THE need for the state to protect vulnerable people from being deprived of their liberty without proper legal safeguards has been highlighted by the Law Society in the wake of a stinging ruling in the Court of Protection.
In an unprecedented judgment, Mr Justice Charles, vice president of the Court of Protection, placed responsibility on the government to ensure each vulnerable individual whose liberty is considered in the Court of Protection has appropriate representation when their case is considered.
Law Society vice president Christina Blacklaws said: “The judgment shines a light on a largely hidden area of our justice system where people suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s or a learning disability wait indefinitely for their cases to be heard because of a lack of funding for representation.”
“People can be deprived of their liberty, their movements closely supervised and restricted and they may be given medication and other treatments to control their behaviour.
“These restrictive arrangements may be in the individual’s best interests, but authorisation from the Court of Protection is needed to ensure the vulnerable person’s rights are adequately protected.”
The Law Society’s campaign has been backed by Sweeney Miller, with the company doing more and more work to make sure correct legal provisions are in place for families where dementia or Alzheimer’s begins to become a factor.
Senior partner Paul Miller said: “This is an area that we have a great deal of experience in as a firm of solicitors.
“And the reality is that as we all live longer, the prospect of dementia or Alzheimer’s is something that needs to be generally considered and the correct provisions made in good time.
“The Law Society is right to highlight these extreme cases of vulnerability but the fact is that in the years ahead, this field is something that people are going to have to factor in more and more as they look at their, and their family’s legal affairs.”
Many people will understand the challenges of making decisions for a relative who is unable to give their consent.
And Christina Blacklaws added: “We are very grateful to Mr Justice Charles for his continued determination to highlight the human cost of cuts to local authority and rationed Ministry of Justice funding – and to find a solution.”
“The 330 stayed cases at the Court of Protection represent a fraction of the thousands of people around the country who we believe are being deprived of their liberty without proper judicial oversight, in contravention of their rights under the Human Rights Act.
“The Law Society Mental Capacity Accreditation scheme, which trains and vets solicitors so that they have the skills and knowledge to represent the interests of people who lack capacity, is only part of the solution.
“As Mr Justice Charles makes clear, the State can no longer abdicate responsibility for providing funding – either to local authorities or to the Ministry of Justice – to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”