mr R.
At the start of July 2013, AJ was moved to Y House, and remained there thereafter, subject to repeated standard authorisations. Despite AJ's known opposition to living at Y House, no legal challenge was made to the standard authorisations for several months. As Baker J noted, "[t]he reasons for this failure lie at the heart of this case" (paragraph 18). A critical reason was the lack of effective communication between Mr C and Mr R.
When Mr R and Mr C finally spoke in November 2013 Mr R realised that Mr. C was not going to initiate proceedings and after further conversations with his manager he agreed to act as her litigation friend and instruct solicitors to make an application to the Court on her behalf. Proceedings were eventually issued in December 2013, challenging the standard authorisation made in July 2013. Mr R was replaced in March 2014 as AJ's litigation friend by the Official Solicitor. Although ultimately the substantive challenge under s.21A MCA 2005 was not actively pursued, in view of evidence as to a deterioration in AJ's condition and behaviour, and to the fact that there was no domiciliary care agency willing to offer to provide care, the Official Solicitor (1) raised concerns as to the extent to which the care plan accurately reflected the type and degree of physical interventions being used; and (2) pursued a claim for a declaration under s.7 HRA 1998 that AJ's rights under Article 5(1), 5(4) and 8 ECHR had been breached (but not a claim for damages). In order to determine the claim, Baker J conducted a hearing in May 2014 at which he heard oral evidence from Mr R, Mr C and the local authority's BIA, Ms G, and then subsequently sought (and received) extensive written submissions, inter alia, on the effect of the Re X judgment).
RestraintAs a preliminary issue, Baker J addressed the question of the use of restraint and its documentation. It became clear that the level of physical restraint being used by carers in Y House was greater than acknowledged in the care plan (and indeed, even in an amended care plan).
As Baker J noted:
"25. In supplemental submissions, Ms Butler-Cole on behalf of the Official Solicitor submitted that in any case in which physical restraint is used in the care of an incapacitated adult, any physical intervention, whether considered to amount to "restraint" or not, should be recorded in the care plan maintained by the service provider and monitored by the statutory body responsible for commissioning the person's care. Furthermore, precise details of all physical interventions should be ascertained and documented as part of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards process or indeed any best interest assessment from direct discussion with care staff implementing the interventions
26. I agree. In this case, whilst there may at one stage have been a discrepancy between the care plan and what was actually being provided, I am now satisfied that the local authority has addressed this issue in its amended plan. If, however, any further issue arises, or any party seeks any further declaration or order on this issue, the matter should be referred to me for further review."
Article 5(4)Baker J provided a careful and comprehensive summary of the principles to be derived from the case-law relating to Article 5(4), which merits reproduction in full:
"35. In applying [the provisions of Schedule A1 to the MCA 2005], and assessing whether there was any infringement of Article 5(4) in this case, I have had regard to the case law, both European and domestic. The leading European cases are X v United Kingdom (1981) 4 EHRR 188; Winterwerp v The Netherlands (1979) 2 EHRR 387; Waite v UK  ECHR 804; Shtukatarov v Russia (2008) 54 EHRR 962; Stanev v Bulgaria (2012) 55 EHRR 696, MH v UK  ECHR 1008, and, most recently, Ivinovic v Croatia  ECHR 964. From those authorities, the following principles can be summarised:
(1) "There is a positive obligation on the state to protect the liberty of those within its jurisdiction. Otherwise, there would be a sizeable gap in the protection from arbitrary detention, which would be inconsistent with the importance of personal liberty in a democratic society. The state is therefore obliged to take measures providing effective protection of vulnerable persons, including reasonable steps to prevent a deprivation of liberty of which the authorities have or ought to have knowledge": Stanev v Bulgaria at paragraph 120.
(2) The procedure required by Article 5(4) must have a judicial character and be independent of the detaining authority: X v United Kingdom, supra, para 53, MH v UK, supra, para 77(c).
(3) Article 5(4) guarantees a remedy that must be accessible to the person concerned: MH v UK, supra, para 76.
(4) The state has an obligation to ensure that a mentally incapacitated adult is afforded independent representation, enabling them to have their Convention complaints examined before a court or other independent body: Ivinovic v Croatia, supra, para 45.
(5) Special procedural safeguards may be called for in order to protect the interests of persons who, on account of mental disabilities, are not fully capable of acting for themselves. Where a person lacks the capacity to instruct lawyers directly, the safeguards required may include empowering or even requiring some other person to act on that person's behalf: Winterwerp v The Netherlands, supra, para 60, MH v UK, supra, paras 77(e) and 92.
(6) Article 5(4) may not be complied with where access to a court is dependent on the exercise of discretion by a third party, rather than an automatic entitlement. Where the third party supports the deprivation of liberty, reliance on the third party to initiate proceedings may not satisfy the requirements of Article 5(4): Shtukatarov v Russia, supra, para 124.
(7) An initial period of detention may be authorised by an administrative authority as an emergency measure provided it is of short duration and the individual is able to bring judicial proceedings speedily to challenge the lawfulness of any such detention including, where appropriate, its lawful justification as an emergency measure: MH v UK, supra, para 77(a).
(8) The likelihood of the judicial hearing leading to release from detention is irrelevant. Article 5(4) is first and foremost a guarantee of a fair procedure for reviewing the lawfulness of detention – an applicant is not required, as a precondition of enjoying that protection, to show that on the facts of his case he stands any particular chance of success in obtaining his release: Waite v UK, supra, para 59.
36. In domestic law, the fundamental principle to be applied by the Court of Protection in cases of deprivation of liberty was summarised by Peter Jackson J in Neary v LB of Hillingdon  EWHC 1377 (COP) at para 202:
'… there is an obligation on the State to ensure that a person deprived of liberty is not only entitled but enabled to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed speedily by a court.'
Baker J noted the "guidance" given by the President in Re X as to the question of whether P needed to be joined as a party to proceedings for judicial authorisation for deprivation of liberty, and, in particular, paragraph 19, the conclusions of the President as to Article 5(4) as regards the requirements of "representation" if P is not to be a party to proceedings.
Initial authorisationBaker J found that it was clear that Mr and Mrs C were clearly saying before they went on holiday that they could not continue to care for AJ and that a move to permanent residential care was required.
"47. As it was clear that AJ would not go willingly to X House, and that such a move would only be achieved by depriving her of her liberty, the local authority, prior to that move taking place, ought to have either carried out a DOLS assessment or made an application to the Court. During the first few days of her stay at X House, there was no authorisation in place, nor was there an RPR or an IMCA appointed to support her. The fact that the first two weeks of her stay at X House were nominally labelled as "respite" care cannot justify the local authority's failure either to instigate the DOLS process or apply to the court. The local authority plainly knew that Mr. and Mrs. C would not agree to AJ returning home at the end of their holiday and that, whatever may have been said about respite care, the move was intended to be permanent from the outset.
48. In this case, the local authority had sufficient time to commence the process of authorisation. This case therefore fell within the 'vast majority of cases' in which, as Chapter 3 of the Code of Practice recognises, "it should be possible to plan in advance so that a standard authorisation can be obtained before the deprivation of liberty begins". Given the scheme of the Act is that urgent authorisations are expected to last for no more seven days save in exceptional circumstances, the local authority ought to have been able to complete the process of assessment and grant of a standard authorisation before AJ arrived at X House on 13th June. In the alternative, given the fact that AJ's objections to being placed in residential care were clear and well-known, the local authority could have applied straight to the Court of Protection without going through the authorisation procedure under Schedule A1. As Keehan J observed in NHS Trusts 1 and 2 v FG  EWCOP 30 at paragraph 101(iii), 'the mere fact that a deprivation of liberty could be authorised under Schedule A1 does not absolve [the authority] from making an application to the court where the facts would otherwise merit it.'"
Importantly, this failure meant that there was no proper analysis of alternative options for AJ's care, nor was she afforded any opportunity to have her views considered, before the move to X House occurred. Baker J also found that it was irrelevant that the initial move took place, as an measure of interim support, not on the basis of s.21 National Assistance Act 1948, but rather under the statutory duties imposed by s.47(5) of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990. As he noted at paragraph 50: "[the consequence of the decision was that she, an incapacitated adult, was thereby deprived of her liberty. The local authority was therefore under an obligation to comply with Article 5 and it was unlawful under s.6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 for the authority to act in a way that was incompatible with AJ's rights under that Article."
Baker J therefore found at paragraph 51 that there had been:
"a clear breach of the principles identified in the European and domestic case law. As the European Court made clear in Stanev v Bulgaria, supra, the state is obliged to take measures providing effective protection of vulnerable persons, including reasonable steps to prevent a deprivation of liberty of which the authorities have or ought to have knowledge. In this case, the local authority was in breach of that obligation by failing either to instigate the standard authorisation procedure under Schedule A1 or alternatively apply direct to the Court of Protection in advance of AJ's admission to X House."
The RPRThe core of the Official Solicitor's case on behalf of AJ was that the local authority not to have appointed Mr C to act as RPR at all, or at least not without ensuring that he would bring proceedings under s.21A in the light of AJ's known objections, or alternatively, having appointed him, replaced him when it became apparent that he was not going to facilitate a speedy review of her detention.
After a detailed analysis of the (inordinately) complicated statutory provisions, Baker J concluded that Mr C was not eligible to be AJ's RPR because:
1. A person is only eligible to be an RPR if they will, as part of supporting the relevant person, take appropriate steps to support the person to challenge any authorisation granted under Schedule A1 (paragraph 82). This construction of paragraphs 140(a) and (b) of Schedule A1 was supported, Baker J, noted by the Strasbourg case-law, in particular the case of Shtukatarov v Russia;
2. The evidence "manifestly demonstrate[d] that Mr. C was unwilling or at least very reluctant to represent or support AJ in challenging the authorisation because he and his wife had concluded that they could no longer safely look after her at home and he believed that it was in her best interests to live in residential care" (paragraph 84). As Baker J noted, Mr C had immediately noted that he had a conflict of interest, and raised it with Ms G. Ms G's response had been to arrange for the appointment of an IMCA, but "the appointment of an IMCA cannot overcome the ineligibility of the RPR" (paragraph 84).
3. Further, at paragraph 86, Baker J accepted the Official Solicitor's submission that:
"the local authority ought not to have appointed Mr. C as RPR notwithstanding the fact that he was selected by the BIA. The European and domestic case law make it clear that there is a positive duty on public authorities under the Convention to ensure that a person deprived of liberty is not only entitled but enabled to have the lawfulness of his detention reviewed speedily by a court, to ensure that a mentally incapacitated adult is afforded independent representation, enabling them to have their Convention complaints examined before a court or other independent body, and not to permit access to a court to be dependent on the exercise of discretion by a third party who supports the deprivation of liberty. As the President has made clear in of Re X and Others (Deprivation of Liberty) , it is not always necessary for P to be joined as a party to any proceedings, but the state is under a clear duty to ensure that he or she is able to challenge a deprivation of liberty in a process that is judicial, accessible and independent of the detaining authority. To my mind, these obligations impose on the local authority as supervisory body a duty to scrutinise the prospective RPR selected under regulations 5 to 8 before making the appointment. I do not accept Mr. Dooley's submission that it was not open to the local authority as supervisory body to refuse to appoint Mr. C as RPR. The fact that, under regulation 11, a supervisory body may not (except where regulation 9 applies) appoint a RPR unless the person is recommended by a BIA under regulation 7 or 8 does not mean that it is obliged to appoint a person who is so recommended. Where a supervisory body has reason to believe that the person selected as RPR will not comply with the obligations under paragraph 140 of the Schedule, its duties under Article 5 compel it to refer the matter back to the BIA.
4. Having (wrongly) appointed Mr C as RPR, the local authority as the supervisory body ought to have quickly realised (1) that AJ was extremely unhappy in residential care and wished to challenge the authorisations and (2) that Mr C was not taking any or any sufficient steps to represent or support her in pursuing that challenge. "The local authority should therefore have taken steps to replace Mr C as RPR when it became apparent that he was not intending to issue proceedings promptly and that there was not going to be a speedy review of AJ's detention by a court, since s.21A proceedings must be brought very promptly to ensure compliance with Article 5(4)" (paragraph 90).
IMCAsBaker J was called to determine a number of questions in relation to the provisions relating to s.39D IMCAs. In summary form, he concluded that:
1. The functions of a section 39D IMCA are as set out in that section, as supplemented by Schedule A1, and concern matters relating to the deprivation of liberty provisions under the Schedule. An IMCA appointed under section 39D does not have a broader, general role of representing or supporting P, and is not under a general duty to assist in determining what is in P's best interests but, rather, to perform the specific functions set out in section 39D(7), (8) and (9) [i.e. in very broad terms, supporting the RPR and the relevant person to understand matters relating to the authorisation and helping them exercise their rights to apply to court or for a Part 8 review] (see paragraph 108);
2. Where P has executed a LPA, the duty to appoint an IMCA under section 39D is not excluded under section 40(1)(b) unless the donee of the LPA is authorised to make decisions in relation to the matters in section 39D(7) and (8) (paragraph 112);
3. Standard health and welfare LPAs do not grant authority to the donee to make decisions relating to matters to which the duty to appoint an IMCA under section 39D(2) relates (paragraphs 115-6);
4. The fact of the grant of a standard health and welfare LPA will not therefore relieve a local authority of its duty to appoint a s.39D IMCA if any of the three cases in 39D(3),(4) or (5) arise [i.e. the relevant person or their RPR request one or the local authority consider the appointment of one is – in essence – necessary to ensure the person's rights are secured] (paragraph 116).
On the facts of the case, therefore, Baker J concluded that, in fact, a s.39D IMCA had to be appointed.
Very importantly, Baker J found that the fact of the appointment of the s.39D IMCA did not absolve the local authority of further responsibility:
"125. The principal errors committed by the local authority in this case were, as analysed above, the failure to initiate the authorization process prior to the 13th June 2013 and wrongly appointing Mr. C to act as RPR. In my judgment, however, the local authority's obligations did not stop there. The local authority thought that it would be meeting its obligations by appointing an IMCA and making resources available to assist the IMCA to act as litigation friend. As set out above, the appointment of an IMCA under section 39D was entirely appropriate and, although Mr. C was uncertain about how to take matters forward, I accept the local authority's case that resources were in fact available, for example to assist an IMCA acting as litigation friend. In most cases, that would in all probability have been sufficient. In this case, however, the local authority knew that Mr. C was unwilling or at least very reluctant to represent or support AJ in challenging the authorisation because he and his wife had concluded that they could no longer safely look after her at home and he believed that it was in her best interests to live in residential care. In those circumstances, I find that the appointment of Mr. R and the provision of resources to assist him in his role as IMCA did not absolve the local authority from its continuing obligation to ensure that AJ's rights under Article 5(4) were respected. The local authority knew at all times that AJ did not wish to be in X House or Y House. In those circumstances, I consider that the local authority, in addition to monitoring the actions of Mr. C as RPR and taking steps to replace him if appropriate, should have made enquiries as to why the IMCA was not taking steps to ensure that the right to apply to the court was being exercised."(emphasis added)
Baker J emphasised that – as a last resort – the local authority should have considered bringing proceedings before the court itself. This was "[p]lainly this is a last resort, because of the comprehensive and complex provisions for the selection and appointment of RPRs and the appointment of IMCAs are followed, and if RPRs and IMCAs appointed under these provisions carry out their responsibilities as they should, the rights of an incapacitated person to challenge a deprivation of liberty normally will be protected" (paragraph 126).
However, the local authority "remained under a continuing and positive obligation to "ensure that AJ's Article 5(4) rights were respected. Thus, if it was not satisfied that the IMCA was taking the necessary steps to apply to the court, and if in all the circumstances it considered such a course to be appropriate, it should have brought court proceedings itself." (paragraph 126, emphasis added).
ConclusionBaker J found that the case told a sorry tale of a series of failures by a number of people to ensure that the procedures designed to ensure that AJ's rights under Article 5 were respected, for which ultimate responsibility lay with the local authority. He therefore granted the declarations sought by the Official Solicitor.
Wider practiceAs set out above, Baker J then pulled the threads together to give wider guidance for practitioners.
CommentWhilst much of the judgment concerned extremely technical interpretation of the provisions of the MCA and the relevant secondary legislation (much of which strongly suggests that the whole regime is beyond repair as a statutory mechanism), it is, at heart, a vitally important assertion of the importance of public bodies taking appropriate steps:
1. To recognise when apparently beneficent steps will lead to a deprivation of liberty;
2. To be honest about what exactly those steps will be;
3. To pause before taking those steps to check whether, in fact, they are necessary or whether a less restrictive option can be pursued;
4. If they are necessary, to ensure – wherever possible – that the necessary authority is in place before they are taken;
5. To recognise the continuing and positive obligation imposed upon local authorities to ensure that those subject to standard authorisations are afforded an effective right to challenge their detention before the Court of Protection.
The case is also a clear recognition of the 'hard-edged' nature of rights under Articles 5(1) and 5(4). It is clear that Mr C thought that he was acting in AJ's best interests, and that, as a family member, he had a more complete and rounded picture of the circumstances than an RPR who had only met AJ on a limited number of occasions. However, through a truly Lemony Snicket series of events, her family members and the local authority ended up inadvertently conspiring to preclude her raising her fundamental objections to being "dumped" (as her friends perceived it) in a care home.
The final point relates to the preliminary point determined by Baker J in relation to the need for honesty in care plans as to exactly what level of restraint is being imposed upon an individual. This point is equally, if not more, important in relation to those in respect of whom Re X applications are being made – where, as matters currently stand, the court will only have the applicant's word for what is going on…